|Boy Scouts backpacking on the Skyline Drive, February 2013.|
One option I recently encountered is Browns Gap Road in the Southern District of SNP. It gives access to the Loft Mountain Area, the Doyles River Cabin, and the Doyles River/Jones Falls loop. It is really only viable for Charlottesville and Richmond hikers, as hikers in the Valley and further north have other options that are more convenient to them.
When driving north of the little crossroads called White Hall towards Albemarle County's Patricia Byrom Preserve and its great lung-burning hikes, I had noticed parking signs on the side of the road just as it crossed Doyles River. It would take a new hike to check this out, and I could check off a section of fire road never before hiked in the Park. Parking is at the intersection of Rt. 810 and Rt. 629, where 810 takes a 90 degree turn, about 6.5 miles north of Whitehall. It is easily identifiable by the green and white signs near the road.
|Hiker Parking sign is prominently visible from Rt. 810 NB before crossing Doyles River.|
The land in the area around where I parked was originally owned by Benjamin Brown. A book, "The Undying past of Shenandoah National Park," reports that Benjamin Brown paid taxes in 1782 on 12 slaves, 5 horses, and 28 "neat cattle." One of Brown's sons, Brightberry Brown, owned the property called "Headquarters" that I walked by. According to one source (link), Brightberry operated a toll house and a furniture factory in the area around Doyles River. That source also says that Brightberry built the turnpike with William Jarman.
The Browns at one time owned all the land from the top of the Blue Ridge down to White Hall, and grew tobacco at higher elevations. Historians seem to have some disagreement about the original house in the area. It is either the house just before the bridge over Doyle's River or second house you pass on the old turnpike - the one now called "Brightberry."
|Before the road takes an elbow right over Doyles River, "Headquarters" lies ahead.|
|The estate known as "Brightberry" lies behind tall boxwoods where the road takes|
a dogleg left.
The turnpike passes into the woods shortly after leaving Brightberry behind, and there are numerous "No Trespassing" signs pointed in every direction on trees along the road. I believe these signs refer to the land on either side, and not the road itself. After all, there is a designated parking area for hikers, and there is no gate across the road. Later up the hill, the road forks, and the side fork is blocked by a gate with the same type of sign. After that, no more "No Trespassing" signs.
|The turnpike has silver blazes - some looking like they meet A.T. standards,|
others, like this one, notsomuch. Bill Fawcett tells me this is a "No Trespassing" sign
under Virginia Statutes.
|The Turnpike seems like just a wide trail in spots.|
Note the No Trespassing Sign, referring to land adjoining the road.
|At the park boundary, the mileage strip says it is 2.0 miles to Doyle [sic] River Trail.|
|At Doyles River Trail, it is 1.5 miles back to the park boundary.|
|The road inside the park appears to have been used very little in recent years.|
|A winter view east from inside the park.|
PATC Difficulty Factor: 171.2
Total Distance: 8.2 miles
Total Time: 2 hours, 43 minutes.
Steepest Uphill: consistent 7.8% average grade. No real deviations.
Starting Elevation: 999 ft.
Low Point: 918 ft.