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Hiker Reviews for the Kennedy Peak Hike - 1 to 46 of 46   
Review the Kennedy Peak hike here!   Average Review Rating:

By: Hobo Hiker Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 21, 2017
Great hike. Added treat was talking to and watching paragliders as they took off from the Kennedy Peak parking area. Added this hike to my favorites even with the full green coverage. I said "Google directions to Kennedy Peak VA" and my Galaxy phone navigated me right to the trail parking. There is a brown sign with white lettering that says "Trail Parking." No actually sign at the road parking entrance saying "Stephens Trail Parking." You turn off the main road and go through a white gate that looks almost like a one lane private dirt road. That leads to an open grass and gravel area at the trail head parking. Only two cars in Stephen Trail parking.

The Stephens trail teases you for the first 3.8 miles as it is flat and rolling a little. Some small brooks with rippling water sounds. Horses use the trail so you I had to watch my step in places, but didn't bother me. I didn't encounter anybody on the 6 miles of the Stephens Trail. I started to wonder if there was going to be any climb. At the 4th mile you start up the real climb. Not bad but you'll feel it in your legs as the trail climbs to the peak. Nice laurel flowers dot the trail side as you ascend. One to two glances of mountains but no real views on the orange trail. When you get to the white Kennedy Peak trail toward the peak you'll be rewarded with "Oh wow!" type views as the trail climbs once again to the overlook station. Kennedy Peak trail is where all the other hikers pop up. They are hiking from the other parking lots.

On the way back when I hit the road bend in the orange trail I noticed a mass of people near the edge. Very friendly group. They were all watching paragliders take off. I found it so much to watch the paraglider I spent two hours sitting watching. The paragliders would also fly by and make jokes as they flew by. They land in the valley in a green open field. I'm diffidently going back.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 16, 2016
This hike just went to the top of my list of favorite hikes! It has everything I like- amazing views, superb track (both through the forest as well as on the ridge line), just enough solitude (didn't see anyone else until I reached the tower, and then a handful of hikers coming up as I started my descent, as well as a pack of horse riders), the perfect mix of sun and shade, and a great terrain- a mix of rocky as well as smooth trail. I started my hike at 8:45 am and was back at the parking lot at 1 pm, which also included a 30 minutes lunch break at the tower. The view is simply breathtaking! The trail is pretty clear and well marked, but I was slightly confused about parking- as you approach the coordinates, the parking lot is located to the left of the road through the white gate.

I am definitely coming back to experience the fall and winters!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 02, 2016
I really enjoyed this easy-to-moderate, medium distance trail. We started from route 675 and walked north up the Massanutten trail to the parking lot and then took the yellow-blazed Stephens Trail out the back of the parking lot and followed it 5 miles until it rejoined the Massanutten, then walked the Massanutten back to the car for a round trip on the GPS of 9.75 miles.

Finding the parking lot and trailhead could have been tricky (it is not very well signed and the parking lot is not visible from the road) except that I really studied the aerial view on Google Maps and got my landmarks down. From the west, the parking lot is at 10.0 miles on the left on route 675 after leaving route 11, up a short driveway beyond a gate. As soon as you pass Camp Roosevelt, you will see a little pull-out loop on the right. Continuing beyond this loop, you will cross the Page-Shenandoah border and maybe 50 yards further, the driveway to the trailhead goes off to the left. Coming over the mountain from the east, if you get to Camp Roosevelt, you've gone a bit too far.

The Stephens trail is fairly straight and fairly flat with a gradual climb as it skirts along the mountainside through largely open woods. I enjoyed how the flora changed from minute to minute along this trail. The last half mile as the trail turns east and climbs the mountain is a good climb up to the intersection of the orange-blazed ridge trail.

The Massanutten trail follows the ridgeline with the land sloping off on either side of you. I love this kind of walking. As you near the Kennedy Peak tower, the trail becomes rockier. Be careful of your footing especially if there are wet fallen leaves obscuring the trail. The 360-degree view is worth the hike. While we were there, scores and scores of hawks, mainly Broad-winged, were migrating by.

After visiting the tower, the trail heads downhill and becomes a jeep trail, continuing until it meets route 675 again at Edith Gap, up the mountain from where you parked. This is the only place on the trail that could be confusing. There is no signage to indicate that you should turn right on 675 and then pick up the orange-blazed trail again about 30 yards on the right. Forewarned, you won't have any trouble finding the trail. While you are there and before heading back down the hill, turn left on 675 and walk over to the hang-glider launch pad at Edith Gap for a wonderful view of the Page Valley and the Shenandoah River. You'll want to have your camera at the ready.

Except for a large and very vocal group at the tower, we had the trail to ourselves. The trail itself was torn up in places from horses and the trail was often littered with horse apples. You should expect to share the trail with equestrians. If you are unsure about hiker-equestrian etiquette, now would be a good time to Google it.

By: Virginia Traveler Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 04, 2016
We had trouble finding the parking lot to start.  It is up Rt 675 from Luray (Rt 340 south past Rt 211 to Mechanics street and over the river left and then right on 675 and up the mountain.  You come to a scenic overlook and can park there and start the wide path next to that overlook (marked with orange marks) or continue a little over a mile down the hill and start from the parking area (mentioned by a sign but not visible from the road), then following the orange marks.    If you get to Roosevelt camp, you have gone too far.  I was surprised there were no signs to Stephens trail or Kennedy Peak until just before Kennedy peak and no information on it at Roosevelt Camp or on road maps.  We found out how to get there from the tourist office in Luray - open 7 days.   

It took us 45 minutes to get up the first part of the path to the road and then about 90 minutes for the second part to get to Kennedy peak.  The first part goes through the woods along a horse path and is fairly pleasant but has rocks easy to trip on.  The second part starts out very easy but make sure to make a u turn following the orange marks when you reach a low barrier of rocks.  The path is not very difficult, but is a bit steep and rocky prior to the peak.  The peak looks out over the Shenadoah river and Luray - a pretty view and there is a little structure including a lower part in the shade and an upper platform.

The whole trip took us a little over 4 hours plus half an hour break at the peak.  Two of our party of three almost fell on the lower path tripping on the rocks.  It was an invigorating walk.

If we hadn't done Mary's Rock in Shenandoah Park earlier, I probably would have preferred that but this was quite a nice walk with a very nice view from Kennedy Peak and a good workout and less traveled than Shenandoah paths.  We saw some people who carried their toddlers up the second part of the path - quite challenging.

By: Sean Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, April 25, 2016
Was the only one in the parking lot upon arriving around 10. Just saw one other on the whole hike, a local hunter hunting wild turkey on the Stephen's Trail. He was very nice. He was skittish about poisonous snakes and was concerned I didn't have specific first aid for poisonous snake bite (I'll look into that, but now I just am very careful when near rocks and logs where snakes may hide).

Flies and a swarm of gnats upon exiting the car, reducing in number along the Stephen's Trail. Swarms of flies again at the tower -- they didn't bother me too much except for the noisy drone when I was trying to relax. I think they were attracted to the shade. I usually tolerate bugs fine on a hike but if I did this one again I'd apply insect repellent to my face and neck.

I see from other reviews some find the Stephen's Trail boring. I found it very pleasant. There are no sweeping views but the forest is enough of a view for me. It is a relatively smooth trail as well, at least the portion closest to the parking area.

It gets rocky closer to the peak on the way up, and even rockier on the way down (following the suggested route). Boots would be better but I did fine with my preferred trail running shoes. A hiking pole was a help keeping me upright when I otherwise would have fallen.

The tower is neat. Too hot and sunny to spend too much time on top. The lower level is shaded and comfortable. No one else up there so I lied down for a while. Surprised to see several lizards at the top. Too dry up there I think to be amphibians like newts or salamanders. They look similar in appearance and behavior to the common anoles you see in Florida and the pet stores.

I became a little confused just going by the map on the last part of the hike back to the parking area. Be sure to have the description with you, for when you go off the orange trail, on to Route 675, and back on to the orange trail.

By: Suzy and Tom Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, March 06, 2016
Hiked this starting early on a Sunday, high of 49F, partly cloudy day.  For some reason there were few people on the trail.  Saw only 5 people the entire loop.  Enjoyed lunch on the tower at Kennedy Peak.  360 degree views would be great on a clear day.  Agree with the rating of 3, nothing too strenuous for those used to doing longish hikes.  Our GPS calculated it as 9.1 miles. 

By: G-Man Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, November 27, 2015
Did this hike on "black Friday".  The trail description is accurate.  We did the entire 9.2 miles by parking in the parking area mentioned and hiking up the Stephens Trail to the Massanutten Trail.  I would agree the solitude isn't much on this trail.  Of course November in Virginia is hunting season.  Saw 6 hunters on the Stephens Trail.  The Stephens Trail isn't much on scenery.  If you do this hike in the summer you probably won't see a whole lot.  Since all of the leaves were pretty much all off the trees we had some views from the Stephens Trail we would have not otherwise enjoyed if the leaves would have been on the trees.  Stephens Trail was a pretty easy hike being mainly flat.  Just prior to its junction with the Massanutten Trail, you start all of the uphill climb.  Once you reach the Massanutten Trail you are hiking along the ridge.  Look to the right, your looking downhill.  Look to the left, you are looking downhill.  So, right along the ridge which is pretty nice.  One bad thing about hiking along the ridge, it was pretty rocky.  On this section of the trail all the way to the spur trail for the tower, we didn't encounter any other hikers or hunters.  Going up the spur trail to the tower, we encountered a pair of hikers coming down the trail.  Yes, the spur trail is up to the tower.  At the tower there were a couple of people and a family of 5 arrived shortly after we did and then 2 more hikers arrived.  So, like I said, not much on solitude.  We just waited about 15-20 minutes and everyone eventually left and we had some time at the tower ourselves.  The tower "begs" for an overnight because the lower level is much like an AT shelter.  Good luck doing an overnight in the summer.  I am sure there is no room there to camp.  I think we would like to come back and camp at the tower however, it will involve some advanced planning in order to avoid making the hike and not being able to camp there.  Anyway, back to the hike.......  The continuation along the Massanutten trail to complete the loop was nothing spectacular.  There were several places we saw which would be good to pitch a tent.  Also, the trailed continued to be rocky and with all of the leaves on the ground you had to be careful where you put your foot to avoid twisting an ankle.  Like I said, overall a decent hike and I would agree with the ratings.

If you want to go to the tower and not do the entire loop, there is a parking area on the left side of 675 when you are heading west just before you get to the parking area mentioned for this hike.  This area is on a curve and you can see the trail markers to the right of the road as this is the section of the hike you briefly have to walk on the road.  If you park here, it is about 2.5 miles to the tower making about a 5 mile total hike.  Of course you will start out going uphill.  This parking area confused me when I was trying to find the parking area for the Stephens trail head.  Headed west on 675 the parking area for the Stephens trail head is on the right side of the road before you get to Camp Roosevelt.  We actually missed the small dirt road leading to the parking area as there was no sign when you were heading west.  When we got to Camp Roosevelt, we knew we had gone too far.  Turned around, headed back east, and we found the parking area.  There is a sign if you are heading east on 675 indicating the parking area.

Forgot to mention......You can definitely tell this is also an equestrian trail.  Had to dodge quite a few "land mines" on several different portions of the trail and the horses had "churned" the trail up some.

By: Tripp Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, November 06, 2015
Great day. Weather was in the upper 70s. A last chance at seeing the colors before the temps fall. Started from Edith Gap and did the 4+/- miles there and back from the peak. Quiet, peaceful and colorful this day was. The view from atop, with the setup there, was fantastic. A very much recommended hike in the fall.

By: Paul Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, August 27, 2015
Stephens Trail a nice build up...rather tedious but flat as a pancake...then the inevitable rise up to the Massanutten Trail...and the final .3 miles up to the Peak...Fire Tower/shelter...fire ring and all... a nice place to see the sunrise I suppose...so an overnight is begging...not much solitude most likely but now on the bucket list...Beautiful view SW down the Massanutten ridge line...Shenandoah Valley NE and SE...even a glimpse of the Fort Valley area in the brush of late summer...better in the late fall...winter...and early spring...as the editors noted...

Just minutes from Luray...I can't believe I haven't done this hike before...

If you do not want to do the Stephens Trail...then start at Edith Gap about a mile north on 675...cuts the trip by three miles...

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 06, 2015
Headed out early on Saturday morning to do one of our longest training hikes to date. We picked Kennedy Peak because of the distance and the cool lookout tower. The first 3+ miles of the hike took us on a rocky trail that was surrounded by lush trees and vegetation. It was a nice warm up before the uphill mile push to the ridge line. It wasn't an easy uphill but definitely doable without too much difficulty for someone in good shape. The ridge line was much the same as the first part of the trail. Lots of trees and very little views. We were excited to finally make it to the trail head pointing us to Kennedy Peak. Easy and short uphill before arriving at the lookout tower. It was a bit hazy and overcast but we still enjoyed a quick lunch taking in the 360 views. After a quick side trip to find a nearby geocache, we begin the downhill descent to the parking lot. I can see why they recommend doing this hike when the leaves are off the trees. We caught glimpses of what appeared to be stunning views on the way back down but not much could be seen. Overall a pretty boring hike. The view at the top was spectacular but that was about the only point of interest which is why we ranked it a 3.

By: aldikuma Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, January 17, 2015
This our second overnight on this hike and we liked it just as much as the first. We did the hike counterclockwise this time. As the previous hiker stated, the part along the yellow blazed trail is quiet, barely anyone, but the orange trail was crowded. We passed probably 15 people and several groups.

The view at night from the peak overlooking Luray's lights, all of the stars in the night sky, and the light sounds of the town below was beautiful. Although the night was very cold and windy, the shelter provided some warmth… and what a gorgeous view to wake up to. This would be a nice hike in the summer, but way better in winter (as many others) as the ridge is pretty wide and the views would be blocked when the trees are full.

The wood on the shelter has been replaced and it's really nice now. However, be aware that the old wood is stacked around there and we removed numerous nails from around the fire pit - so just be careful where you step. Don't burn the old wood as it's been treated. There's plenty of downed trees around if you need a fire.

By: Jen Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, December 27, 2014
A very nice hike. Not too strenuous we completed it in about 3 hours, 15 minutes (moving time). The path is very well marked and easy to follow. One reviewer mentioned feeling like you were walking through several different forests--I definitely got the same feel!

If this hike is done in the direction indicated, the beginning 5-6 miles of the hike will feel very isolated (in a good way), but after Kennedy Peak, you'll start to see a lot more people. This is because there is one section of the hike that travels over a much shorter path to get to the Kennedy Peak trail, so there were a lot of people on that section of the hike.

One thing to note, it looked like the tower at Kennedy Peak was very recently replaced. It's really nice now and has both a top section with 360 degree views and a lower section that is sheltered from the wind somewhat. It was a really nice spot for photos and some snacks.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 23, 2014
Nice hike, we ran into a rattlesnake about 50 paces down from the top of Kennedy Peak, right on the trail--nobody was bit and there is no saying whether it will be there for the next hikers but just wanted to warn everybody!

By: Mark K Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 04, 2014
Great trail for running.  Ran the trail backwards to get the major climb out of the way early.  Trails are mostly sandy/dirt trails with maybe 30 percent slightly rocky.  Views from the outlook at Kennedy Peak are great.  You get to view the Blue Ridge Mountain range and the town of Luray.  The outlook tower is currently under reconstruction.

By: aldikuma Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 15, 2014
We hiked this as an overnight about a week after a large snowfall. It made for a very beautiful (but muddy and slushy) hike. We were going to just head back out and home as we couldn't find a dry spot to camp and were just going to skip the hike up to Kennedy Peak, but we are thankful we decided to take in the view. We set up our tent in the shelter overnight and it was so quiet and peaceful (and warm!). My husband and I actually chose this trail last minute as the one we originally wanted to do was closed, and we are glad we did. Only saw a few other hikers and considered ourselves lucky we snagged the lookout tower. The sunset and sunrise were amazing with the 360 views.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Hiked this trail on Christmas Eve ...I thought it was a great hike and easy compared to the more difficult trails I do. The best parts included the views and the solitude. There was NOONE on the trail. Very cold and windy... snow squalls came through ..which was great to have "snow" when others below in the valley did not. I would skip this hike in the summer, too hot, and views would not be as good. The trail was rocky and a bit technical for a beginner hiker. This was a new trail for me and I would return and do this again. OH nice campsite along this trail as well.

By: Hokie Hiker Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, November 10, 2013
It's a great hike to do with the leaves off as noted in the description. I actually thought that I enjoyed the views most while hiking and looking through the trees, more so than the top of Kennedy Peak at the watch tower. One of my favorite parts was that part of the hike you're in woods with no under growth, part of the time you have mild under growth, part much more under growth... it may sound odd but it made it feel like walking through different woods which was just a fun feel. A hope that I have for this hike would be that a scout or two working on their Eagle could talk to the Park/Forestry service about possibly replacing the platform on top of the tower as their major project. Some of the boards are clearly on their last stages of life- on the stairs (especially the bottom stair), on the railings )where corners don't connect and a gentle lean clearly moves the rails further away from the structure), etc. It looks like somebody has replaced a board here and there, and has some boards up there to do something small- but it would truly benefit from a complete rebuild. There are definitely a lot of leaves on the ground now (duh it's fall) which does add a little bit of time to the hike so that you can slow down and not turn an ankle. Note: If you want, this has the ability to be a much shorter out and back hike. If you drive up from Camp Roosevelt a bit on 675, there will be a scenic view immediately off the road with a parking lot. From that parking lot, it's 2.3 miles to the watch tower and back- so 4.6 for a total hike.

By: Doc Foster Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 09, 2013
A good morning workout, especially considering it was only 18 degrees in our campsite Saturday morning in Luray.  Up and down in 2 hours and 45 minutes, including 20 minutes at the top + a couple of pit stops and had to wait for horses to pass by 3 times on the way down.  We passed by only one person the way up, and it was nice to have the top all to ourselves.  We actually encountered just as many on horseback as we did hikers on foot.  I agree, the freshly fallen leaves made the rocky trail a bit treacherous at times, but the lack of leaves on the trees definitely enhanced the view at the top and along much of the trail.  I don't think this would have been as enjoyable hike with during the summer as there would be little to see view wise along the trail and limited on the top.  Yes, the wood is in dire need of replacement of top, could be dangerous in the next season or two.  I would definitely recommend this hike.

By: Grace Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 09, 2013
I would give this hike a 3.5, but that's not an option. My roommate and I decided to go on a hike and I thought Kennedy Peak would be a good hike, I wanted something a little long but not too difficult. My roommate and I aren't avid hikers, but found this to be a little tough! The hike itself was pretty nice, a slow start until we ascended to the the top. The tower was beautiful and awesome and well worth the hike! We didn't really run into people on the way up, but once we got to the tower and hiked back down, we saw a few people and some horses. We got a bit confused on the way back when we hit 675 but eventually found the trail to get us back. The only reason I gave it a 3 is because there were too many leaves, so it was difficult to see the trail and I tripped on a lot of rocks, be careful! My other gripe is that there was A LOT of horse poop on the way back and it was somewhat annoying trying to dodge all the poop. Overall, I would recommend this trail since the view is awesome! I would come back when it gets warmer and the path is more visible without the leaves.

By: Linda & Mike Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 04, 2013
We did the 8.5 mile Kennedy Peak hike today.  Weather was great.  Enjoyed the hike a lot.  Did not see another hiker until we were on the way down from the peak.  We did pass three riders on horses on the way up (watch where you step!)

The only negative comment we have is that in quite a few places the Stephens trail was overgrown with a lot of blackberry plants.  We both got snagged a couple of times.  We did frequent tick checks but did not see any.  This part of the hike is better in the early spring, before the plants get so big.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 17, 2012
Great Hike! The watch tower is a great place to set up camp. You may not even need a tent if planning on overnighting it. There is a platform on the bottom level that could be used as a sleeping platform for 4.  We hiked it according to HU and found the first three to four miles awesome as it rolled along the base of the mountain. The next three miles to the tower were much steeper but still good for a workout(especially with packs on) Great time overall, the portion after the tower is much easier.

By: Kevin Gunn Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Took the Massanutten trail for an overnight backpacking trip. were told that there was plenty of spots to set up a tent for the night, however, the first spot we came across was right near the road and another was not flat enough for a comfortable camp site. ended up going all the way up to kennedy peak and setting up our tent on top of the watch tower structure. great hike for the beginning of fall! only saw 3 people the entire time we were up there. have to watch where your stepping! lots of horses obviously use the trail. As far as difficulty, I would say it was average. Some spots where the trail narrows and if you have backpacking gear you need to watch your step.

overall a great overnight hike if you can find a good spot to set up camp. be careful on your way down as it gets steep and there are a lot of loose rocks.

By: Jayne Hiking Addict Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, February 11, 2012
http://www.meetup.com/hiking-162/events/50872692/ Tony & Bryce, Hiking Upward gurus, joined our Meet up hikers for a delightful hike today.  We had a beautiful blanket of snow on the way to Kennedy Peak. It was gorgeous to hike through.  On our way back the snow began melting and by the time we returned to the parking lot it was gone.  Great hike, great day, great company!!

By: C&J Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, October 20, 2011
Great views in late fall, much more solitude than advertised (encountered nobody on Stephens trail).  Great hike, more likely to encounter a bear than another human!

By: Renee' Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 02, 2011
I started this hike on 4th of July weekend and expected it to be crawling with other hikers from beginning to end. I started at 9am Saturday morning July 2, 2011 on the yellow blaze Stephens Trail. I'll admit - If it wasn't for my GPS on my phone and a gut feeling, I would have zoomed pass the parking lot opening. This hike was a last minute thing so I was looking for something specifically in Luray with high "View" ratings so it would be worth the 4hr+ drive. The trail was very well marked and it was pretty hard to get lost, although near the end when I had to walk a few yards in the road to the next trail opening for the Massanutten kind of tripped me up slightly.

I must admit, the Stephens trail was a bit disappointing to me because it was nothing more than a plain hike in the woods with nothing special to it at all. I left better hikes near my home to come to this one, which is kind of sad. The best part about it was the solitude - Not another living soul, human or animal (other than the occasional butterfly) greeted me on the yellow blazed Stephens Trail. HOWEVER, once I got on the Massanutten Trail (orange blaze), I must have passed at least 35-40 people minimum, mostly families in groups of 3-7. Most of them were ill-prepared, hiking in jeans, flip flops, with one water bottle or nothing at all. One even asked me (about 1.7 miles into their hike the way they came) if they were close to the end…I kindly told them I was on mile 7-8, so they definitely weren’t close to the end at all. With that note, I’m thinking none of them were really going to hike the entire thing – leaving more solitude for the “real” hikers in the beginning and middle of the 2 trails.

I followed the directions on the board right at the beginning of the trail head, which was dead on. One reason for my boredom on the trail - which is completely my fault – like a few others here I DID NOT follow the recommendation to hike this when the leaves are off the trees. You get a peak here and there through the leaves but the views are kind of touch and go because of all the foliage. I never made it to the overlook – just kind of wanted to get it over with honestly, haha.

The views that I did catch through the trees were very pretty. After careful consideration, I guess I could give the hike another try, but ONLY when the leaves are dead and gone off of all the trees. Note – Be careful hiking down the Massanutten portion of this hike, as there are plenty of rocks that would love to have a hand in helping you twist your ankle. All in all, IF you’re in the area it’s a nice hike to clear your head and relax, not difficult at all, only minor elevation spots here and there. But don’t make the trip if it’s out of your way, unless you know you’re going to be able to catch some great (leafless) views, and even then, you might as well just skip the Stephens portion and just hike the Massanutten.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, February 12, 2011
I have wanted to do the Stephens Trail hike a long time I have a little getaway house near Luray and Kennedy Peak simply dominates the Page Valley view, and so it's been a destination for me since I started coming here. Now I've got it checked off (working my way through peak bagging Massanutten mountain, having completed Duncan Knob a few years back), and I'm looking forward to getting a few more folks out there with me. Last Friday I got into Luray a little bit earlier than usual, and I checked my iPhone to find that that my friends at Appalachian Outdoors Adventures (AOA) had planned to do Stephens Trail on Saturday. There is a full review with photos on my Hawksbill Cabin blog at http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2011/02/kennedy-peak-moderate-gwnf-day-hike.html. Hiking Upward (by the way, I love this website) has this hike as being at its best in the early spring, before the leaves start to bloom. That's good advice. On a number of these summit hikes in the GWNF it's a good idea to knock them out early in the year, not just because of the views. You want to get them in before the weather heats up too much because of all the critters that will likely be sunning themselves on the rocky summits.

We began our hike by meeting at the store at 10:30 I arrived a few minutes early, only to find everybody already there and ready to go. Gary, Howard and CFM had made the plan, with me as the straggling fourth, and the dogs would be joining us on the trail as well. Referring again to Hiking Upward, they have the trail at 8.5 miles, while we have the route as 9.2 miles...I don't have a way to reconcile the difference at this point, so I will go with the AOA measure. I rushed out this time without my altimeter watch, so I couldn't verify the altitude gain, but it's listed at 1,390 feet. The trail is a big loop that ascends gently through one of the valleys in the GWNF before turning to climb along the ridge. As you approach the peak, the trail steepens until you are working up to the summit, where there is an observation platform with a little shelter built into it. The panorama is 360 degrees and includes beautiful views of Page Valley.

I learned a few things on this hike in some cases, it was info passed along by the AOA guys, but in others, it was just assimilating hiking experience. For example, they showed me an alternate parking area that provides shorter access to the summit, making an out-and-back of about 6.5 miles. And in another case, while I knew that during the winter, the leaf litter in GWNF accumulates in the trail footpaths on north-facing areas, I didn't understand that these areas are the last to melt after snows, and can be filled with hard-frozen ice hidden under the leaves long after the precipitation has fallen. It was cold on our hike but there weren't that many icy patches to deal with. Most of the climbs were long, gentle stretches &ndash sometimes a couple of miles long, in fact. The last stretch to the summit was probably steepest, and then a mile or so descending in the shadow of the mountain was the iciest. But, there were no falls, although there were some close calls.

We took a break near the top, and everyone broke out their lunches. Gary from AOA had his backpacking stove there and fixed up a hot meal read the gear review on his blog at: http://runtechinthevalley.blogspot.com/2011/02/kennedy-peak-loop-gsi-telescoping-spoon.html. One of the highlights of this stop was the peanut butter and raisin sammiches that we shared. Just one more little thing I learned on this pleasant walk.

Near the top, there were traces of a fire from the fall. I've done some follow-up research on this, obtaining a map of the boundaries from the NPS, and there is a post at http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2011/02/last-falls-fire-on-kennedy-peak.html. The summit with its observation platform is a great finish to the hike. We did the 9.2 miles in about 6 hours, about 1.5 miles an hour. That's quicker than my usual team does these routes, since we plan for a mile per hour. I think I learned a few things that will help us with the pace, which in turn will give us more planning flexibility for the summer hikes ahead.

By: Lamassu Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, January 15, 2011
Perfect little day hike! Amazing winter views of the South Fork Shenandoah River and Skyline Drive across the valley. The summit, however, was recently burned, but the obsevation deck was uneffected. Based on the amount of horse usage we observed, I would recommend this as a winter hike...not too long and we saw only one other couple all day. Kennedy Peak is amazing. The deck / shelter is really neat. I wish I'd brought my camera as no one has posted a nice photo of this edifice. This hike really surpassed our expectations.

By: mel Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 23, 2010
Folks I live right down the road from this place and I've been contacted by some people and seen some post on here about an easy way to get to the place, I could give you 3 ways but just look on mapquest and just type in the zip for Luray which is 22835 and then look for bixlers ferry road and follow that until it ends you'll cross the shenandoah river then take a left on north egypt bend road  and go straight until you reach 675/ fort valley road then take a right and drive until you reach the peak, youll see a area on the left where folks park and also a small area across the road for maybe 2 or 3 cars.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 26, 2010
Overall, a nice hike. I ignored HikingUpward's wise caution that this hike would be better when the leaves are off the trees, so I did not enjoy the views from Kennedy Peak as much as I could have. That being said, the hike overall was enjoyable and the climb was modest. I'll certainly do this hike again, but in the early spring or late fall.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 12, 2010
A great hike on a hot day. Parked at the picnic area, set off about 7:20 a.m. did not see any horses but ran into bear cubs and their mother within 20 minutes! Conitinued on and though the day was quite warm a good breeze sprang up. The views of the valley, the river and SNP to the east are fantastic. The long climb to the top well worth it. Took us about 4 hours with a nice stop at the top. We will definitely do it again, perhaps in fall or winter when there will be less foliage.

By: Dogmama Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 29, 2010
We did this hike in the reverse direction --- not sure why but I think it was because we would reach the observation deck quicker this way and wanted to make this our lunch stop.  The downside with this was that we still had a good ways to go to complete the loop and some people in our group were exhausted by the end.  All in all, it took us about 6 hours to complete including lunch and rest stops.  We saw two groups of horseback riders and a couple other small groups, but definitely not crowded especially considering that it was Memorial Day weekend.  Camping out on the Duncan Hollow Knob Trail worked out great and we were happy to make it back to our campsite after this hike for a cold beer and some smores!

By: la-z-boy rider Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 24, 2010
Boy Scout outing, 3 adults and 12 Scouts ages 12-14 carrying relatively full packs of 20 - 35 pounds.  We set up Friday night at the campfire ring 100 yards down Duncan Knob Hollow trail, then awoke to an iPod at 4:45, broke camp in a sprinkle of rain, rustled up breakfast and started on Stephen's Trail at 7 (we'll need to work on faster camp-breaking, obviously).  The directions issue didn't arise for us, since the trail is near a hunting cabin campsite loaned out to us 2x/year.  But, I will say that there's a great parking lot for horse trailers about 25 yards from the sign that says "Massanutten Trail."  Hike was excellent training to get the boys rolling in preparation for Philmont Scout Ranch next year.  The first 3 miles were easy in minimal drizzle, then weather got great for the steep climb with multiple stops.  We got the boys good and worn out, but their spirits were good.  Views in several places were excellent, and especially at the top.  6+ hour hike with rest and lunch stops.  They had a blast, and it was good exercise, but very manageable, even if you have a large pack.  Honeysuckle was blooming nicely.  On a future trip, we're thinking of combining this with Duncan Knob Hollow for a rigorous 2-day excursion.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, March 28, 2010
http://www.meetup.com/CharityHikers/calendar/12928625/?from=list&offset=0 17 hikers struggled with driving directions & finding the parking lot, but once there the gods held off a downpour for the 4 hours it took us to hike the trail.  It was a great hike and some wonderful views.  Fog @ the tower kept us from seeing a lot but cell phone coverage allowed us to make reservations at our favorite Front Royal restaurant, Soul Mountain.  We'll be back again for sure

By: sunshyne Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 06, 2010
Had not been on this trail in about 10 years. It was as beautiful as I remembered! Was not anticipating all the snow! Made the hike a bit more of a challenge, but was absolutely beautiful. Could not access the parking area due to the snow, but parked off the road at the beginning of drive back to the gravel lot and it was fine. Did the entire loop in about 6 hours, with a break for lunch at the Peak. The hike up to the lookout was a bit tough with the snow, but the view was well worth it. Coming back down the Massanutten Trail was a good break after the hike up. I highly recommend this trail!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, August 25, 2009
A good hike but would be better in 'leafless' weather for views. We hiked in reverse of the directions to do the climb in the AM when it was cooler. The climb to Kennedy Peak was challenging and the views rewarding. The only problem were the horse droppings every few feet throughout the hike. We only saw 2 mountain bikers the whole day. The Stephens Trail part was a nice walk in the woods to finish the day. It is not a trail we would likely do again but worthwhile to do once!

By: Bob Rimel, Jr. Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Myself, my 3 boys and their friend really enjoyed this hike.  What made this hike so enjoyable was the joy the boys had at the end of the hike.  All I could hear were the screams of "we made it, we did it, yeah!!!!!!". After the 2.5 mile hike to the observation deck, we spent some quality time talking while eating our barbecue chips, peanut butter crackers, chex mix and drinking our icy cold water.  The view is well worth the hike, BEAUTIFUL 360 degree view.  On the walk back, we picked a bag full of delicious blueberries that can be found everywhere.  My 5, 7, and 9 year old said that was their most favoite hike yet.  Probably because of the reward at the end, THE OBSERVATION DECK.  All in all, GREAT TRAIL.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, February 21, 2009
I spent some time looking for a decent hike for a large-ish group of people with a mixed level of fitness and experience. We mainly wanted to enjoy some moderate exercise on a 50-degree, clear February afternoon. I thought the entire loop would be too hard, and too long, so I figured we'd try the hike counterclockwise and reach Kennedy Peak in a 6-mile out-and-back trip. However, I was somewhat concerned about the initial ascent from the parking lot. I was concerned that some would find it too strenuous and burn out or turn back early. I noticed on the trail map that the path crossed a road at the ridge line, but I wasn't sure if there would be adequate parking for several cars. Fortunately for the group, there was sufficient parking at the ridge line, so we saved about 500 feet of elevation gain. That was a mercy. Walking along the ridge line for the first mile and a half or so was easy enough. We could see glimpses of the view that awaited us between the bare trees. (The peeks at views might be few or nonexistent during the spring or summer.) The trail didn't get rocky until the ascent up Kennedy Peak, which was definitely strenuous. But by that point people were committed and could see their destination. The payoff at the top was entirely worth it, esp. after cutting off the first 500 feet from the parking lot. I didn't see notes about shorter versions of this hike, so I hope you all find this helpful! Definitely one of the beauties of Virginia. Note about directions: I made the mistake of taking the 211 bypass (aka Lee Highway) over Luray. This highway doesn't have an off-ramp for Bixler's Ferry/675. So, if you're coming from the east side of the mountain, you have to take the 211 business route and go through the city to Mechanic Street, which becomes Bixler's. From there, follow the signs up for 675.

By: Robert Godlove Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, January 02, 2009
Nice day to Hike...Myself and Wife , hiked with 4 kids, between the ages of 7-14, Didn't do the full Loop...Went to Kennedy Peak and back. Would like to do the whole thing in the near future...Weather was great and temp was Moderate 38-42F...Trail was in good shape, someone had drove their vehicle back the trail a ways and lost some parts! We carried out and threw in trash, Great view at Kennedy Peak 360 degrees, and nice vistas on the way there. Only ran into one other family. Would recommend this hike.

By: Jim Cleaveland Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, November 11, 2007

We went up from the parking lot, a nice climb but the zig zags made it relatively easy.  Coming back along the side of the mountain was a bit boring after while.  Still enought leaves on trees to reduce panoramas to the West into the narrrow valley.  Temperature about 40 at outset and about that at top when we stopped for lunch at the look out.


By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, October 05, 2007
I enjoyed the easy beginning of this hike.  The incline to the peak was strenuous, but not too bad.  The lookout tower at the peak is great.  In fact, we rolled out our sleeping bags and slept there under the stars.  We saw shooting stars and the sunrise in the morning was gorgeous.  A beautiful blanket of mist covered the valley below for a couple of hours after we woke up.  We enjoyed the hike down even more than going up because of the moss and beautiful foliage--just starting to turn colors.  We saw one couple hiking while we were on the trail.  My least favorite part was walking down the paved road at the end of the hike to our car.  Overall though, very nice hike.

By: Emily Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 27, 2007
We agree with a previous review that the parking at the trail head is more like 4 miles after turning onto 675. If you reach Camp Roosevelt, you've gone just too far.

For it being the weekend of Memorial Day, we were expecting much more company. There were only 3 other groups and each said they had started at the point where the trail briefly joins 675 and hiked backwards up to Kennedy Lookout.

All in all, it was a fun hike. The views would definitely be better in early spring before all the leaves block the views out into the valley. We did get a couple of glimpses through the branch openings and if we had started later in the day more of the clouds would have burned off and the view would have been even more amazing.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 10, 2007
This hike was as invigorating as it was gorgeous. The many different terrains a hiker longs for are all within the 8.5 mile loop. A steady low-pitch incline is complemented by the short but strenuous mile or so near the top. The view is unforgettable, leaving my partner and I in awe to think that such a place is not visited more frequently. A must see for serious day hikers.  And remember, please pick up after your animal on the trail! I would recommend this hike to those with much on their mind and a personal desire to calm their souls during beautiful hiking!

By: Alexandria-Hiker-Boy Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, June 30, 2006
My Brother and I arrived at an empty parking lot at 7AM on a Friday, and after hiking returned to the still empty lot 4 hours later; so apparantly the trail is not often used during the week.  Both the directions and description for the trail on this website were very accurate, but I did notice that the distance from the 'right onto 675' to the 'trail parking area' was a bit more than the cited '3.5 miles'.  (I measured the distance to be a bit more than 4 miles.)  The two of us thought that the trail was not quite as scenic as suggested by the advertised '5' rating for 'Views' on the website, and that the rating should be downgraded to a 2.5.  (Maybe the scenery is much better when the leaves are all down, or later in the afternoon when all the long distance mist is gone.)  Generally, this hike was a safe walk in the woods, on a well marked trail, with minimal long-distance scenery.  Still, we did like it, and found it well worth the drive from Alexandria, VA.  Oh, the HikingUpward web site is one heck of a guide.  I've now used it for 12 hiking sites.  Thanks HikingUpward!

By: Dave Place Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 28, 2006
A friend of mine and I just did the hike over the weekend.  We parked in the small parking area where Stevens' trail comes out on US 675 as the hikingupward.com description shows. We hike the trial backwards to Kennedy Lookout (about 2.5 miles for car)where the view was spectacular. The hike along the ridgeline was beautiful and peaceful.  We found several nice campsites and even though it was Memorial Day weekend traffic on the trail was light.  A bonus of camping along this portion of the trial is the lights of Luray at night, very nice when the stars are hidden by folage. The description and pictures here allowed us to modify the hike before we even left home, thanks hikingupward!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 27, 2006
This was a great hike but a bit underestimated. I used a Garmin ETrex Legend C GPS Unit and recoded the track with an interval of .01 miles. The overall distance of the trail turned out to be 9.5 miles. Needless to say, by the time I was finished with Stephens Trail , I was ready to kick Stephens' A$$ (jk, well not really - haha). Anyways, it was a great day for a hike, and the trail is a wonderful way for a +sized man as myself to work off a few pounds. The only downside to the distance issue is that without a GPS, one would easily begin to second guess his or her route which can lead to getting lost.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, January 16, 2006
Great hike. We, my 8 yr and 3 yr old girls, did an out and back from the parking lot to the Kennedy Peak lookout tower via the orange blazed Massanutten Trail. A tad cold, stayed under 35 all day and a touch of snow. (Camp Roosewell wasn't open but there were lots of great camping spots along the ridge and just west of the peak in the saddle). Fodder House Mtn south of the Kennedy Peak looks like it would make a nice side trip/bush wack. Might be some good climbable cliffs for those toting some sticky shoes as we will be next time we go there. Drive time was two hours from Vienna, VA. Perfect beta as usual from the hikingupward site. You guys are rock. Keep up the good work and mega thanks.

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