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The Peak - SNP, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
16.8 mls N/A
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
7.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
3,255 ft
Shenandoah National Park
Printable Topo Hike Map (PDF)

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Garmin (GDB), GPS eXchange (GPX) (What's this?)
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Park at the Gravel Springs Gap parking area. 38.76790, -78.23351
Alternately you can park at the north end of the loop on Skyline Drive at Jenkins Gap


One of the toughest day hikes in the entire SNP. The Peak circuit has spectacular views along the AT and Marshall Mountain, and a grueling straight up and down climb of The Peak two thirds along the hike. You also have the option of making this significantly easier and shorter by 3.0 miles, and not doing The Peak out/back to the summit.

If you are looking for a good workout with plenty of views this may be the hike for you! Also, if you plan on doing The Peak out/back make sure to start early, as this makes the total hike time over 7 hours. It's a steep climb. Check out the profile at mile 11.

From the parking area at Gravel Springs Gap, cross Skyline Drive and turn right on the white blazed Appalachian Trail (AT). In 0.9 miles arrive at the first good overlook towards the west, and of the south fork of the Shenandoah River. In another 0.8 miles re-cross Skyline Drive and shortly pass a parking area on the left. In 0.2 miles the trail will make a turn to the right and climb to a rock outcropping where the AT turns back to the left. Climb up the rocky outcrop for the best view of the hike. Continue along the AT crossing Skyline Drive once again in 1.9 miles, then in another 1.5 miles the AT will begin to descend and arrive at the yellow blazed Jenkins Gap Trail.

Turn right on the Jenkins Gap Trail, pass through the parking area, and cross Skyline Drive. Turn right and continue next to Skyline Drive (no trail) for 0.2 miles to the Mount Marshall trailhead. Turn left down the yellow blazed Mount Marshall Trail as it winds around the mountain crossing Waterfall Branch, and Sprucepine Branch before arriving at the intersection of the Bluff Trail in 3.5 miles.

The Peak now is directly in front of you :) Again, there are no views at the summit, but it's a great workout. If you decide NOT to do The Peak out/back turn right here onto the Bluff Trail.

For The Peak out/back continue straight on the Mount Marshall Trail for another 0.4 miles to Thoroughfare Gap and intersection of the Jordan River Trail. The abandoned blue blazed Peak Trail is directly ahead going straight up the ridge. The trail is hard to locate for the first 100 yards, then climbs the ridge steeply for 0.3 miles where there is a small rock cairn indicating the turn left. Pick up the trail again and continue along the ridge for the remaining 0.5 miles to the tree covered summit. Return by following your path back to Thoroughfare Gap, then back to the intersection of the Bluff Trail.

Turn left on the yellow blazed Bluff Trail as it winds around the mountain for 2.3 miles to the intersection of the blue blazed Big Devils Stairs Trail. Stay straight on the Bluff Trail for another 1.4 miles arriving at the next intersection where the Bluff Trail turns left. Turn right uphill for 0.1 miles to the intersection of the horse trail and turn right again for 0.1 miles to the yellow blazed fire road. Turn right uphill on the fire road for the remaining 0.3 miles back to the Gravel Springs parking area.

Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the The Peak hike:

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

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 12, 2018
Wanted to update some details on this hike. I combined The Peak with Mt. Marshall trail and Jordan River for a T out and back. Parking access at Mt Marshall trail head is easy. Nice steady climb. Jordan River is filled with Trillium and Showy Orchids this time of the year. Now, The Peak. The trail is easy to find this time of year. You will see the unmarked trailhead right at the intersection of the above two trails (going up.) I walked (climbed) it to 2550 feet before it became more difficult. I lost the trail at the false summit (2650ft.) I spent about 20 minutes looking but as I was solo and it wasn't fun anymore, I turned around. Mother Nature is clearly reclaiming this trail. I liked it because it turned my day into 9.2 miles with 2500ft elevation gain/loss. Do not attempt without route finding skills, map and compass. I suspect it could be hard to follow without undergrowth to mark the trail or overgrown in a few months. Not much to see up there. Do it because you are a good hiker and because hard can be fun. Always be safe.

By: Diana H Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 20, 2017
Arrived to an empty parking lot a little before 9 AM. The trail is easy to follow with the exception of the Peak. Tried to do the Peak but the trail disappears after 0.3 miles into a tangle of bush. The best (only) views are in the first 5 miles. If wanting to make it harder I would suggest doing it counter clockwise. I would give this hike a difficulty rating of 5 for the length of the hike. The actual terrain is not that difficult and I would rate it 3 or 4 out of 6. Overall giving the hike a 3/5 because it gave me a good workout, but lack of views takes away from the hike.

By: Ash Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, June 11, 2017
Overall I enjoyed this hike. I was looking for a nice hike in the teen mileage range and this fit the bill. The non-peak portions were easy to find and I thought pretty easy. While there is 2,000ft of elevation gain it is over so long a Hike a s to never be strenuous (subjective, I know). Now as for the peak itself. Well let's just say that I made it up to something. I found the trail, lost the trail, lost the trail even more, found the trail, lost the trail and then just gave up. Apparently I am ill prepared for something like that. I was using GPS and following the trail, however, it wasn't working well for me. Nice views early on. I did not see one person on the trail the whole 16+ miles - I count myself lucky!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, July 21, 2016
I hiked this as described taking the option to skip the peak starting from the Gravel Springs Gap parking area, then the AT, Mount Marshall Trail, and returning on Bluff Trail to the parking area. I did this in a little over 6 hours including some breaks. By my measurement with a semi-accurate smartphone app, it was 14 miles and about 2200 feet elevation gain. In difficulty I'd rate it a high "3" or low "4". It is a great, longer circuit hike. I eyed the peak when I was close -- I made the right decision. This wasn't the day. Any day it would be a lot to add that to a longer hike -- someday I may just hike down to the peak and back. As longer hikes in the park go this is a good one. The AT segment is in good condition and has several great overlooks not overgrown so you can see. I saw 10-11 bears on that segment and none on the others -- never saw so many bears before on a hike. The first 2/3 of the Mount Marshall trail is quite nice -- it's an old road and it is wide and smooth -- it gets rockier near its end. The Bluff Trail gets back to the more familiar rocky trail I see in these parks, but it's not too bad. I'd do this one again when I was looking for a longer hike.

By: Paul Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, July 10, 2016
ONLY FOR EXPERTS. This hike is dangerous and should be removed. The trail to the peak is not maintained for a reason. You guys are going to get people lost in a very remote part of the park. Everything else was fine, but seriously don't do the peak.

    View all 39 reviews for the The Peak hike
Early February

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