Mile 9.2 on Skyline Drive: Lands Run and Hickerson Hollow

Lands Run parking area just off of Skyline Drive

Lands Run parking area just off of Skyline Drive

Today, I woke up late without a plan.  Candee and I wanted to get a hike in, but the “where” of the matter escaped me.  On a whim, we drove to Shenandoah National Park and got a map at the northern entrance near Front Royal.  Candee came across a line about Lands Run Falls, which at a 1.3 mile round trip is the closest hike to a waterfall in the entirety of the park.  It sounds like a clear cut ticket to the easy way out, but the .65 miles on the way to the falls turned out to be the gateway to an interesting outing.

Lands Run Fire Road--heading downhill.

Lands Run Fire Road–heading downhill.

The two-part hike began at the Lands Run parking area near the 9.2 mile mark on Skyline Drive.  From there we headed downhill on the Lands Run Gap Fire Road, and after passing the waterfall, we decided to keep pressing forward.  Candee’s Map My Walk app indicated that the road reached the park’s western boundary after dropping down the mountain for approximately two miles (or an additional 1.4 miles past the falls).

Lands Run Falls.  A ranger at Dickey Ridge warned us that the  stream could be dry, but there was just enough water to make things interesting.

Lands Run Falls. A ranger at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center warned us that the stream could be dry, but there was just enough water to make things interesting.

On the way to the bottom, we passed a large group of kids guided by a handful of adults, and as expected, we found their cars parked way down below–just beyond the boundary.  We took a peek at a nice piece of farmland around the first bend and then started our walk back to the top.  On the way up, we passed the same group, and a couple of young boys informed us that they had just seen a bear.  That got my hopes up a bit, but the truth is that I’ve seen a seemingly unlucky total of thirteen bears so far this year, and I have spent the last month looking for number fourteen. Spoiler alert:  today wasn’t the day for breaking the bear-less run of bad luck!

This is a really scenic field at the bottom of Lands Run.  I'm a big fan of farm equipment, an the broken down tractor merely added to my experience!

This is a really scenic field at the bottom of Lands Run. I’m a big fan of farm equipment, and the broken down tractor merely added to my experience!

Back at the top, Map My Walk revealed that we had trekked 4.1 miles with an elevation gain of 928′.  For the next half-hour, we sat in the Jeep munching on pepperoni rolls and pondering the possibilities for the rest of the day.  On yet another whim, we decided to cross Skyline Drive and head down the other side of the mountain on the Hickerson Hollow Trail.

Like Lands Run, Hickerson Hollow Trail drops down to the park’s boundary–in this case on the eastern side.  The trail is rocky and fairly steep in places, but it’s only 1.3 miles long (2.6 miles out-and-back), and the 658′ of elevation gain from the bottom back to the parking area was relatively short and sweet.  When done, we had logged a grand total of 6.7 miles with a total elevation gain of 1580′.  Using the park’s rating system for hikes, today’s walk scored a 145, which falls into the moderately strenuous category (see the August 11, 2015 post for the equation).

At the end of Hickerson Hollow Trail on SNP's boundary, all arrows point back up the mountain toward Skyline Drive and beyond.

At the end of Hickerson Hollow Trail on SNP’s boundary, all arrows point back up the mountain toward Skyline Drive and beyond.

At the end of the day, we had completed a a nice, but unspectacular, walk in the woods.  However, upon further review, we realized that we had walked across the park and seen both its western and eastern borders.  Granted, this is possibly the narrowest point in all of Shenandoah National Park.  Nevertheless, the two “big” climbs of the day got us revved up and thinking of bigger and better things.  We already have a game plan for next week, and if I don’t sleep through my alarm again, we’re going to tackle one of the two major circuits in the northern end of the park.  I’d tell you which one, but that will probably be decided by a last-second coin flip.

Two really big rocks mark the end of Hickerson Hollow Trail.  On the other side, a wide spot for turning around a car marks the  ending point of a private country lane.

Two really big rocks mark the end of Hickerson Hollow Trail. On the other side, a wide spot for turning around a car marks the ending point of a private country lane.

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