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Catlett Mountain - Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
10.5 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
5.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,010 ft
Shenandoah National Park
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Park at the 200 car parking area on SR600/Nethers Rd.
NOTE: The upper parking area at the trailhead is now closed to all public parking.
38.57036, -78.28705

One of the less traveled hikes in the Shenandoah National Park, the Catlett Mountain circuit is one of the most beautiful hikes in the SNP for fall colors. Starting from the same parking area as Old Rag, leave the crowds behind, as you can do this hike and not see another person on the whole circuit.

The fall colors explode in yellows, oranges and reds in the upper sections of Catlett Mountain during October. If you're looking for a more secluded hike, and beautiful scenery, this my be the hike for you.

From the lower Old Rag parking area, walk the 0.5 miles up to the Nicholson Hollow Trail turn off where SR600 veers left.

The first 0.5 miles of the blue blazed Nicholson Hollow Trail passes through private property. Please respect the land owners property, and remain on the trail. The Nicholson Hollow Trail will immediately turn right, where in 75 yards it crosses both the Hughes River, and Brokenback Run.

Continue up the blue blazed Trail and in 0.3 miles pass signage marking the entrance to the Shenandoah National Park. Follow the trail as it winds along the right bank of the Hughes River then arrives at the intersection of the Corbin Mountain Trail in 1.0 miles from the SNP boundary.

Remain on the Nicholson Hollow Trail, on the right bank of the Hughes River, and in 0.3 miles there is a large camping area on the right. 100 yards past the camping spot reach the intersection of the Hot-Short Mountain Trail.

Stay straight on the Nicholson Hollow Trail and shortly cross Hannah Run. 0.2 miles after crossing Hanna Run reach the intersection of the Hannah Run Trail. Turn right on the Hannah Run Trail as it gradually becomes steeper for 1.5 miles, then crosses a small ridge passing the ruins of an old farmhouse. From the ruins the trail will descend through a gully, then very steeply climb the ridge on the other side for the steepest section of the hike.

After arriving at the top of the ridge, the Hannah Run Trail will wind through a plateau on Catlett Mountain for 0.4 miles and arrive at the intersection of the Catlett Mountain Trail. Turn right on the blue blazed Catlett Mountain Trail and in 70 yards arrive at the intersection of the Catlett Spur Trail. Turn right remaining on the Catlett Mountain Trail as it descends into a hollow and passes a campsite and creek in 1.0 miles.

From the creek and campsite, the Catlett Mountain Trail will gently climb to the intersection of the Hazel Mountain Trail in another 0.2 miles. Turn right on the now yellow blazed Hazel Mountain Trail for 0.5 miles to the intersection of the Hot-Short Mountain Trail.

Be alert for the Hot-Short Mountain Trail trail turn-off, as the marker post is set back on the trail 20 yards and not easily visible when the foliage is thick.

Turn right on the blue blazed Hot-Short Mountain Trail as it descends for 2.1 miles to the Hughes River and intersection of the Nicholson Hollow Trail. Pass several vistas of Old Rag, and the Virginia plains near the top of the Hot-Short Mountain Trail. Then as the trail nears the valley floor, pass through a wooded area before arriving back at the intersection of the Nicholson Hollow Trail.

Turn left on the Nicholson Hollow Trail, passing the Corbin Mountain Trail in 0.3 miles, then re-crossing the Hughes River and Brokenback Run in another 1.3 miles before arriving back at the trail head.

Mid October
Catlett Mountain Hike Comments
Archived Comments

By: Ken Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, November 11, 2019
Did this on Veterans' Day (so parking was free at Old Rag lot). I started at 0745 and the lot was 50% full and was it was completely full when I finished around noon. The trail follows a rushing creek for the first few miles and that was very scenic and a great soundtrack. I enjoyed the solitude of this hike as everyone else was likely on Old Rag. You could easily extend this hike by adding some side trails. Very well maintained.

By: JT and Sara Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, October 25, 2019
Great hike to test your stamina and resolve. My daughter and I were the only ones on the trail and it was a nice clear, cool day. The steep parts are very steep but if you are in good physical condition youíll make it. BTW, I AM 70.

By: Bob Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 5, 2018
We did this as a two day backpacking hike. Overall a very nice hike. Great scenery and lots of stream crossings. The steep uphill in the directions is very steep - especially carrying a full pack. We camped at the campsite in the hollow. It was not large but fit our needs and it was nice having a water source close by (we treated the water we sourced). After climbing up the short hill the second day we had to navigate around large trees that were across the trail about half a dozen times along the rigeline, but once we got to the hot short trail it was a fairly steady decent back to the parking lot. Only saw two or three other hikers along the entire route.

By: Rachel Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, November 5, 2017
Beautiful, secluded, well-marked, variety of terrain (so many stream crossings). So much fun! Such a lovely change from some of the more crowded hikes in Shenandoah. Would love to do this hike again in the spring.

By: Judy Bardsley Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, June 24, 2015
I hiked this mid-week in June as an overnight backpacking trip on the loop, direction as indicated. There were a number of people enjoying Nicholson Hollow Trail and the creek, but only saw one other hiker after turning onto Hannah Run Trail. Also, I had two bear sightings off Hannah Run, one on each side of the gully. I very much enjoyed the solitude and the sounds and glimpses of the creeks along most of the hike. The ascents were more difficult than I had anticipated, but fresh log steps on Hannah Run's second uphill were helpful. The descent on Hot Mountain / Short Mountain Trail was more challenging with the loose rocks underfoot. The map, written directions and trail markers were accurate and easy to follow.

By: rob perrett Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 21, 2015
did this on a saturday in late march.† parked at old rag off 600 - parking lot was full but only saw one small group in 12 miles.† these directions worked very well.† great walk in the woods with some up and down - not too challenging. very pretty. worth the effort. happy trails!

By: Tessa Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 5, 2014
The parking lot at Old Rag was already very busy at 9 am. Not too surprising on a nice sunday at the beginning of leave season. But, everybody must have gone up to Old rag because i only ever saw three people the entire hike. It is probably two weeks away from peak leaves, and there really aren't any views to speak of, but it is a very pleasant hike all the same. Aside from the descent into and ascent out of the gully, it is fairly easy too. Took about 4 hrs including the walk to the trail head.

By: Paul Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, August 28, 2014
Boy I sure did this one the hard way...Wanted to start from the Pinnacles Overlook but it was under construction..so I decided to try to find the entrance down below...The Broad Hollow Trail looked inviting but I went a little farther up 680 to the Pine Hill Gap Trailhead...there is a spot near an old mobile home but it had a mailbox in front so I decided to drive up a driveway...the owner stopped me and explained that the spot was a turnaround so please do not park there...Right next to it was enough space in the grass just off the road for two vehicles...

Why did I decide to start here instead of the Old Rag parking lot? a little adventure I guess?

A steep two-mile ascent to the Hazel Mountain Trail...then around Catlett Mountain...down to Nicholson Hollow via the steep Hannah Run Trail...

The Nicholson Hollow Trail is a gem...was only on it for a quarter of a mile...but I have hiked to Corbin Cabin in the summer before...and this is a beautiful stroll in the heat of the summer...

The second steep ascent was up the Hot-Short Mountain Trail...brutal after the previous ascent/descent...

Then finally back down the Pine Hill Gap Trail and another tough descent...

I am giving this hike Five Stars because I love the SNP and all of its trails...

But I must say...the cobwebs are everywhere this time of year...saw a bear down Hannah Run...

Two tough ascents and descents...11.5 miles...3,500 feet of elevation gain... Perhaps the HikingUpward.com guys are right...do it their way...unless you REALLY want a workout...

Five Stars for Difficulty if you do it the way I did it... whew...

By: Kellygirl Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, August 8, 2014
Hiked this on a nice cool day in August. If you want to feel like you are out in the wild, this is the trail for you! Miles upon miles of woods! Fives hours of spider webs in my face, I guess this trail wouldn't be for everyone. I thought we were going to see bears, but no luck this time! I'm going to hike this trail in all four seasons. This would be a good hike for someone who is transitioning to more strenuous hikes. Some elevation with a decent about of miles (10 plus).

By: Zookeeper Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 3, 2014
A beautiful hike.† This is another great secluded hike that leaves from the overcrowded Old Rag parking lot.† My wife and I hiked this during peak hours and we encountered two other hikers in 5 hours.† There is one challenging section around mile 4, a handful of spots with a little poison ivy†and not a lot of overlooks in the Summer due to tree cover.† Other than that, this is a perfect hike.† We saw a bear†and lots of bear tracks.†The beginning and end of the route are along a great stream†with lots of†oportunities†to get wet. I plan to come back and run this route.††If Old Rag looks crowded, give this trail a whirl.† You wont regret it. †††

    View all 27 archived reviews for the Catlett Mountain hike
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