If you're short on time and still want to bag the 4,050ft Hawksbill summit, start the hike from the Hawksbill Gap parking area on Skyline Drive following the Lower Hawksbill Trail for a out and back 1.6 miles.
Mile 0.0 - From the parking area at Timber Hollow Overlook enjoy one of the best views of the hike. To the west is the Massanutten Range with New Market Gap and Strickler Knob visible to the northwest. Pass through the gap in the overlook wall and follow the connector trail down to the Appalachian Trail in 60 yards. Turn left on the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) south and pass around the western flank of Bettys Rock before arriving at the trail junction of the connecter trail to the Crescent Rock Overlook.
Mile 1.34 - Stay straight remaining on the A.T. where the trail now begins to climb around the northern side of Hawksbill Mountain. Pass through a rock slide with views to the north. The A.T. becomes less steep after the rock slide area.
Mile 3.36 - At the summit there are expansive 270° views to the west, north and east, with a vista of Old Rag Mountain to the northeast. Return past the Birds Nest 2 shelter then take the Birds Nest 2 Road for 50 yards to the first trail intersection.
Did a shortened version starting from Hawksbill Gap parking lot. Trail conditions on the AT, Salamander, and Lower Hawksbill were excellent. On the Salamander trail, there are a few nice vistas (not marked on the trail map) before you get to the intersection with Lower Hawksbill. Views at the Hawksbill summit were top 10 in the state. Did get stung by a bee on the Salamander Trail, and I was minding my own business, so be careful.
Date of Hike: Sunday, June 23, 2019
We hiked this trail yesterday and it was awesome. We talked to several through-hikers along the way to Hawksbill Peak. At the top, there was a crowd of folks at overlook (probably a family) who basically camped out there. No one else could take photos or see the panorama. Additionally, one of the kids had a huge stick and was beating it on the wall. Rather than risk getting hit, we left as did others. What a shame to hike several miles to see the 270 degree vistas only to have disrespectful people ruin it.
On another note, our gps tracked this hike closer to 7.5 miles, not the 5.5 as described above (and we did not do any side trails). We hiked from the parking lot at Timber Hollow up to the blue trail on the south side of Hawksbill Peak and then to the top. After that, we followed the directions and descended to the "Lower Hawksbill Parking Lot" where we connected back to the AT and traveled north back to the parking lot.
Great day for a hike. The temperature at the parking lot was 65 degrees!
Date of Hike: Saturday, July 7, 2018
Very nice hike! Nobody was going our same way on the AT portion and as other commenters have said, the back way this hike takes you to the summit via the Salamander Trail seemed to be a much easier hike than the trail from the parking lot at Hawksbill. Along the way we had little springs and boulder piles you could explore, and you can't beat the views towards the summit. Overall did it in about 2 hours 45 minutes and enjoyed it without huge crowds.
Date of Hike: Monday, June 4, 2018
Concur 100% w previous reviewer....Nice easy walk if you take Salamander Trail....Great views....After recent rains, a lot of rivlets crossing AT portion...Did it in 2.5 hours.....Hawksbill trail steep but easily avoided if you don't want to hike that portion....bring a lunch cause great viewpoints on Salamander....road section is unpaved and a nice walk too.
V close to Skylands for lunch, coffee and bathrooms etc.
Date of Hike: Saturday, August 5, 2017
Great Hike. Lots of solitude on the Timber Hollow and Salamander sections. About a dozen people at the summit. Most folks do the much shorter and steeper hike to the summit from the Hawksbill Parking. The hike above, as recommended, is more gentle and takes you through shaded groves and rock slides (which are kind of pretty). Getting to the summit via the Salamander trail is nicer because it has a gentler grade and there are a few overlooks along the way.
Coming down via the Lower Hawkshill trail is fine, as you quickly get back on the A.T. to walk back to Timber Hollow overlook to get to your car.
Not difficult at all, and we complete it in 2.5 hours despite taking quite a few short breaks to take pictures and sip water.