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Stairway To Heaven - Shrine Mont/Orkney Springs, VA

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
6.2 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
4.0 hours plus 30 minutes for lunch
1,820 ft
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Turn left at the parking sign just before the Virginia House and park behind the pavilion in the large parking area. 38.79383, -78.81551

The Shrine Mont conference center and retreat is located near Orkney Springs Virginia on the VA/WV border. There are several nice trails on the property that pass the Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration, and the Ridge Trail up to The Cross on Spring Mountain. The most scenic section is the North Mountain Trail that climbs up Great North Mountain. Passing a large cliff structure, the trail ends at North Mountain Rocks with a spectacular view back towards Orkney Springs and the Shenandoah Valley.

Several nice hikes can be put together using the many trails. Our 6.2 mile hike uses the North Link Trail past the Shrine, The Ridge Trail past the Cross, and then takes the North Mountain Trail up to North Mountain Rocks.

If you are looking for more solitude consider hiking the perimeter trails up to North Mountain Rocks.

  • Mile 0.0 – From the parking area behind the pavilion walk back to the main road and turn left in front of the Virginia House. Follow the road up to the circle and pass through the Shrine Mont entrance. The trailhead for the North Link Trail is located on the right side of the parking area.
  • Mile 0.21 - Start up the North Link Trail and soon arrive at the Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration. Turn right following the signs towards The Cross and North Mountain, then in 0.3 miles arrive at the intersection with the Ridge Trail.
  • Mile 0.58 - Turn left towards The Cross on the Ridge Trail. The trail becomes increasingly steeper before arriving at an intersection where the Ridge Trail turns sharply to the right following the ridgeline. Stay right towards The Cross on the Ridge Trail.
  • Mile 1.19 - Arrive at The Cross at the high point on Spring Mountain. There are limited views to the west and east through the trees from the platform. Now continue downhill towards the north for another 0.7 miles where the Ridge Trail ends at the North Link Trail.
  • Mile 1.89 - Turn left and follow the North Link Trail and soon pass a forestry road on the right that leads to Orkney Springs. Cross a small stream then shortly arrive at the inters et ion with the Bradford Trail and North Mountain Trail where the North Link Trail ends.
  • Mile 2.1 - Stay right on the as the North Mountain Trail follows a forestry road for 0.15 miles then turns left off the forestry road towards the ridge. The trail is rocky and gradually increases in grade. In 0.8 miles pass a campsite and large cliff face on the left. After passing the cliff and stream the North Mountain Trail becomes increasingly steeper joining a ridge spur. The trail then turns more southerly and ends before reaching the Great North Mountain ridge at a campsite and North Mountain Rocks.
  • Mile 3.8 - On the opposite side of the campsite is the back of North Mountain Rocks. There is a 10ft climb to get to the top of the rocks where there is a spectacular view of the Shenandoah Valley. From North Mountain Rocks retrace your route back down the North Mountain Trail, rejoin the North Link Trail crossing the stream and arrive back at the intersection with the Ridge Trail.
  • Mile 5.7 - Continue straight on the North Link Trail to the next intersection on the left with a sign for Shrine Mont.
  • Mile 5.9 - Turn left downhill towards Shrine Mont as the trail passes behind cabins, then turns right and ends back at the the Virginia House. Pass back around the Virginia House to the parking area.
  • Mile 6.2 - Arrive back at the parking area.
Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the Stairway To Heaven hike:

Hiker Reviews For The Stairway To Heaven Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Stairway To Heaven hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, August 28, 2019
The hike itself was good, but the information on the hike found here was confusing. There was no mention of all the stations of the cross plaques found at the beginning of the hike, which is fine but I was surprised. It was helpful to know we were on track. It seemed like the hike information here ended at the large cliff-like rock section, but other reviews mentioned a summit, so we continued on. The two confusing points were 1) I couldn't find any way to see the spectacular views mentioned at the huge cliff-like rocks. and 2) we couldn't figure out where to find the views from the summit either, so we kept going at that point, apparently to nowhere until we finally just turned around. So no spectacular views anywhere from my point of view, but a decent and challenging hike regardless.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 1, 2017
Led a group of 11 hikers here on a cloudy Saturday morning after it rained on Friday. It was a good time to hike this trail since the retreat and conference center was a ghost town. The venue opens after Easter until mid-November.

The walk up to Orkney Springs and the Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration on the North Mountain Trail (Red) was interesting and a different way to begin a hike. We found our way to the Ridge Trail (Green), which is moderately steep, and made our way to the Cross for a very minimal view of the valley.

We reconnected with the North Mountain Trail and made our way up to the rocks. This trail is the only marked trail in the property. The ascent was a steady and rocky incline – moderately difficult in some spots. We had to be careful of several large puddles of water and two stream crossings. The large cliff face was a good “halfway point”. It was an impressive structure and impressive and appears that other hikers (or locals) used as shelter or campsite before. The view from the rocks at the top was amazing! We took the same trail down and instead of navigating back to Shrine Mont, we continued on the “Orkney Springs” option, which dropped us off on Orkney Springs Grade Road – about a mile from the retreat and conference center. There were not any other hikers on the trail that day. Would recommend hiking trail in early Spring or peak Fall season

By: Hikerfamily Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 27, 2016
This hike had some pretty great views. Wouldn't reccomend for beginners. Steep and rocky incline towards the summit. Saw one bear on the Bradford trail. Only saw a couple other hikers on our way down.

By: Future Hendrix Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 20, 2016
The views at the end are spectacular and the large ridge midway through the hike was cool, but overall this hike is probably not worth the trouble and strenuousness.

The "Stations of the Cross" portion at the beginning is an interesting little feature, but doesn't offer much in the way of views.

The hike was very steep at points, which wouldn't have been a big deal if the trails weren't unkempt, needlessly narrow, and overgrown with spiny plants and weeds.

Orkney Springs, the town at the foot of the trail, is pretty cute I guess.

By: Peter Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, June 30, 2016
I hiked this hike today with a friend of mine. We both agree that this hike should not be rated a 3, but probably a 4, and a high 4 at that. The great think that I enjoyed about hiking this was that for all the work you actually get 3 payoffs. They are as follows:

1. The cross: this part of the hike follows the stations of the cross, as you hike up a steep portion of mountainside. The trail is unkempt, and I believe that to be deliberate- especially after the cross, where it is suddenly nice and neat. At the top is a cross attached to a "fire tower" like structure. You can ascend to the top, and get a few views of the shenandoah valley.

2. The cliff-like rock formation: In the middle of while you are ascending Great North Mountain, it appears, and it is huge. It appears to be a great campsite, but it can make you feel very small. It's a lot of fun to climb it and get pictures of yourself and the surrounding area.

3. The rock outcropping. Once you have exhausted yourself getting to the top of this mountain, you become a billy goat, and climb 10 feet or so to one of the best views of the Shenandoah valley I personally ever have seen.

We almost turned around. Note: there are no markings on the trail after th2 cliff like rock formation. It gives the impression that the hike is over. No markings, and the trail greatly narrows. If it hadn't been for the laughter of some kids camping at the top, we would have turned around, because we werent sure we were going the right way.

Your footwear should be sturdy on this hike. The ground ranges from soft, bouncy moss after the cross, to mud in the middle, to ankle breaking rocks all the way up great north mountain. Make sure you wear proper footwear.

This hike was phenomenal, but in no way a 3 in difficulty. Be prepared to hike a 4 if you come here. It "ain't easy" but it's more than worth it!

    View all 7 reviews for the Stairway To Heaven hike
Late June
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