Sunday June 16, 2013
This is the last post of four on visiting historic Charlottesville, Virginia and the area surrounding it. If you have not read the first 3 you can find them in the blog achieve on the right. The first one is titled Jeffersontown,
At the farm, the view to the west is exquisite.
From the backyard of the farmhouse there is a wonderful view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Humpback Rocks on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The sunsets are glorious. The farm is 23 miles from Charlottesville and about 12 miles from the intersection of The Blue Ridge Parkway and The Skyline Drive at the top of Afton Mountain. The latter is the gateway to Shenandoah National Park. Thus, as you can imagine, other than the trails through our woods, they are the hiking trails of choice. Here is a brief sampling of the trails available just outside Charlottesville.
The Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles of mountain top road connecting the Great Smoky Mountain National Park With Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive. The end of the Blue Ridge Parkway is on top of Afton Mountain just a few feet from the beginning of the Skyline Drive. You can take Route 250 from Misty Mountain Campground (see below) or Route 64 from either of the other two to access either wonderful drive.
Your really should not try to do them both in one day unless you must. Even with one day for each, you will only get a very small sampling of what they have to offer.
At Milepost 5.8 or so there is the Humpback Rocks visitor center with a demonstration mountain farm. Very worth visiting. On down the road is the trail to Humpback Rock, a great hike. Humpback Rock is a massive greenstone outcropping with a summit elevation of 3080’. I know those of you from the west will laugh at that but it’s our rock and we love it! If you get all the way to the top, look out into the Rockfish Valley to your East and Wave. We might be there but probably not.
Shenandoah National Park and The Skyline Drive
The Skyline Drive runs through Shenandoah National Park. It’s Markers are opposite those of the BRP which runs from 0 in Virginia to 469 in North Carolina. In Afton the markers are from Mile Post 101 to Front Royal at Mile Post 1.
The National park has over 500 miles of hiking trails including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. The closest visitor center is at Big Meadows Mile Post 51, about half way up the drive unfortunately although it is a lovely drive of less than an hour and well worth going to. As you might imagine, the visitor center overlooks a big meadow where there are nearly always deer and sometimes bear or other wildlife and wildflowers to seen.
But there are many trails closer to the southern end if you prefer and when you enter the park, the ranger will give you a map listing them. The Jones Run Falls trail at Mile Post 84 is a wonderful hike but the falls will be scant in the summer time. Unlike the Humpback trail, Jones falls, is like most trails on the mountain, a you go down first and then have to climb back up trail. So save energy for the end.
Also be aware that the trees on both drives suffer a great deal from the air pollution which has limited the view. In former times, from several spots on the Skyline Drive you could see the Washington Monument to the East and the Alleghany Mountains of West Virginia to the West but it’s been years since that was possible.
A local favorite hike is Old Rag Mountain. This is a rock scramble and a tricky hike but very rewarding. It is quite popular so I suggest starting early in the day. If you are short there are some unique challenges. Best to take a taller buddy. Wear butt scooting pants if possible. It is a loop hike and you should plan on it taking the entire day.
The adventurous will LOVE this hike. For lots of folks in these parts it is an annual affair. But it is a scramble for sure.
As for campgrounds, here are three nearby.
Because we are from Charlottesville, we have never stayed in any of the campgrounds near here. Winnona hangs out for free either in Charlottesville or in the barn yard. That said, there are two very close and one not tooo far away campgrounds.
The closest one is Charlottesville KOA which of course has the normal KOA cautions. It is accessible from two different directions, Rt 29 South a large 4 lane state highway or Route 20 south a scenic small two lane road. BUT the campground is on the road between them. 4 miles from the larger road, 1.5 miles from the smaller. Take your pick.
The second campground is Misty Mountain Camp Resort and it is easily accessible from Interstate 64 just west of Charlottesville and only slightly down the mountain from The Blue Ridge Parkway and The Skyline Drive. $35 for W/E, $42-$45 for FHU at the time of this post.
There is also Small Country Campground in Louisa Virginia about 28 miles East Charlottesville. Small Country is a Passport America Park and I have heard others say it is a very nice spot especially with the PPA discount.
So that’s finally it. When I started out to play tourist in my own hometown I seriously had no idea it would take me four posts to do it. But I would not have had anything but rain to post about otherwise.
Heading north, see you on the road.