|Hightop view of Rocky Mount and Massanutten|
4 miles round trip, 950 feet elevation gain
This hike is "Hightop Backward" if we consider "Hightop Forward" to be the regular approach from the north starting at the Hightop Parking Area. The hikes are fairly similar, but this hike offers a bit more to check out at Hightop Hut.
Two friends and I left Charlottesville on a weekend morning and made our way into the park by Route 33. Signs of spring were everywhere as we drove through the hollow of Swift Run, but faded as we reached Skyline Drive. After a brief stop at the Swift Run Overlook, we continued to Smith Roach Gap, the trailhead, about four miles south of the park entrance.
We began on the fire road heading east from Smith Roach Gap but then immediately turned onto the Appalachian Trail, which headed north and began a steady uphill. Spring had not yet reached the canopy here, but on the ground there was plenty of new green grass and wildflowers.
A little over a mile from the trailhead, we came to a fire road intersection and shortly afterward the spur trail to Hightop Hut. Hightop Hut is one of the many backcountry huts in the park for AT thru-hikers or other long distance backpackers. We checked out the environs of the hut before returning to the AT and continuing north and uphill.
|Hightop view of Flattop to Bucks Elbow and Trayfoot|
On our return trip, we descended to the fire road intersection, then took a left and followed the fire road back down to Smith Roach Gap. This gave for a slight change of scenery: the fire road was broad and grassy and many dandelions and other wildflowers grew in the middle of it. Parts of this descent were quite steep. The fire road eventually came to an intersection with another fire road, which we turned right at and followed back for a final flat half mile to Smith Roach Gap.
|Dandelions on the fire road|