Sunday, July 15, 2012

On the Trail: Limberlost

Limberlost Trail
Shenandoah National Park

Distance: 1.3 Miles (loop)
Difficulty: Easy

Bridge along the Limberlost trail

Shenadoah National Park stretches for about 100 miles along the Blue Ridge Mountains of Northern Virginia. It's a park that can be experienced quite well by car, as the scene Skyline drive winds from Front Royal, Virginia to Rockfish Gap, where it becomes the much longer scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. There are many overlooks, as well as plenty of opportunities to see wildlife, such as deer, groundhogs, and even bear.

However, the park is also a great place to take a hike. From short to long and easy to difficult, there are plenty of opportunities for people of all ages, shapes, and walking abilities. If you wish, you can even hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail, which winds along close to the route of Skyline Drive throughout most of the park.

However, if Old Rag or Hawksbill Mountains are just a bit above your skill level, there is the Limberlost trail. Most of it is somewhat handicapped accessible*, and although it isn't level, the inclines and declines are fairly easy. For example, I was able to go up the entirety of the climb without more than a couple stops to take pictures and drink some water.

We only met one person while on the trail, so it was a very peaceful walk. We didn't see any bears, although we were certain there had to be some out there. Perhaps there were a few looking at us from the steep hillsides around, or even up in the trees. As usual on about every trail I've ever walked, there were squirrels to be seen, and birds to be heard.

If you are looking for a challenge, or scenic mountain vistas, you will need to look elsewhere. On the other hand, if all you are looking for is a tranquil, refreshing leg stretcher on your way between I-64 and Front Royal, this is a great option. The day we walked the trail was warm and humid even up in the higher elevations of Shenandoah. However, the Limberlost trail was pleasant, shaded by the tall trees and cooled by a slight breeze. Had it been in the sun, or had we been at a lower elevation, it unlikely would have been as pleasant of a walk.**

The diversity in hiking opportunities at Shenandoah is one of its best features. The next time I am back in the park, I hope to try one of the longer and more challenging walks. However, I may make time to take a stroll along old Limberlost as well, particularly if I am in the park for more than one day. There are several benches along the length of the trail, making it a great place to have a snack, read a book, or just revel in nature. For those with small children, those with limited time in the park, or those who aren't quite ready for rock scrambling, I highly recommend it.

*According to the NPS site for Shenandoah, there are plans to bring it up to the most current ADA standards. The first part we walked in June 2012 would be accessible, but the second half was less likely to be accessible for wheelchairs or people with severe walking limitations.
**See my upcoming recollection of the AT walk through Harpers Ferry for a much warmer and less refreshed experience.

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