This post details a 7 mile out-and-back hike on the southernmost section of the Shenandoah Mountain Trail in Bath County, Virginia. This is a moderate hike with several short steep climbs and features a wonderful view at its northermmost point. There is much solitude to be found on this trail - you may come across some mountain bikers, but your odds of finding another hiker are nearly nil.
The Shenandoah Mountain Trail is one of the longest and oldest trails in the George Washington National Forest. It stretches over 37 miles riding the ridge of Shenandoah Mountain and dates back over 100 years - it is perhaps the first trail ever built in the Shenandoah National Forest - the precursor to today's George Washington National Forest. Many hikers have experienced the Shenandoah Mountain Trail (SMT) north of U.S. 250, as it heads north from Confederate Breastworks to Ramseys Draft Wilderness. South of U.S. 250, however, relatively few hikers have experienced this trail. It is so long that it is actually best traversed by mountain bike. And heatmaps show that mountain bikes traverse the entire length of the trail, including, illegally, within the boundaries of Ramsey's Draft Wilderness. (Bikers have told me that "It is OK, because the trail is the wilderness boundary, so riding on the western edge of the trail keeps you outside of the boundary." But that is wrong - the boundary extends past the trail and riding bikes within the wilderness violates federal law.)
At its southern end, the SMT is a very remote and wild trail. It requires driving south from West Augusta and US 250 over 20 miles into Bath County. But parts of the drive are spectacularly beautiful, and paved roads extend all the way to the trailhead. It is an especially good Winter hike, because the conditions of the access roads are excellent.
Perhaps the hardest thing about this hike is finding where the trail starts. So I will go into detail on that. Drive south from US 250 at West Augusta through Deerfield. After Deerfield, you will pass through some large farms and into Bath County. There are wonderful views of Walker Mountain to your left and Shenandoah Mountain to your right, with Chestnut Ridge straight ahead.