Distance: 11.3 miles
Hike Time: 4.3 hours
Elevation Gain: 2,500 feet
Hiking Southbound, you begin at Ashby Gap where the parking area is quite small and it is difficult to see that it exists as it is down a steep hill from the road.
From the parking lot the trail descends shortly until crossing Route 50. Then it ascends gradually gaining 1,000 feet in elevation over the next few miles. After crossing Route 50, the trail enters Sky Meadows State Park where the view opens up through farmland and fields. After Sky Meadows, the trail returns to typical forest with gentle ups and downs until reaching the final descent to the interstate.
This 11 mile section passes by two shelters: Whiskey Hollow Shelter immediately South of Sky Meadows, and Manassas Gap Shelter less than 5 miles to the South.
After completing the previous section of the AT to the North (The Roller Coaster), this section (SOBO) from Ashby Gap to Trumbo Hollow is a relief. There are a couple of big climbs, but nothing as steep or relentless as the Roller Coaster.
After a 6 month absence from our SOBO section-hiking of the AT through Virginia, we continued an additional 11 miles from Ashby Gap.
“Was the Roller Coaster that exhausting that you needed to take 6 months off?” No, but that absence coincided with the purchase of a new home and all of the fun projects that come with it. However it has been far too long since we left off at Ashby Gap. I digress.
The parking lot at Ashby Gap is not very big and we were able to squeeze my car in along the slope. We departed the parking lot as the temperature crossed above freezing. Moments later we crossed US 50 and entered the Northern end of Sky Meadows State Park.
Sky Meadows State Park
We stayed on the AT as we hiked through Sky Meadows. We passed by many trails in Sky Meadows State Park that connect to the AT and take you through different parts of the park. I regret not checking out the park in more detail; maybe in the Summer when we have more daylight.
I was surprised at the elevation gain in this section. There is a 1,000 foot climb from Route 50 to the top of the ridge bordering Fauquier and Clarke County. None of the climbs were very strenuous. There is another big (but smaller) climb midway through this section in between the shelters. Other than that, the topography of this section is relatively smooth.
We didn’t make many stops along this section. Part of the reason is that we were hiking it in the Winter. The other reason is that there are only two “views” which have signs that literally just say “View”.
One “view” is in Sky Meadows State Park and another near the Manassas Gap Shelter. Maybe it was the cold weather, but nobody wanted to detour off the trail for any of the overlooks. We are getting very close to Shenandoah National Park so the views will get much better once we make it to Shenandoah (hopefully in the coming Spring).
This section contains two shelters which are spaced less than 5 miles apart. The Whiskey Hollow Shelter is South of Sky Meadows, which we did not stop at. The other shelter is Manassas Gap Shelter, which at the moment looks like an “old school” shelter. There were plenty of campsites at Manassas Gap (probably due to the fact that the shelter only sleeps 3-4 people).
More Civil War ruins
Much like our previous hike, there were remnants from the Civil War. We didn’t see nearly as much Civil War-era fortifications in this section as we have in many of the sections in Maryland. I only spotted this stone wall (I assume from the Civil War) toward the end of the hike near Manassas Gap.
End of the hike
In the final mile or so the trail descends sharply as you hear signs of civilization at I-66. The parking lot South of I-66 (for Trumbo Hollow) is quite small so we parked North of the interstate along Tuckers Lane. The trail crosses a small bridge which signifies the end of the section and leads to the parking lot.
My two cents on this section
This was a fairly easy section to hike. The first climb is a great warm-up, especially in the Winter. Sky Meadows State Park looks like a great place to explore in the future. There wasn’t anything particularly unique about this section; lots of trees and a few stream crossings. I would call it a “standard” section of the AT, if you know what I mean.
Flora and Fauna
Not a lot of action. I saw 2 blue jays. It’s still winter.
We will most likely proceed South from our finishing point in the Spring. This will give us more daylight to get through some big sections of Shenandoah National Park (hopefully as continuous multi-day hikes).
In the meantime, we will probably continue Northbound from our last point in Maryland at Crampton Gap until completing the AT in Maryland.
Hiking companions for the day: Dave and Josiah