|Big Run Valley|
Difficulty: Strenuous, due to elevation gain and multiple river crossings that can be hazardous in high water
Access: Trailhead off Skyline Drive (paved road), Shenandoah National Park entrance fee required
At Big Run Portal, I almost forgot I was in Shenandoah. The rough, pine-topped sandstone bluffs of Rockytop towered over the swift, freezing water of Big Run, and there was no sign of civilization in sight. In reality, I was just a couple hundred meters from the point where Big Run entered the farmland of Shenandoah Valley. But the closest publicly accessible road from there was Skyline Drive, nearly five miles away. I had not seen a single other human being since leaving the parking area. Many consider Shenandoah to be a civilized wilderness, or not a wilderness at all. A visit to this most remote, most wild part of the park would convince nearly anyone otherwise.
This is a difficult hike. During winter and spring, it requires four difficult and deep stream (river, really) crossings. Anyone who knows the park well enough to want to hike this trail (anyone who's already done Riprap, Robertson, etc.) should find the hike manageable, but I don't recommend it to anyone who hasn't already hiked fairly extensively in the park or in the Blue Ridge.
I hiked this on a January day at the beginning of my final semester at UVA. I was less than a week removed from my time volunteering in the Big Bend of Texas; just a week before, I had hiked Emory Peak, the park's highest peak, in about six inches of snow. I had returned from rain and snow in the desert to rain in Charlottesville and snow in the Blue Ridge. Friday, Skyline Drive was closed; but Saturday, as the snow melted, the drive opened. I got a late start and didn't get from Charlottesville to Mile 77 of Skyline Drive until about 11 AM. Along the way, I passed by beautiful views of the snow-covered Blue Ridge at Turk Mountain Overlook. I also found occasional patches of snow still on the drive itself, making driving slower and a little tricky.
|Winter view south to the Priest and Maintop from Turk Mountain Overlook|
|The beginning of the hike, at Brown Mountain Overlook|
|Brown Mountain Trail|
|View from Rocky Mountain|
|View from Rocky Mountain|
|View of Rockytop from Rocky Mountain|
|Big Run Valley from Rocky Mountain|
|View of Twomile Ridge and Rocky Mount|
|Massanutten from Brown Mountain|
|Rockytop from Brown Mountain|
|King and Queen Rocks|
|Shenandoah Valley from halfway down (or halfway up) Brown Mountain|
|Big Run Portal|
|Big Run at one of the crossings|
Unfortunately, that cold crossing was only the first of four cold crossings of Big Run. A little over a mile later, after finishing the fourth and final crossing and feeling more than a little cold, I reached the junction with the Rocky Mountain Run Trail. I made quick progress up the trail, which followed the left side of the run before making two easier stream crossings as it climbed higher up.
|Rocky Mountain Run|
|Dusk at Bacon Hollow Overlook|