|Neighbor Mountain and New Market Gap|
Access: Trailhead off Skyline Drive (paved road), Shenandoah National Park entrance fee required
Pass Mountain is a low, unassuming summit in the North District of Shenandoah National Park just north of Thornton Gap and US 211. Although Pass Mountain is a much less exciting and visually stunning peak than its southern neighbor, Mary's Rock, the stretch of the Appalachian Trail from Beahms Gap to the broad summit of Pass Mountain is an enjoyable short hike with two nice viewpoints and little elevation gain. This hike can be done as a 2.2 mile round trip hike to the summit of Pass Mountain, or a 1.6 mile round trip hike to the overlooks on Pass Mountain. There is no view at the true summit.
I did this hike on an early October morning, driving in through Swift Run Gap just slightly too late to catch the sunrise at South River Overlook. I drove through the entire central section of the park, which was gleaming in the early morning sun, to Thornton Gap and then slightly north to Beahms Gap at mile 28. Beahms Gap Overlook is a wide pullout with a limited view and is the trailhead for this hike. Along the way, I passed by some spectacular scenery- Big Meadows was golden and red, the trees were bare at Milam Gap, and the early sunlight made Nicholson Hollow particularly dramatic from Hemlock Springs Overlook.
|Hemlock Springs Overlook in the Central District|
|Hogback from Beahms Gap|
The ascent stuck toward the Piedmont side of the slope at first; no clear views were available, but every now then shapes of foothills in the Piedmont were visible. After a while, the trail made some short steep ascents (none too steep- it was the AT through Shenandoah, after all, the flattest trail in the park). About 0.7 miles from the trailhead, the trail swung to the west side of the ridge, and at 0.8 miles swung to the right along a set of greenstone outcrops. As the trail was about two swing left, there was a fairly extensive outcrop with a view to the right.
The view is rather limited, but still worthwhile as it yields a unique view of Neighbor Mountain. Farms at the foot of Neighbor Mountain as well as the pointed peak of Neighbor Mountain itself are quite prominent. Massanutten was clearly visible to the west, with New Market Gap and Strickler and Duncan Knobs easily recognizable. The town of Luray was also visible down in Shenandoah Valley. The foliage here had not had the dramatic changes seen in the Central District- with the exception of what seemed to be a particularly red maple near the summit of Neighbor Mountain, most of the view was still quite green. I'll reiterate that this view was a little limited- the rock outcrop is not very high up, so one day the surrounding vegetation may block it entirely. It certainly did not seem to be as extensive as the view described in Henry Heatwole's 1979 first edition guide.
Returning to the trail, I walked to the last large greenstone rock to the left of the trail, then turned right and bushwhacked southwest for about 50 feet to another viewpoint. This viewpoint was not on an outctop, but instead on a slope with many broken chunk of rock- not quite a talus slope, but rocky enough to prevent vegetation growth. While this viewpoint was fairly shallow (the Valley was not visible), it did have a much wider view to the north. Much more of Massanutten Mountain was visible and most of Knob Mountain could be seen as well. This second viewpoint is worth visiting if you are already at the first viewpoint.
|Neighbor and Knob Mountains from Pass Mountain|