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Hiker Comments for the The Peak Hike - 1 to 42 of 42   
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By: Ed K Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 6, 2019
I did this hike minus "The Peak" excursion. This leaves a nice 13.5 mile loop. I began at Jenkins Gap following the AT, traveling the loop in counter-clockwise fashion. This allowed me to get the climb to the top of North Marshall Mountain in the first hour. The views from North Marshall and South Marshall are outstanding and the most enjoyable part of the hike. I stopped at the Gravel Spring Shelter (mile 5.9 of the hike) for lunch and hydration - it is only 0.1 miles off the trail and has a privy and spring. The next 4 miles crossed numerous streams and offer the opportunity to dip your feet in cold water if so inclined. The last 3.5 miles or so follow the old Mount Marshall roadbed and offer a rather pleasant trail with a slight rise over the final 1.5 miles to Skyline Drive, especially since the trail maintainers had cleared the brush (thanks PATC trail maintenance folks!). There is a 1/3 mile road walk from the trailhead back to Jenkins Gap, so be careful. It was an extremely hot and humid day -- I carried 4 liters of water and was dry by finish. I wished I had filtered a liter along the way. I also picked 3 ticks off my legs over the course of the day - so be vigilant!

By: Allen Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 18, 2019
Quick, potentially life/discomfort-saving review:  The abandoned Peak Trail is, indeed, abandoned.  (It is not just the first 100 yards of trail that are hard to follow--but rather virtually all of it.)  For the adventurous willing to risk an ankle roll and undaunted by the hordes of ticks that will accompany the journey on the "trail," I would strongly counsel bringing a compass.

Leaving that little sortie aside, the hike was...OK.  The primary reasons to do the hike arethe distance--even 11-12 miles without the add-on to the Peak--and the solitude (ran into perhaps seven people over the 17 miles).  But too few views, all at the hike's beginning, and fairly boring terrain (few deviations from flats or mild ups or downs.  High point was lunch down into one of the first creekbeds we encountered, roughly 8 miles in. 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, March 29, 2019
We made it up the Peak. A fun and good workout. Started from the southern end of the Mt. Marshall trail (Rte. 625). Wanted to do this before the foliage was out. At Thoroughfare Gap, the Peak trail started just to the right of the Jordan River trail. We carefully and fairly easily followed the first part of the trail. Eventually, a small cairn on the left designates the split between the solid-line (go left and then directly up the ridge) and dotted-line (go straight) trails. We took the solid-line trail and immediately, looking straight up the ridge, saw two more cairns. There is really no trail, but we followed the ridge uphill, occasionally seeing a blue blaze or a cairn, and eventually reached the top of the Peak. The next time we'd like to take the Jordan River trail up to the Gap and then the dotted-line to the summit, bushwhacking as required for the last part.

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.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, July 3, 2016
The AT portion, the Bluff trail and the Mount Marshall sections are very pleasant and seclusive. We started around 8 am and only see a few people along the whole loop. The peak segment has been completely abandoned we took the small path right after we got on the Jordan River Trail. The path is very difficult to recognize and follow. When we finally arrived at the top and tried to walk toward the high ground, we could not find out way back - we lost! Finally, we used our compass, a toppo map to navigate back to where we started after a couple of hours. For the future comers, I strongly suggest you not to try this peak hike unless the path are well marked.

By: John Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 16, 2016
I hiked this in two days, starting from Jenkins Gap heading down the AT and camping at the Devils Staircase campground (flat spot under a tree). Day two was the peak and the east side of the trail. It's probably ~19 miles to add the Devils Staircase trail which I felt was well worth it when taking two days. Contrary to what I've read here, I was surprised to be able to find a view at the top of the Peak. The dotted blue line trail seemed to be better marked to me, so I took that, and it led me right to a rock outcropping on the far east side. I would definitely recommend this hike, I was even lucky enough to see two black bears (from a comfortable distance).

By: GG Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, March 27, 2016
Overall a very good hike. I started out about 7am on a Sunday morning. I saw a few campers on their way out early on in the hike, and then basically saw nobody for the last 8 miles of the hike, which was nice. To be clear, the peak portion of the hike is no well marked at all, and I am not really sure if I actually followed the trail. I missed the turnoff onto blue trail, and had to backtrack, so my mileage was closer to 19 miles. Great training.

By: Will Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, January 18, 2016
Skyline Drive was closed because of a light snow the day before, so had to improvise and enter via the Jordan River Trail (trailhead can be found by driving to the end of Bean Hollow road, where road splits into two private gated drives. Walk down the drive to the left, hugging the river, and you'll reach the Jordan River trailhead in a couple hundred yards).

The abandoned trail up The Peak was very easy to find and follow in the winter landscape. Good exercise and some great views. Saw a barred owl on the way up! Hiked along the Bluff Trail and back after, which is a nice rolling trail through woodland. Looking forward to visiting again when Skyline Drive is open, and hiking the whole loop.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, November 16, 2015
Did a different version of this hike...started at the end of 625 and hiked up the Mt. Marshall trail (really just an old road) to the first intersection.  From there, the trail towards the Peak is pretty easy to follow (at least with the leaves down) HOWEVER I took the trail which winds around the southern side of the mountain.  It's very easy to follow.  Once you reach the southern summit (you'll know, the trail starts heading back down towards the valley if you go any further) there is a very nice lookout if you scramble up a cropping of rocks.  From there, I took a compass bearing and bushwhacked just a couple hundred yards uphill to the main summit.  I should have just gone back down the way I came, but I tried to find the other trail down and ended up doing a miserable bushwhack back to the intersection (it was quite steep, I don't recommend it).  Once back down, I took the Bluff Trail over to Big Devil's Stairs and had lunch before heading back.  Total distance was around 12.5 miles.  The few viewpoints were nice, but not really worth doing the hike again I would say.  Nevertheless, any day in the woods is better than a day at the office! Also, I only saw one person the whole day, and it was near Big Devil's Stairs.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 30, 2015
Nice hike - counter-clockwise, Jenkins Gap, AT to Bluff Trail to Peak, then back to Jenkins Gap. Nice smallish Black bear off the Bluff Trail. Very overgrown and no obvious cairn for the ridge trail on the peak, so I missed it and went round on the southern trail to a tiny cairn (2 stones and a pebble), then up to the ridge and the summit. Trail disappears shortly after the tiny cairn and the bushwacking becomes pretty horrendous - it would also be easy to get turned around. I'll give this another go in November, when the leaves and vegetation die back. Now for a thorough tick inspection!

By: Aimee D Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 26, 2015
I would like to flag this hike as "highly recommended" for folks doing Philmont training or the Hiking merit badge. We modified it by parking at Jenkins Gap and doing it as an out-and-back to the Peak. The distance came in at about 10.3 miles, with a perfect mix of gradual and steep. We did not have difficulty finding or keeping to the "abandoned" trail to the Peak, with the caveat that we ended up going up on the portion shown as a dotted line on the topo. We decided to try to come back down the "solid line" way and did have some challenges finding and keeping to the trail. Blazes were infrequent and faint, and there wasn't much of a discernible trail. At the point where we met back up with the trail we hiked up on, there really wasn't much in the way of a landmark to show that's an up-bound hiker should turn left. But again, going up the "dotted" trail worked fine. Also, the Mt. Marshall portion was a delight to hike on, never steep or very rocky.

By: Jordan D Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, February 7, 2015
Three of us departed Tysons Corner, VA at around 5:30 AM to complete The Peak hike for the second time, almost a year after our previous trial. We arrived at the trailhead early, about an hour after sunrise. All of us were wearing packs with extra weight to get a better workout. The first half of this hike is a relative breeze to run through. If you're trying to get this one done fast and especially before sunset in the winter months, I'd advise picking up your pace during this portion. It's mostly downhill with some slight elevation gains until you arrive at the intersection to head to The Peak. Contradictory to what I just wrote, take time to appreciate the views in the early portion - you don't get any great views on this hike other than these. This time for us, the non-completely frozen snow actually helped out a bit since it can soften your steps, make it easier on the joints, and give some 'slide' speed going downhill. Do not advise running with heavy packs on for your joint health. After a relatively hassle free first half, we arrived at The Peak intersection and began our way up. It's a steep grade on an abandoned trail, but nothing too crazy. Safety first and always err on the side of caution. Follow the blue blazes once you find them after about 100 yards up from the base of the hill, be careful for falling rocks, and be careful going back down. At the top after the steep grade, we found and prepared a clearing and brought out the compact camp stove to heat up some hot chili to warm our souls from the cold weather. After that, we made our way back down The Peak and made our way back to the intersection to finish out the rest of the hike. It may have been exhaustion, but the last 5 miles of this hike seem to take forever. You get a decent workout going uphill again to make your way to the parking area. The fire road for the last 0.5 mile or so is a welcome sight signalling that the parking area was close. It always seems that the more you pay attention to how much distance you have left, the longer it takes. Kind of like when you're in school and constantly checking the clock waiting until class gets out - it makes it seem like it's taking forever :) Stick it out and know you'll get there eventually, one step at a time. All in all, This was a great hike - primarily great for a workout, with some adventure on the abandoned trail that sort of breaks the traditional 'follow the path' and lets you do your own thing for a bit. There's also some nice views early on. As always, remember to be careful. The last thing you'd want is to be injured and unable to move back to the parking area/safety.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, February 7, 2015
I left for this hike from Tysons Corner, VA, along with two friends. We had weighted packs for extra physical training and departed around 5:30 AM. At around 8:00 AM we arrived at the trailhead and began The Peak trail. Two of us having done this in early March last year, we were somewhat expectant of what this one entailed. The first half to three quarters of the hike is relatively easy and mostly downhill. Be sure to capture and embrace the views early on, because the overlooks you encounter within the first several miles are as good as it gets. That being said, they are a couple pretty nice views for Shenandoah! If you want (and be safe), the first half is a good time to speed up your pace, especially in the winter months when the sun sets and you have a longer distance to cover in a daylong. We continued until we reached the intersection to head up to the The Peak, took a short snack break, and then made our way up the steep incline. At the top and slightly tired, we broke out the camp stove to make warm chili and some scotch for a meal that warmed our cold souls. We (carefully, with an emphasis on safety) made our way back down and back to the intersection and resumed to finish out this one. The last 5 miles or so seemed like they took forever, as is usual on long hikes, but we persisted and made it back to the parking area feeling accomplished once again. This is a great workout hike and you get a couple good views early on. You also get a sense of adventure going on the 'abandoned' trail portion of The Peak. All in all a nice hike and it'd be good to complete the challenge again next year.

By: game 6 Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, November 14, 2014
A chilly but sunny November day--good for this hike, which is best done after the leaves are down. Both so you can steal some views at the top of the Peak (and throughout the hike) but also to minimize the brush on the bushwhack. Note, however, that this year from Nov 10 on the SNP north and south sections are closed from 5pm to 8am, so you need to get to the entrance right at 8 to fit the hike into the 9 hour window (including the drive to and from Gravel Springs)! As for the trail up the Peak, going up I chose the trail shown on the map with blue dots (it goes up somewhat right of the ridge starting halfway up). I found it very easy to follow as it goes up a significant ramp cut into the side of the mountain many years ago (+ blue blazes--I guess the old blue blaze trail was a loop since both options to the summit have blue blazes). For the return I tried to follow the trail down the ridge, and succeeded for a while, but then lost it at the end as the last blue blaze seemed to lead into a barrier of briars, bushes and outcrops. Perhaps I would have done better had I gone up that way--but still I think the blue dots are the way to go (some nice views into the next valley that way, also). Like others on this message board, I did not find the hike as strenuous as its length would suggest, mainly because it was pretty level except for the Peak excursion.

By: New Hiker Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Found the summit of The Peak to be too difficult to find and turned back due to foliage scraping my legs. The first section was fun but only made it to about 2350' in elevation. If you want to challenge your self do the hike in reverse, go down and up Big Devil Stairs and then do the same down then up at Jenkins Gap Trail. I did the hike in reverse so that I would have The Peak in the first third of the hike but, after failing to find the Peak summit I chose to add the lower section of the Jenkins Gap Trail. I can tell you that it was one long challenging climb if done from the bottom of Jenkins Gap Trail at the park boundary to the top of Marshall if done without stopping. At the bottom of the Jenkins Gap Trail the park boundary is not well marked so look at the printable map from Hikingupward and follow it as you hike down to find the stopping point. There is a small SNP boundary sign on a tree in the middle of the trail that can only be seen while on the way back up the hill. Skip The Peak and add the other two trails you will have a 6 for difficulty and it will add about 3-4 mi to your day.

By: Jordan D Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 1, 2014
I started this hike with two friends on a snowy, cold day at 7:30AM. We carried heavy loads in rucksacks (2L of water, food, 40lbs of bricks for training) and were prepared for a longer trek. Having completed most of the popular trails at Shenandoah National Park, I wanted to do a hike that would challenge a bit more and provide some more distance. This hike delivered in that aspect. The first 75% of this hike is very easy as it's almost all downhill. Be sure to get your pictures in of the early outlooks because the best views are up front and don't get any better. 'The Peak' trail was interesting since it was abandoned. It wasn't terribly hard to see where the trail was, even in the snow. We ended up following the blue blazed abandoned trail farther than we wanted to and it led to a partial overlook that was on the other side of 'The Peak' where we took a short break. After returning from the peak, it's mostly uphill but nothing too terrible. If you're looking for a great exercise or training hike with at least one good view I'd recommend this hike as it was more challenging than others.

By: Paul Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, February 12, 2014
The Peak is much better done in late fall, winter, or early spring while the foliage is gone... I did it this past winter and found things easier as the blue blazes magically appear from time to time. With light snow on the ground, you could pick up footprints from previous adventurers... Plus you can see openings within the trees at the summit...Quite impressive actually!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Parked at the end of Bean Hollow Road, just outside the park boundary where the Jordan River Trail begins. There are important details to know if you decide to use this SNP entrance...feel free to email me if you'd like more info. Now to the fun stuff. Thoroughfare Gap is the spot. As one would expect, there is no invitation to climb The Peak...but there is clearly a path here. Mount Marshall Trail goes to the left or right but the abandoned trail is visible going up...just do it! Begin the ascent and next thing you find is a distinct trail. Before you know it you see blue blazes. These are your friends. They seem to appear when you least expect them and instinctually they follow. Look back and see those on the other side as you would need to follow them back down. The Peak is up above so if you lose the blazes, just climb up the ridge. The summit is there. Sometimes its tough...just climb! There are three important landmarks...the Rock Cairns...the first alerts you of the first real ascent...the second is the most important because it appears when the lower blue blazed southern trail continues straight ahead and it looks much more desirable... This may be a nice trail but I chose to make a left up at the second cairn. Good choice because shortly after, those friendly blue blazes started appearing again... And before you know it...the third cairn was just before me...THE PEAK! Good workout...Did not do the whole loop...will do the Marshalls, Bluff Trail, and Big Devil Stairs another time... My goal today was to climb The Peak and by golly I DID IT!!!

By: MDThunder Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 23, 2013
Definitely not a 6 in difficulty. My wife and I hiked this trail counter clockwise, and tried to take on the peak too. The trail for the peak is definately abandoned, as mentioned in other reviews. To get to the trail, you have to wander off the yellow blazed trail from the junction about 100 yards towards the peak, at which point you start to pick up the matted leaves signifying a trail. If you have good eyes, you can make out two blue blazers that have been painted over with brown paint to remove the trail markings. A little further, and there are faded blue blazers marking the trail. The peak trail is very overgrown and not upkept at all, as you'd expect from an abandoned trail. If taking on the peak, be prepared for more of a bushwacking experience than hiking, as there are multiple spots where you're questioning if you're still on the trail or not due to the vegetation and downed trees on the trail. Also, be absolutely sure to wear long pants and long socks - when we finished the peak trail, we found about 6 deer ticks on each of us afterward that we picked up from all the brush. As for difficulty, the peak trail isn't very tough after the very steep section at the beginning, but the brush makes it very slow going. After the steep beginning, you're climbing up along the side of the ridge for most of the way, which really reduces the incline. The rest of the yellow blazed trail we found fairly boring - no views, flat, and pretty unremarkable. The AT section is much more interesting, and has a couple spots for good lookouts. I'd give this hike - even including the peak section - only a 3 for difficulty. It just didn't seem that tough to us, but it makes for a good all day hike.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 29, 2013
My friend and I started this summer wanting to hike the most challenging trails of the Shenandoah. This was the third such hike after tackling the Wintergreen hike a fortnight prior.  We attempted the whole hike including the Peak but counterclockwise so that we could hike the peak within the first third of the hike. The peak trail is abandoned as mentioned in the description and one quickly finds this out at the beginning, it becomes somewhat clearer the second third of the ascent but disappears thereafter. We found a few marked trees by looking in the horizon. The faint trail was too overgrown to be passable (especially when wearing shorts). We gave up on the Peak trail about 3/4 of the way up. The rest of the hike is actually pretty easy with few streams and a couple of lookout positions. I'd rate the views about 2 out of 5 and streams the same.
Its a relatively easy hike and excluding the peak, we expected the level of difficulty to be harder. It's ranked as a tough hike based on the Peak but if you avoid this section it's maybe a 2 or 3 ranking. We didn't see a lookout for the first 10 or so miles until we crossed skyline for the first time. Nice hike, but nowhere close to the top of my list. Hikes completed so far: Old Rag (twice), Strickler Knob, Wintergreen and White Canyon Trail.

By: Altitude Amigos Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, December 28, 2012
This was a bit of an unusual hike, not sure if I should add a review since we didn't actually do much of the trail. Regardless, here we go: Wanting to close 2012 with a big hike, we chose The Peak. However, snow and ice closed Skyline Drive, forcing us to find another way to access the trail. After getting some tips from a park ranger, we found a trail not far from the Peak itself. This led us to the Marshall Trail and what we thought was the Peak. It was not. We ended up climbing across the mapped loop from near the base of the Peak to the first big viewpoint described on the hike profile- nearly half a mile of elevation over 5 miles. It was beautiful seeing everything covered in 6 inches of snow and ice, very peaceful. An adventure without a doubt, can't wait to go back to hike the circuit and actually scale the Peak!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 21, 2012
I did this hike on Oct. 21 2012.

Starting the hike there was a ton of traffic on Skyline for the first mile or so, which I was worried would be the case for that whole section but turned out it died off fairly quick. So I was glad about that. If you are looking for views the AT section of the hike has all the good views as others have said. While if you are looking just for spectacular views no it's not a great overall hike for that. But if you want to do a good long circuit without a ton of elevation  though lots of different foliage and be mostly secluded it's good. I'm thinking next spring I'll probably take my son on this as a 2 day backpacking trip but do it in reverse so we get the views from the AT at the end (minus the peak).

I found the route up the peak. I would lose it once in awhile bushwack up keeping in mind where I thought the trail was at. Usually within a few hundred yards I would spot another blaze get to that blaze then pick my next direction.  The Peak was tough but doable. I enjoyed the trail finding/ bushwacking aspect of it.

Couple pointers on the Peak:
The trail right off the intersection goes in a few hundred feet turns right then heads up the hill. If you keep an eye out behind you and find the blazes for the down trip 1 it makes finding them when you are coming down easier but it also helps you spot the next blaze going up. As many (NOT ALL) of them are within line of site. The "trail" is pretty rocky at the first incline. So it's pretty easy to pick out once you start the climb. A compass is a good idea to have with you. I forgot mine (had it on the list to bring and missed it somehow). So what I did was used the hillside behind me and picked a spot that I knew if I headed back towards I would hit the trail.

Overall a fun hike I would say worth doing once with or without The Peak. Specially if you just want to get a lot of mile on your boots without a ton of elevation. Time wise It took me 6:30 hours. I never really stopped minus taking off layers, or I put my sandals on for 3 miles to give my feet a break (I hate shoes). And I was pushing myself on purpose. Like the guide I would say 7-8 hours is a good guide to go by if you are hiking at a moderate rate. Another note from the start of the Bluff trail to the intersection of Big Devils stairs felt like more than 2.3 miles. But I think that maybe because it was the only long constant uphill portion.

By: Mike Gergely Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 15, 2012
Hiked this in mid-September with a start at Jenkins Gap, minus the Peak section.  Even though I was keeping an eye out for it I never did see the cutoff trail, even though the Peak itself was quite a presence along the lower Mt. Marshall Trail.  Overall the hike was pleasant and fairly level along most of the length, so it was easy to keep a good pace going throughout.  I could tell that in winter there would be some dramatic views along much of the trail's length, but the leaf-cover meant that most of the time you only caught brief glimpses through the trees.  There are a few small exposed overlooks on the Marshall peaks however.  I will definitely have to return in the Nov-to-Feb timeframe to take in the views.

I did run into two people on South Marshall who said they ran into a large black bear, but when I reached the section they mentioned I saw no sign of it.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 2, 2012
My son and I hiked this, minus the Peak, last Sunday--we started from Jenkins parking lot and went south along the Bluff Trail, and then north on the AT. There were no views to speak of on the non-AT part, but we did run into not one but TWO black bears on the Bluff Trail! I think that's the best aspect to recommend this hike, the Bluff Trail portion is not traveled as much as the AT. The views from the AT portion were nice though. We went fast and did the whole thing in just over 5 hours. Not great but nice!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 19, 2012
We completed this hike in one day in about 7.5 hours. Overall, I would say the difficulty level is about average. It's a little strenuous in the beginning, but the hike is on relatively level ground after that for the most part. We started out by parking at the Gravel Springs parking lot (mile marker 17.5 on Skyline Drive), and then started out on the Appalachian Trial. From there, it was about 5-6 miles to when you come to Jenkins Gap, where you'll cross Skyline Drive and hike a bit along the road to come to the Marshall Mount trailhead. In about another 4 miles, you'll come to the junction from which you can left to access The Peak or right to continue along the Bluff Trail. We attempted to do The Peak, but I would highly suggest: DO NOT ATTEMPT THE PEAK. The (abandoned) trail is a little obscure but still well-defined for about .4 miles up The Peak. After that, it becomes increasingly overgrown until it completely disappears. Previous hikers have left rocks to mark the way, but the thick underbrush makes it difficult and slow going. Eventually, we had to give up and turn around. After that, though, it's only 5 miles to the parking lot on the Bluff Trail, which is mostly level. Overall, I'd recommend this as a day hike, but DO NOT DO THE PEAK..

By: Rachel H Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Set out to hike the loop minus The Peak, but closure of Skyline Drive forced us to create an alternate route. We started from the small parking area at the south end of the Mount Marshall Trail, followed Bluff Trail up towards Skyline Drive, and took the Harris Hollow trail back down to the valley, leaving us with a nice 3.5 mile walk along the road back to our car. It was a pleasant 11-mile loop in light snow, and as we found Bluff Trail to be a very moderate climb with plenty of perfect campsites, we intend to return in better weather for the hike as originally planned.

By: Phil Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 5, 2011
I chose to forgo the Gravel Springs Gap > AT > Mt. Marshall Trail > Bluff Trail > Gravel Springs Gap Loop. Instead, I parked at the base of the Mt. Marshall Trail off State Route 625. The trail crosses private land for 0.6 miles as it climbs up to the park boundary. From the boundary it is another 1.2 miles up to Thoroughfare Gap and the junction with the Jordan River Trail and the abandoned Peak Trail. Unlike many of the other posters here, I had no trouble following the trail up the ridge. The blue blazes are old and consequently faint, but they are there. As others have mentioned, the trail actually splits at the rock cairn, with one path leading up the ridge to the summit, and another more easily followed trail continuing on around the southern face of the Peak. I took this second trail around to the south and was treated to a number of small gaps in the trees that afforded good views across the valley toward Gravel Springs Gap and Skyline Drive. The trail climbs up to the southern ridge line on the back side of the Peak and appeared to continue on down the ridge into the valley. However, when the trail begins to descend this ridge, you come to a group of large boulders to the right of the trail. This rocky outcropping provided an excellent, unobstructed view across the valley. From this point, you have to blaze your own trail up to the summit. It is easy to get turned around on the top of the Peak, but if you take a heading toward Gravel Springs Gap, you will come back to the overlook and the blue blazed trail for a fairly easy return to Thoroughfare Gap. I believe the trail was more noticeable because I hiked it in November. Most of the leaves had fallen from the small trees and shrubs that have sprung up in the trail, and the tall grasses and weeds had died back. It would definitely be a much more difficult hike in the summer with the undergrowth in full leaf. If you are still looking to cover some ground after you descend the Peak, it's about a 5.5 mile out and back jaunt to Big Devils Stairs on the Bluff Trail, or you can descend down into the valley on the Jordan River Trail. Oh, and I highly recommend that you spray your socks and the bottoms of your pants legs with bug repellant. I had to stop a couple of times to pick numerous ticks off my pants. I must have walked through a deer bedding area.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 3, 2011
We hiked this as an overnight backpacking trip starting from the Jenkins Gap parking lot (a great parking area to the west of Jenkins Gap overlook that is not on any of the maps except the map here on Hiking Upward). The only challenge route-finding up The Peak was at the rock cairn that indicated a left turn. After 50 feet the trail was lost in the boulders so we continued on the ridgeline for another 200 yards or so and scrambled up a less-threatening slope.

The lack of the view from the top was expected but still disappointing (the fog that day prevented any decent views). From the "summit" we headed due south and picked up the ridge line trail again - it helped here having an altimeter, compass, and map and knowing how to use all three. As mentioned by another reviewer, there are a couple nice overlooks from this ridgeline trail but the fog that day shrouded the next ridge over in its dense cloak.

We saw a bear on the Bluff Trail midway between the Mt Marshall trail and Big Devil Stairs trail. He/she did not wait for me to mount my 200mm lens before waddling off into the brush.

The hike on Sunday back to Jenkins Gap via the AT was spectacular.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 25, 2011
This hike probably shouldn't be rated a "6".  Aside from the Peak, which was a total mess, the trail was nice but not really a challenge.  With respect to the Peak, I never really found the trail but I did find the small rock cairn, but the "trail" didn't really exist.  Nonetheless, i still charged the hill and climbed up the mountain.  I was sort of disoriented coming down but I had my compass set to 320 degrees due NE so I just followed that course and made it back to the ridge.

Oh, and when asking directions at the main SNP gate, the lady asked if I planned to climb up the Peak.  I told her that I did, and she told me about the hikers that had to stay the night up there recently.  You can read about the straded hikers in other posts.  What I will emphasis this that anytime you decide to go off the trail, a compass and a good topographical map are important.  Also, climb the "peak" early instead of later in the day.

By: Vlad Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, June 5, 2011
The hike as described, except for the hike up to The Peak is a VERY nice hike. Good open views of the valley early on, a few mildly tough inclines in first half while on AT, followed by pretty "green tunnel" mostly descent down Mt Marshall. This was well maintained, of course, as was the Bluff trail (about 600' ascent) over 3.9 miles) after Thoroughfare Gap back to the Gravel Springs lot. The Peak... VERY CHALLENGING, up and down, due to the steepness and the terrain. Whether you take the more direct path up the rigeline (tougher) or the path to the right of it that comes to the peak from the other side, you will feel the burn. The terrain is made much tougher because of the unmaintained trail. Because of this, it is a challenge not to go off course. Be very careful not to do so! The reason I say that the Peak is NOT WORTH IT is because there is great effort for little reward. There are no good views, as mentioned. You have to bushwack or walk through growth that becomes an exercise for its own sake but nothing worthwhile. I do not recommend it, and park service plans to officially mark it as a Closed Trail at some point. But, if you do go, it can't be stressed enough to have good directionbal guidance (compass, GPS). it is not for winging it, because it is VERY easy to get OFF COURSE coming back down and not get back to any of the trails that feed the described hike's loop. To summarize, all but the Peak section is a Greatly Enjoyable day hike. The Peak section is too much risk for no reward.

By: Nancy Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, June 5, 2011
I'm with Vlad on this one.  The reason he knows people could get lost easily is because a couple of us did get lost and ended up spending the night on the mountain before being rescued by the terrific SNP rangers.  That trail has been abandoned for 20+ years, and is extremely difficult to find.  They also apparently didn't believe in switchbacks when it was made, it is pretty much a straight shoot up a very steep mountain.  The rest of the hike is really beautiful, and the trail is not busy at all, enjoy that part and don't wreck it with that Peak climb!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, June 5, 2011
Other than the Peak, the hike was beautiful and I really recommend it.  The trail up the peak is entirely over grown and poorly marked (probably because it has closed for 20 years).  I too got lost and wound up spending the night.  There are no views to speak of.  I found Robertson Mountain to be just as good a climb.  But if you feel you just must do it, look for my camera I left up there!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 26, 2011
Hiked Sunday 3/26 before arriving snow, so I was very rushed on this hike. It wasn't as difficult as some made it out to be. I finished in 5.25 hours. There was some beautiful views at the beginning and a tougher climb at the peak (it's a little difficult locating the blue blazed trail on this section). I highly recommend this hike because it offers a little bit of everything, but really isn't extremly difficult. Can anyone recommend a more challenging hike?

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 8, 2010
This is the longest and most difficult hike I have ever taken in the Blue Ridge, tougher than the Old Rag/Robertson Mountain combo I like to do, or White Oak Canyon/Cedar Run with Hawksbill tacked on.  Subtract The Peak and it is still a long, but not very taxing hike.  The Peak was indeed a workout, very steep in places but the real problem was route finding.  It was not hard to find the trail at the very beginning, a process helped by some red tape tied around several small trees early on, just to the left of the trail pillar as you face it.  We believe we found the cairn mentioned in the route description where you are supposed to turn left.   If you do not turn left the trail continues on, there is yet another very small cairin further, and even a blue blazed tree, before the path appears to totally fade into brush.  This may be part of the loop that was referred to in an earlier review.  We did not attempt to find out.  Instead, we went back to the larger cairn and turned left sharply up hill.  We quickly lost the trail but my 15-year old son was able to bushwack back and forth as he worked his way up the slope and he eventually came upon another cairn and we eventually spotted some old blue blazed trees which kept us on the remmants of the path until we reached the summit.  Interestingly, we never lost the trail on the way down.  In my experience, it is usually easier to stick to a trail, if one is actually there, going down than going up.  We probably lost about 20-30 minutes trail searching on the way up.  It might have been quicker simply to take a compass bearing and head straight up hill since the brush was not very thick, even in early August.   You could then simply reverse your bearing on the way down.  Still, its nice to have the security of a path.  It made me wonder when the trail was abandoned and why.  Fifty years ago there might actually have been a view from the top.  But the steepness and increasing tree heights probably militated against maintaining it.  If anyone knows the real story I would appreciate hearing it.  The whole walk with delays took us seven and a half hours.  At the end we felt a real sense of accomplishment.  And that, after all, is really what it's all about.

By: Nicole Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 8, 2010
Great hike!  We had perfect weather for it too!  But beware of ticks!!  They were everywhere especially while we were on the Mount Marshall Trail.  By the end, my friend and I had probably taken off 25 ticks each.  It was also hard to find the Peak Trail itself and then to stay on the trail once we were on it.  With all the trees down, it was hard to track.  Overall though it was a beautiful day long hike.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 27, 2010
This was a really great hike. We went in late March, so leaves are still not on the trees, but they were beginning to show. The sky was clear, and we were able to see for miles. There were a decent amount of streams, one of which is about .5 miles from the start of the PEAK, and it was beautiful. The first 10 miles of the hike were relatively easy, with some incredible views, the last 7 miles were much more difficult though. The base of the mountain that takes you to the peak was really hard, and it was somewhat hard to find the blue blazes. You keep thinking you are almost to the top, but it just kept going, then finally you get to the peak, where there was almost no view at all. But like the description says, the exercise of the climb is great. The descent was kind of hard also, because it is so steep, and all of the leaves make it easy for you to lose your footing. The last 5 miles are on gradual incline and the trail takes you right back to where you started. The trail was really well maintained, and it had no visible liter. Enjoy the trial, and don't whimp out on the Peak part of it!

By: Adam M Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, January 9, 2010
Skyline drive was closed, so some friends and I drove to the coordinates 38.776731, -78.162422, which is at the end of County Road 628, AKA Bean Hollow Rd. There's room for a few cars in front of a gate with #320 on it. Walk around the gate, and follow the path. You'll see a home on the left and a lot of "No Trespassing" signs, but evidently the path has been grandfathered for public access. This will put you on the Jordan River Trail (yellow dotted trail on the lower-right of the topo map. From here, it's a short hike to the Thoroughfare Gap junction point, from which you can hike up to The Peak. We drove out from DC and didn't expect much snow, but the whole area was covered and it was surprisingly deep.

By: N. Costello Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Peak trail forms a loop near the summit.  If you take the southern branch (which approaches the summit from the south/west) there are some very nice views.  Also, from the southern branch, there is a sidetrail that heads out on the Peak's southwestern spur that also leads to some rock formations with fantastic western views.  This is one of my favorite hikes in SNP, mostly due to its solitude.

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