Loudoun Heights (Appalachian Trail)

Shenandoah River from Rt. 340

Shenandoah River from Rt. 340

It was a dark and stormy day.  The last time I posted to this site, I paraphrased Samuel Taylor Coleridge, but today it’s going to be Edward Bulwer-Lytton.  There was something ominous in the air as the overhyped Winter Storm Titan (or whatever it was called) was preparing to dump a skiff of ice and a foot of snow on the local landscape.  We received 3″, and as I type this, most of it has already melted.

Anyway, I’m an average guy, and I don’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Martin Luther King, Jr., but I do have a dream.  Someday, I would like to hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail, but present-day commitments have put this goal on the back burner.  Nevertheless, Candee and I have managed to hit bits and pieces of the trail, and this past Sunday we headed out of the AT headquarters parking lot in hopes of beating the snow and making it to the top of Loudoun Heights.

Under the Rt. 340 Bridge

Under the Rt. 340 Bridge

We set off on a short “blue blaze” trail that led us to the AT, and from there we crossed the Shenandoah River above the scenic Shenandoah Staircase–a beautiful set of rocky rapids.  After crossing the river, the AT heads under the bridge before gaining a bit over 900′ of elevation in roughly 1.5 miles.  This section of the trail–by AT standards–isn’t terribly difficult, but a general lack of switchbacks makes it a bit tougher than hiking to the overlook at Weverton Cliffs.  Nevertheless, a description of the hike designated it as the most difficult and isolated in the immediate vicinity, and it seemed like a good test for a couple of C&O Canal flatlanders.

A small waterfall

A small waterfall

Upon reaching the top of the mountain, a side trip on the Loudoun Heights Trail leads to three overlooks high above the Potomac River.  Far below, on the Maryland side, hikers on the C&O look like ants in the distance, and across the valley, Maryland Heights looms large.  The entire scene looks bigger than life, and a day hike covering Loudoun Heights and Weverton Cliffs would be quite a workout.  I’m not entirely sure how well this stacks up to Clingman’s Dome, Mt. Washington, or Katahdin, but I would like to find out.  Maybe someday.

Our beloved C&O Canal is down there somewhere--just across the river.

Our beloved C&O Canal is down there somewhere–just across the river.

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