Sugar Run Trail offers nice views and a big workout, climbing 2440 feet over a distance of 4.9 miles. The trail is also open to mountain bikers and equestrians, and is a popular route for bikers coming downhill at fast speeds. Be alert.
Vehicular access to either end of this trail is difficult:
- The eastern end is accessed via a rough jeep road (FR 85-4). Because there is no parking at the trail's end, this hike description will start where FR85-4 splits from FR 85. Even FR 85 is a tough drive after it leaves SR 924, Briery Branch Road, though I saw a driver in a Pontiac sedan navigating it.
- The western end is accessed via an unmarked side road off of Little Fork Road, which requires a stream ford before entering into National Forest land.
This hike description starts at the top of Shenandoah Mountain.
Mile 0.0: I parked just up the jeep road from where it splits off of FR 85. There is a large spot off of the road here, and a campsite another 50 feet up the jeep road that can be a vehicle turn-around. Walk north on the jeep road, reaching the hike's highest point a half mile up that road: 4170 feet elevation.
|Parking spot on jeep road. FR 85 can be seen at the far end of the jeep road.|
|Campsite just off of FR 85. Vehicles can turn around here.|
|Visual evidence of why I would not drive the jeep road.|
Mile 0.7: Pass trailhead for Bother Ridge Trail, #1026. This is a shorter trail to the west that could be part of a long loop hike involving some road walks. To the right here is an unblazed trail that ascends to the summit of Bother Knob - at 4344 feet elevation, the site of a former fire tower. Also up there is the Shenandoah Mountain Trail, #1024, which continues north to the High Knob Fire Tower and U.S. 33 (Link).
|Looking at Bother Ridge Trail from the jeep road. The Forest Service sign indicates hiking only,|
but Trails Illustrated map designates this trail as multi-use.
Mile 0.8: Reach trailhead for Sugar Run Trail, marked with a metal trail sign indicating multi-use and starting out as an ungated woods road that drops away on the left from the jeep road. Follow the trail, leaving the jeep road.
Mile 1.2: The road ends at a spring with a small campsite next to it. It would appear that the road was created to access this spring. Passing this spot in late March, a large mass of salamander eggs are visible in the pool created by the spring.
|Campsite along trail. Spring can be seen on the left.|
|Sugar Grove Naval Radio Station seen through the pines.|
|Steep Drop occurs after these rocks.|
Mile 3.8: The trail reaches an old road at 2140 feet elevation. Take note of where you are if you plan to return back this way: there is no trail sign here, and the point where the trail meets this road is marked only by a faded yellow blaze on a tree. Follow the road to the left, and shortly afterwards, you cross Sugar Run.
|Cross the road, then head straight into the field.|
|Anticline seen along Sugar Run.|
|Little Fork stream with the Little Fork Road a few feet up the hill on the other side.|
|Campsite, looking left from the road. Sugar Run is further left, over the small rise.|
|A faded yellow blaze and some compressed leaves subtly signal the trail leaving the woods road.|
|Damage from mountain bikes is evident here. The actual trail climbs the side slope to the right.|