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Hightop Mountain - SNP, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
5.6 mls N/A N/A
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
3.0 hours plus a half hour for lunch
1,480 ft
Shenandoah National Park
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Park on Skyline Drive on the south site of the bridge over VA33 where the Appalachian Trail continues south. 38.35612, -78.54493

The Hightop Mountain summit out/back hike has a beautiful panoramic vista, and is also one of the lesser known summit hikes in the Shenandoah National Park. The Swift Run Gap hike start area was was crossed by Virginia Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood leading the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe expedition on September 5, 1716 as they passed into the Shenandoah Valley for the first time. Monuments to this crossing are erected on the southern side of VA33 at Swift Run Gap.

The main out and back hike from Swift Run Gap is 5.6 miles and 1,480ft of elevation gain. You can also shorten the hike by starting at the Hightop Mountain parking area on Skyline drive. This reduces the hike to 2.3 miles and 940ft of elevation gain.

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Late December
Hightop Mountain Hike Comments
Archived Comments

By: Rainchell Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, November 3, 2019
Solo hike on a blue bird day. This hike is a great length and elevation gain. The western view is unique and beautiful. Hike early and get the trail to yourself!

By: aldikuma Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 18, 2019
This was my second time on this hike and I had forgotten how much uphill there is, steep and rocky in some spots so bring sturdy shoes. Definitely a tougher hike if it's hot out, which it was today! But there is shade, and a nice breeze as you get closer to the top. The view was partially obscured with the trees full, so don't expect much. A nice place at the top to have lunch before heading back down. Ticks were really bad in the part before crossing Skyline. Overall a great workout and not many people.

By: Elyse Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 28, 2019
This hike is not for the faint-hearted. I think the difficulty should have been 4. Itís all uphill with some intense sections with all loose rocks underfoot. Be wary of your balance. I was a little disappointed in the view. For the hard work to get up there, there really wasnít much to see. And if we had come a month later with the trees in full bloom, there would have been no way to see the view. Downhill was exhausting with all the loose rocks and by the time we got to our car, our knees were spent. Positive note: it was very quiet and we only met a few other hikers. So if you enjoy a strenuous and solitary hike, this is definitely for you.

By: Sarah Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, January 1, 2019
This is a terrific hike. Reasonable effort required (not too hard and not too easy) and in an interesting setting with the creek, boulders, and rock garden. And the final vista is breathtaking, at least when we hiked it in winter and there wasnít anything blocking our view. I was so glad we chose this hike for New Years Day 2019. It was a wonderful way to start the new year!

By: Meg Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, June 8, 2018
I enjoy this hike. Itís quick and has a great view at the top. However, as a note, starting at the Hightop parking area will not make this a 2.3 mile hike like the description says. Itís definitely over 3 miles round trip, which isnít bad unless youíre in a time crunch.

By: Medic-G Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 21, 2018
Took advantage of one of the few NPS Fee Free Days this year and choose this hike because my wife said she wanted to do a hike with a view. We did the hike as described and didn't do the shortened version.

The overall description of this hike is accurate. The view at the first overlook is minimal and in the summer with full foliage it would be even less. So, a limited view at the first overlook. The second/main overlook does have good views. The clear spring day made the distance we were able to see very far.

I would say the difficulty rating is accurate.

The solitude rating may be a little high. I do realize there usually isn't too much solitude on hikes within the SNP especially on a Saturday when there is no entrance fee. When we crossed the drive at the Hightop parking area there were 7 cars parked in the parking area. We passed several people hiking down while we were hiking up and encountered a group of several college aged kids and another pair of hikers at the main overlook (top). On our way down (approximately noon), we passed quite a few people and there were 18 cars in the parking area and along the drive.

In conclusion, the views were good on the clear spring day. The trees were starting to bud and there were some flowers along the trail. Glad we hiked this before noon as I am sure the overlook was quite crowded later in the day.

By: NH Hiker Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 31, 2018
We did this as a quick warmup overnight backpack for the coming season...the dog is also still recuperating from a foot injury! We parked at the Swift Run Gap entrance just to add some extra distance. Took us about an hour to hike up to the top, and we ran into a few people because the weather was so nice. There are actually a couple campsites near the summit...we stayed at one just off the trail near the overlook, but there is also a really nice spot if you follow the faint trail up to the true summit near the remains of an old firetower. It's nice and grassy up there. We had a nice sunset and breakfast the next morning and then were back at the car around 930. This is a great quick hike with a really nice payoff view.

By: Jamey Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, November 12, 2017
This is a great little hike. The ascent is a steady but moderate climb, with several interesting rock formations. The view from the summit is one of the best in the park.

By: Tom R Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 3, 2017
Nice hike. We did as described. Wonderful view @ the summit. My main reason for writing is that we had wonderful coincidental interactions with so many individual (or in pairs) Northbound (NOBO) AT thru-hikers from all over the country.. We started @ the trailhead @ 7:55 AM, and began meeting them since most had broken camp earlier that morning at Hightop Hut. They were about 900 miles into their trek.

By: Kate Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 20, 2017
Spring foliage was beautiful. Great camping area if you take the trail to the left @ summit marker.

    View all 17 archived reviews for the Hightop Mountain hike
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