Beecher Ridge/Haskiell Hollow Loop, Shenandoah National Park

Haskiell Hollow Trail.  This is actually toward the end of the hike.

Haskiell Hollow Trail. This is actually toward the end of the hike.

The Haskiell Hollow hike is a fine example of what Shenandoah National Park holds beyond Skyline Drive.  The downhill portion takes in an overlapping part of the Overall Run Falls loop, so there will be other hikers.  However, taking the Haskiell Hollow Trail back to the top makes for three of the more secluded miles in the northern section of SNP.  The author of a trail book that I’ve been reading brought up the fact that waterfalls and overlooks aren’t part of the journey, but the odds of seeing a bear or two looked pretty good.

On the Matthews Arm Trail

On the Matthews Arm Trail

The hike begins in the lot near the Matthews Arm Campground, and the route follows Traces Nature Trail before turning left onto the Matthews Arm Trail.  For the next .8 miles, an unusual array of wildflowers lined the wide path.  There was a large number of jack-in-the-pulpits, but we arrived too early to see them in bloom.  That was probably the most disappointing part of an otherwise great walk in the woods.

A clearing near the Matthews Arm Trail

A clearing near the Matthews Arm Trail

At the 1.4 mile mark, we took a left onto the Beecher Ridge Trail and entered familiar territory for the next 2.3 miles.  At about the same time last year, we turned right and headed back toward Thompson Hollow at the junction of today’s 3.7 mile mark.  However, on this occasion we took a sharp left and continued on the Beecher Ridge Trail.  Before reaching the Haskiell Hollow trail, we had two significant stream crossings:  the first on East Fork and the second n Moody Creek.  After several days of rain, the water ran knee deep at East Fork, but the “buried” rocks were broken and slime-free, which made for an easy crossing.

This jack-in-the-pulpit wasn

This jack-in-the-pulpit wasn’t quite ready to be photographed.

After meeting the Haskiell Hollow Trail and starting uphill, there was a third crossing of the day–once again on Moody Creek.  From here, the trail is a wide track that heads steadily uphill without switchbacks. Nevertheless, the 1780′ of elevation gain is spread out evenly over three miles, and I don’t recall breathing hard at any point along the way.

Near the end of Haskiell Hollow, we met up with a female turkey that slowly ambled up the trail ahead of us, obviously trying to lead us away from her nest.  I also caught a two second view of a bobcat crossing the trail about fifty feet out.  It was only the second bobcat that I’ve seen in the wild, so it definitely elevated my overall impression of the hike.

East Fork left us wet up to our knees!

East Fork left us wet up to our knees!

At the end of the Haskiell Hollow Trail, yet another left turn starts the final leg of on a service road, and the starting point is about a half-mile away.  At 7.6 miles with a 1789′ elevation gain, this loop is rated as strenuous, but all of the difficulty was evenly distributed, and the overall result was a great hike with numerous opportunities to view wildlife.  It just goes to show that waterfalls and overlooks aren’t essential for a great day in the park.

Moody Creek crossing on the Haskiell Hollow Trail

Moody Creek crossing on the Haskiell Hollow Trail

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