It’s time for the annual trek to the Shenandoah Valley. The drive is peacefully, relatively easy and I can feel myself get more relaxed as we get closer. It’s blissful approaching Luray, Virginia with it’s vast rolling hills and mountain peaks on either side, Shenandoah National Park on one side and the Massnutten Range on the other. Pure excitement when we arrive at our favorite place to stay! A quick check in with the fabulous fellows who run the place and off to catch sunset at one of the many places in Shenandoah. I knew Shenandoah National Park got hit with a wind and ice storm the week before we arrived. What I didn’t know was that Skyline drive was still closed. We couldn’t enter at the gate and pushing close to sunset, I was really bummed out. Trying to think of another area to catch sunset, I couldn’t, so we decided to grab some dinner and turn in for an early night.
The next morning at breakfast the guys asked how sunset was? We said Skyline was closed but we might check out a different entrance for the day. They suggested checking out Massanutten Mountain, specifically the area in George Washington National Forest. We’ve never been there always opting to head to Shenandoah instead. So they provided some maps and helped is pick a trail with some stunning views! We settled on Kennedy Peak with a fire tower at the end. All and all it was to be a 5.2 mile out and back to the car. The parking area was a beautiful overlook, I believe this is Edith Gap. The trail from here is very wide and flat with a slight upward grade. I really liked this part of the hike because of the cool campsites I saw along the trail. About 1.75 miles in is where it starts to get tough. The trail takes a sharp, hair-pin turn and the terrain gets rocky! I almost missed where I needed to turn! This is where the long slog through the switchback started. Once at the top of the switchback is a little obscure overlook with views of Valley Fort. This is easy to miss, but the area was very cool and not very obscured, I can see the view being overgrown in the summer. The area had a little fire ring and room for a small bivy or hammock for overnighting. A few people made their way down to where I was when I was photographing but I don’t think they say me. I overhead the complaints about how small the overlook was and how little of a view their was. This however was my favorite spot. Continuing on .2 miles from that spot is the junction of the fire-tower and Stevens Trial. This section is rocky and steep. I had to actually stop a few times before I made it to the top. The tower is a sturdy one-story structure with beautiful views looking into the valley where the Shenandoah River twists and turns and the peaks of Shenandoah National Park.
It was a wonderful challenging little hike. For one of the not so well known section of GWNF the trail was very busy, even though we arrived around 10am. There were at least three groups that passed me by when I was hanging out at the Fort Valley overlook and the section up to the firetower was busy both ways. I was not alone once to enjoy the views from the firetower.
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