My Virginia- Summertime Hiking in the Blue Ridge by author Joseph J. O’Donnell

Joseph O'Donnell, Sr. and Joseph O'Donnell, Jr.Virginia is unquestionably the most beautifully state for hiking along the Appalachian Trail . The state offers many trails branching out all over the Commonwealth, but its most scenic trails lay along the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Access to the area may be obtained via the Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park. This 105-mile serpentine roadway runs the length of the mountain chain and offers many places where a vehicle can pull off to the side of the road to let its occupants enjoy the beautiful vistas of the Shenandoah Valley below. The views are spectacular and many photographers flock to these sites to pan the seemingly endless horizon and mountain peaks.

Since the late 1800’s tourists have come here to enjoy the scenery and experience the outdoors first hand. Hiking, naturally, became the sport of choice. For those that want to extend their stay, campgrounds also provide places to linger in these beautiful hills.

This past week my son and I began to further our explorations in this high country as had been our custom over a period of the past few years. We entered the Skyline Drive at the park’s Entrance Station in Front Royal , Virginia. We had previously obtained a National Parks pass for our visit and use it extensively across the country during our travels. Driving to the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center on the roadway, we also obtained maps and valuable info to view waterfalls along the Drive. Our first stop was at a juncture known as Mathews Arm, but my son was able to take photographs at the many vista points along the way (some of which are featured in this story).

We had a late start for our trip so we had a limited time to explore. This particular site had a parking lot available to it and we made reasonable haste to access the trail. The hike was considered of a moderate difficulty with hill inclines and few hazardous trails. The entire hike took about five hours round trip, and we used our drinking water sparingly as we only brought two bottles with us while leaving more water and snacks back at the car. I carried the camera pack and water while my son filmed the scenery. Our first leg of the journey was along Traces Trail, an uphill climb of moderate proportions.

After leaving this trail we travelled along Mathews Arm Road, mainly downhill to the juncture with Mathews Arm Trail. This leg of the journey was a reprieve from the previous trail’s climb (but would prove arduous along the return trip). We climbed this new route along a passably, but gravely, path towards the smaller of the two falls known as Overall Run Falls. With the days heat, shortening daylight hours, and running low on our water, we decided not to continue on to the larger falls. This we would leave for a later date.

We’ve made a number of hikes along the Blue Ridge Mountains over the years and intend to continue these journeys in the future. Please see some of the many photos that our photographer has provided for your viewing pleasure, and I encourage all our readers to view the Shenandoah National Park’s beautiful views from these majestic heights as we do.

TAEM