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Hogback Mountain - Northern SNP, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
7.5 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
3.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
1,225 ft
Shenandoah National Park
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Park 80 yards off Skyline Drive at the Piney Branch trailhead just south of Rattlesnake Point.
38.75058, -78.29415

The Hogback Mountain hike, with its spectacular views west towards the Massanutten ranges, is located in an area of the SNP that has several beautiful hikes including Piney Branch and Little Devil Stairs. With just over 1,200ft of vertical gain and 7.5 miles, this is a pleasant moderate day hike.

  • Mile 0.0 – From the parking area (located 75 yards off Skyline Drive) walk back towards Skyline Drive and the Piney Branch trailhead. From the kiosk trailhead, start down the blue blazed Piney Branch Trail as it passes through Mountain Laurel before reaching the 4-way intersection with the Appalachian Trail (A.T.).
  • Mile 0.2Cross over the A.T. and continue down the Piney Branch Trail as it continues its descent. The Piney Branch Trail will cross the upper portion of Piney River then reach the intersection of the Pole Bridge Link Trail.
  • Mile 1.7 – Turn left on the blue blazed Pole Bridge Link Trail for 0.4 miles and arrive at the intersection of the Sugarloaf Trail.
  • Mile 2.2 – Continue straight on the Pole Bridge Link Trail continuing around the mountain where the trail ends at the intersection of the Keyser Fire Road and Little Devil Stairs Trail.
  • Mile 3.0 – Turn left uphill on the yellow blazed Keyser Fire Road as it gradually ascends to Skyline Drive where the road ends at the Keyser Fire Road parking area.
  • Mile 4.0 Cross Skyline Drive and follow the connector Trail for 60 yards to the intersection of the white blazed Appalachian Trail (A.T.).
  • Mile 4.1 – Turn left on the A.T. climbing Little Hogback Mountain. As the A.T. levels off look for the vista point directly ahead with beautiful views to the north and west. The knob to the south is Hogback Mountain.
  • Mile 4.4 – Continue on the AT descending towards the Skyline Drive Overlook. Just before the overlook parking area turn right remaining on the A.T. and passing through a clear cut. At this point the A.T. makes its steepest climb of the hike gaining over 300ft with several switchbacks on the way to the ridge. After reaching the ridge, the A.T. levels off and passes a small connector trail that leads to a Spring. Pass a nice view, then in 40 yards reach the main vista on Hogback Mountain.
  • Mile 5.4 – From the main Hogback Mountain vista continue on the Appalachian Trail as it winds around the back of the mountain, through a stand of Mountain Laurel, then crosses Skyline Drive and passes the intersection of the Sugarloaf Trail.
  • Mile 5.7 – From the Sugarloaf Trail intersection the A.T. will climb for a short time where the last good view point of the hike overlooks the Hogback Mountain Skyline Drive overlook area. Now continue downhill and shortly the A.T will again cross Skyline Drive and pass a parking area.
  • Mile 6.0 – After passing the parking area the A.T. will cross over a small rise, pass to the left of another trail intersection, then cross Skyline Drive for the last time. Continue downhill on the A.T. and in 0.2 miles from crossing Skyline Drive arrive back at the intersection of the Piney Branch Trail.
  • Mile 7.2 – Turn right uphill on the Piney Branch Trail for 0.2 miles back to the trailhead and kiosk.
  • Mile 7.5 - Arrive back at the Piney Branch Trail parking area.
Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the Hogback Mountain hike:

Hiker Reviews For The Hogback Mountain Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Alan G. Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, December 31, 2018
This hike was a pleasant surprise. We had a beautiful day and enjoyed the views. With the recent record rains, Piney Branch River was flowing strongly and we stopped for several good pictures. Several other small streamlets were flowing along the first half of the hike. Hardest part was the short section of switchbacks up to Hogback Mountain. We found a camping area suitable for 4-5 tents at the 5.4 mile mark and offset from the 90-degree turn on the trail. A short climb up an abandoned trail (also close to the 90-degree turn) took us to the real peak and we found the U.S. Geological Survey Benchmark medallion in a rock indicating 3,474 feet of elevation.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 10, 2018
Great hike! Easy enough trails to follow. It was a little muddy today and there were trees down from last weekend's nor'easter Winter Storm Riley but they were easy enough to get around. The only one that could really cause any problems was at the intersection of Sugarlaof and Pole Bridge Link Trail.

By: Sean Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, September 26, 2016
It was a foggy day. The fog never lifted so I can't comment on the views, but it was a good hike overall. There are numerous places along the trail to to off-trail for a few yards and hang out. I was glad to have the GPS for guidance. I see several complaints about the views but it is a nice hike otherwise. When the weather is better, maybe in the winter with the leaves gone, I may try it again.

By: Teresa Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 25, 2016
This was the first Hiking Upward hike that I was disappointed in. I would give it a 3 for views. The first overlook was the nicest, but we only stayed there a short time because there were other people there talking loudly, it was a small area, and we expected the "main overlook" to be bigger. We were wrong. We weren't sure what the main overlook was, but it was either one looking down a powerline trail or one looking through the trees. We ended up looping back, thinking we missed it somehow. The view from the skyline drive overlook is nice, but not something I want to spend hours hiking to.  The parts walking though the woods were nice, especially on Hogback Mountain, where there were a couple of groves filled with ferns. We had hiked the first part of the trail a couple months ago and saw a couple bears, and  someone else said he usually sees bears there, but neither of us saw bears this time. That part of the hike was also marred by a loud talker. My husband thought it was a nice hike, so he would probably give it 3 stars.

Addendum: Looking back at the trail description I see that the pictures of the main overlook do not correspond to our view. Maybe these were taken before the power lines were put up, and maybe there as a lot of tree growth since the picture was taken. Indeed, I don't remember a clearcut area.. We did get a view similar to the one shown here, but that was by following an overgrown social trail that headed out under the powerlines.

By: Randy W. Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 6, 2015
The best view for this hike is actually at the overlook along Skyline drive where the cars can stop.  The view in the description of the hike was somewhat disappointing as there was only room for a few people at a time.  When we got there to take pictures, we realized there is a utility pole and power line right in the middle of the view, so not that great.  After walking out to the road, we got a much better view.
The starting point is a little hard to find as there are no signs from the road and the trailhead is back away from the parking area.  The trail started off with several piles of bear scat, so that was a little concerning, but we didn't see too much the rest of the way.  This trail varies from downhill to steep uphill, from rocky trail to open fire road, so it was a nice variety.  Overall, there are really no open valley views until near the end.  Bring good directions and a GPS watch to help navigate as there are a few intersections where it is confusing.

    View all 13 reviews for the Hogback Mountain hike
Early December

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