We met at the trailhead, which was off of Rt. 649 (Chapman Mountain Road), a road I had never taken before. The PATC map made it look pretty sketchy, but it turned out to be in great shape. It splits off of the road to Graves Mountain Lodge near Criglersville and would eventually pass Hoover Camp and ascend to Big Meadows Campground if Shenandoah National Park permitted traffic that far.
|Time to agree that we are no longer on the trail!|
|Maybe the trail continues over here.|
The Doubletop Mountain trail is not for the faint of heart! For the first half of the ascent, it climbs at a 29% grade over a little over a half mile. The entire ascent lasts 2 miles and averages over 975 feet of elevation gained per mile. And these guys could move. The trail was quite overgrown in spots, particularly on the top of the ridge. Several times I looked down at my feet only to be able to see nobody when I looked back up. I was glad I had done this hike before.
|Our view at lunch.|
|Can you see the cache on the ground?|
Heading back to the car, I decided to take the Wilhite Wagon Trail's eastern section. The map says that it is not maintained, but one of my fellow hikers told me that he had taken the trail in the Spring, and it was definitely in good shape. The trip down the Wilhite Wagon Trail from the Doubletop Mountain Trail back to the Chapman Mountain Horse Trail took about an hour, and it was a delightful trail. I believe the map says that the trail is not maintained because it is one of the few trails in Shenandoah National Park that the PATC does not maintain. But though it needed some work and one section was tricky to follow, the trail is in good shape. It was originally a road that was closed when Herbert Hoover bought his camp on the Rapidan River in 1929. It is wonderfully constructed, with rock walls securing the downhill portion of the trail along large portions of its existence. And it drops at a consistent 8% grade, as shown on the right side of the elevation profile above. It had only one difficult section to follow, but after I figured out that the trail was marked via pink ribbons on the trees, had no problem negotiating it. I would recommend this trail wholeheartedly, except during hunting season as it ascends into the Rapidan Wildlife Management Area. It is also somewhat difficult to find at the bottom of the trail, so I have listed GPS coordinates at the end of this report. It looks like an old road here, but there is no trail sign.
|Wilhite Wagon Trail, with rock construction.|
Upon returning to the parking area, I found 2 of my fellow hikers had taken off in their cars, and the carpool van had another hiker waiting for the Staunton River hikers. Mike told me he had twisted his ankle, but reported that the section of the Wilhite Wagon Trail I did not take was also in great condition. Using the Hoover Camp Road, this makes a nice little loop hike that I am going to have to recommend to the PATC Charlottesville Chapter.
Parking: N38 27.355 W78 21.662
Eastern Wilhite Wagon Trail/Chapman Mountain Horse Trail Intersection: N38 27.528 W78 21.557
Lunch spot with great view: N38 28.879 W78 22.693
Eastern Wilhite Wagon Trail/Doubletop Mountain Trail Intersection: N38 28.898 W78 22.687
Western Wilhite Wagon Trail/Doubletop Mountain Trail Intersection: N38 29.188 W78 22.957
Average Downhill: 8% grade
In an attempt to get a hike in before mid-week rains, I joined a couple of other hikers for a loop hike here a week after this description. We did the Wilhite Loop, which is described below. Highly recommended during non-hunting season! It starts from the parking lot described above.
|Elevation profile for Wilhite Loop|
September 29, 2010
PATC Difficulty Factor
Total Altitude Gain
Total Distance (miles)
Low Point (ft)
Time of Hike