We started out hiking the Piney Ridge Trail, which is the original AT alignment back in the 1930's. The Piney Ridge Trail today is one of the lesser used JRF access points, and I was surprised to find 5 vehicles already in the lot when I arrived. Clearly the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club, which does some incredible trail work in this part of the state, was out exploring today.
My colleagues arrived a few minutes after I did, and we all headed up the Piney Ridge Trail. The trail starts by continuing up an old woods road past a closed gate. A sign for the trail is shortly after this point. Older guidebooks indicate that the trail was originally an old road, but I did not see any indication of this.
The Piney Ridge Trail offers an excellent workout, climbing nearly 1600 feet over its 3.5 mile length. Along the way are nice winter views and a small lookout, just off trail to the right, at the 2.6 mile mark. I had never seen this overlook before, having hiked right past it on previous hikes on this trail.
|Piney Ridge Trail looking west towards the Appalachian Trail.|
|View from small overlook just off of the Piney Ridge Trail, at the 2.6 mile mark.|
|Unblazed trail connecting Marble Springs site to BRP.|
We crossed another streambed on the BRP, and then went off the road on what looked like an old roadbed.
Unfortunately, it disappeared almost immediately, and we resorted to bushwhacking up the hillside, looking for an old woods road that our hike leader believed was somewhere upslope. It was a tough climb, but we found the road back within the wilderness and used it to head back in the general direction of our cars. We stayed within the wilderness boundary for about 1.3 miles on this old roadbed, which is not found on any USGS topo that I could access.
|Bushwhacking towards an old woods road.|
|Pines growing in the old roadbed.|
|You can see the Blue Ridge Parkway in this photo.|
Map of our route: Map.
Total Distance: 10.3 miles
Total Time: 4 hours, 15 minutes (including stops totalling 18 minutes)
Low Point: 960 ft.