Oh Shenandoah!

Overnighters along the Appalachian Trail through Shenandoah National Park
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The longest stretch of Appalachian Trail (AT) is in Virginia, host to more than a quarter of the AT's length. From the Potomac River near Harpers Ferry, the AT ridge hops westward along the Blue Ridge until it reaches Shenandoah National Park. After traversing the park for more than 100 miles, the trail leaves the park behind at Rockfish Gap.

Hikers can also cover a good chunk of the AT in Shenandoah with some short overnighters. The South & North Marshall Loop is a pleasant, not-too-strenous weekend hike, perfect for the kids or those who just want to take it easy. If you want to work a little harder, Stony Man/Big Meadows offers great views of—and from—some of Shenandoah's most famous features.

South & North Marshall Loop

On this easy 13 mile loop, you will follow the Mount Marshall, Bluff, and Appalachian Trails as you hike through Shenandoah National Park. There are some moderate climbs along the way, but with only 13 miles to cover in two days, this is a nice, easy weekend hike. This short loop offers several fine views from North and South Marshall Mountains.

North and South Marshall Mountains were once known locally as Bluff Mountain. They were renamed for John Marshall (1755-1835), who served as Chief Justice of the United States for the last thirty-five years of his life. North and South Marshall Mountains were once owned by the renowned jurist.

The Hike

From the trailhead at Jenkins Gap, hike east on the yellow-blazed Jenkins Gap Trail. Almost immediately, cross Skyline Drive, and in .1 mile, reach the junction with the Mount Marshall Trail. Turn left onto this yellow-blazed trail, and soon cross two small streams—Bolton Branch and Waterfall Branch—on your way to the junction with the Bluff Trail, 3.5 miles beyond Skyline Drive.

Turn right onto the yellow-blazed Bluff Trail and follow the trail along the eastern, then southern slopes of North and then South Marshall, experiencing little change in elevation. At mile 6, reach the junction with the blue-blazed Big Devils Stairs Trail. Continue following the yellow-blazed Bluff Trail, and reach a junction with the Harris Hollow Trail, which shares the same footpath with the Bluff Trail for the next .1 mile. As the Harris Hollow Trail turns off to the left, follow the Bluff Trail, which becomes blue-blazed.

In .1 mile, cross a gravel road leading downhill to Gravel Springs Hut. The shelter is for use by long distance AT hikers only. Water is available from a spring at the shelter. Continue following the Bluff Trail for .25 mile to the junction with the AT. Turn right on the AT, hiking north for .25 mile to where the AT crosses Skyline Drive at milepost 17.7., where the Browntown Trail meets the Drive. Climb the west slope of Mount Marshall for the next mile. Just before the summit, enjoy fine views from rock outcrops to the left of the trail.

Reach the summit of South Marshall (elevation 3,212 feet) at mile 8.6, and descend to a gap between South and North Marshall, where you'll cross Skyline Drive at milepost 15.9. Begin climbing North Marshall on switchbacks. During the climb, there are distinct cliffs to the right of the trail with outstanding views of Skyline Drive and the surrounding mountains and countryside. At mile 9.8, reach the summit of North Marshall (elevation 3,368 feet).

The trail descends gently from North Marshall and passes a short side trail, which leads to a piped spring in .9 mile. In another .6 mile, cross Skyline Drive at milepost 14.2 (Hogwallow Gap). Climb from Hogwallow Gap to the top of an unnamed mountain (elevation 2,882 feet), and in 1.7 miles, reach the end of the hike at Jenkins Gap.

Trailhead Directions

There is parking for more than a dozen cars at Jenkins Gap. The parking lot is at Skyline Drive milepost 12.3.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 3 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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