LITTLE STONY MAN

GPS: 38.605948, -78.367514

TIME: 30M

LENGTH: 1 MILE RT

ELEVATION CHANGE:  400 ft

Recently I have been thinking a great deal about the national parks. How to see them all and not break the bank. So I started looking at which ones were driving distance and found Shenandoah to be the closest to New York. Google Maps shows it can be between 5.5-7.5 hours away to the northern-most portion of the park.

So we packed up the car and headed south. We arrived just shy of 7:30pm and entered the park at the Thornton Gap entrance. I showed the ranger my America The Beautiful pass and ID; officially crossing another park off my list.

We drove 5 minutes to Tunnel Parking Overlook. This neat tunnel is right next to an overlook. There were barely any other park-goers and I’m sure it was because of the weather.

As you can see below, the day was overcast and the views were hazy. That’s Booger (Nicole’s dog) on the ledge trying to see through the haze

We weren’t at the overlook very long because we still wanted to make it to the top of Little Stony Man for sunset. We drove another 15 minutes south on Skyline Drive to Little Stony Man Parking.

The trail is pet friendly, just make sure they stay on the leash and are physically able to do the trail or be carried. And here’s a friendly reminder to leave no trace behind…

Start walking the trail from the parking lot. You’ll soon come across the trail markers for the Appalachian Trail. The small concrete pillars will point you in the correct direction depending on what you’re there to hike that day. For now, make a left and follow the white trail markers.

At about 0.3 miles you will reach a trail junction. There is an overlook there or you can continue climbing. Doing both is also a great idea if you have the time. Here’s what the clearing to the first overlook is like. I’m pretty sure you can typically see mountains, but on that day it was clouds.

From these viewpoints you can see the Blue Ridge. On most days anyways. On days like the one we went on, you can really watch the clouds rolling in. We caught a quick glimpse of the mountains before they were covered in clouds again.

We decided to head back down seeing how we weren’t going to get any good views of sunset. Not to mention it was getting dark and starting to drizzle. I’d made the amateur move of leaving my raincoat in the car.

When you get to the junction heading down, you are 0.25 miles away from Little Stony Man Summit if you went up to the right. We decided to skip it and head down to the left. If you’re doing sunset hikes don’t forget to bring headlamps or lanterns for the walk down. It wasn’t totally dark as we headed down. In certain sections however, like the one Nicole is going to enter, the trees make it darker.

I like the ease of this hike. I’m sure this counts as a high reward low effort hike when the sunsets are visible. The trail is easy to follow and the overlook has flat areas where you can lay down a blanket. The best part is that you can share it with your four legged friends.

Once we were in the car, we continued driving on Skyline Drive and found this interesting sign. I had read on google that there can be anywhere between 200-1,000 bears in the park at any given time. Not wanting to hurt a bear or potentially hurt ourselves, I slowed down my driving.

And then this sign asked me to slow down even more.

And with good reason. Remember the clouds from the overlook? Well now we had a very dense fog that reduced visibility even more. I feel like this picture doesn’t even begin to show how dense the fog got in certain areas.

I spent the rest of the night on Skyline Drive trying to see through the fog and avoiding potential bears/deers on the road. I recalled route 33 ran through the park. That was going to be my escape to a straighter highway and hopefully faster way to the Airbnb. The road curves a great deal in the park and that adds more travel time then I expected. Before making a right off the Skyline we saw a pair out for a stroll. Being the optimist I can be sometimes I thought to myself, “Tomorrow is another day and another chance to see some pretty scenery.” Good night guys!

“Tomorrow we’ll see the sun rise”

Mariana Torres (before checking the weather)

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BREAKNECK RIDGE – OPTION 1

GPS: 41.443263, -73.977531

TIME: 2H

LENGTH: 3.7 MILES

ELEVATION: 1,442 ft

I had received a text from my friend Nicole asking if I would be interested in going for a hike. Without hesitating I said yes. I had gone hiking before in Cold Spring Harbor in Huntington. Cold Spring is 1.8 miles long and has an elevation gain of 377 ft. This however, was not going to be easy….

We parked the car on the side of the road of 9D near the trailhead. During the summer months there is a table set up for hikers with volunteers handing out trail maps and information. They are so helpful and answer so many questions. There are also a set of port-a-potties set up near the trailhead.

So we started this hike at 10:00am and it took us 4 long sweaty hours to complete. We took a dozen breaks while scrambling and perched on several rocks. Thank goodness for the water we brought with us because it was much-needed. Gotta stay hydrated!!!

HIKE INFO

Right away the hike starts gaining elevation. The trail goes over the 9D tunnel and the white trail begins. This is the Breakneck Ridge Trail. You’ll follow this trail all the way up to the first lookout. There are areas where the white trail goes left or right (marked by white arrows). We went left because we were told it was the easier way up. Upon return trips however, we’ve taken the right side. The right side is definitely scarier as it’s exposed to the sheer drop offs, but better views for sure. I’ll add some of those additional pictures from other trips at the end of this post.

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Ever so often you should take a look over your shoulder when you need a break. You could miss some pretty neat views of the Hudson as you make your way up.

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You will need both your hands and feet for the scrambling. I suggest taking off any rings you don’t want to bang up too badly.

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We took a rest and got this nice pano with Storm King across the river to the left. I’ve done that hike as well and I’ll make sure to write a post about that fun hike soon!

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Just keep climbing.

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Some markers will be nailed onto tree trunks, others will be white rectangular blazes spray painted onto trees or rocks.

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Luckily for us the trail was dry on this first attempt. It takes longer and demands more efforts when it has rained or still has ice on the ground.

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Finally you get to the flag you can see when driving north on 9D. Stop and take in the scenery, it’s nice up there!

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There are plenty of people swapping phones for photo opportunities. So Nicole and I snagged this picture at the flag with the Hudson in the background.

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I was feeling particularly brave that day and decided to head down to a better vantage point. Fair warning though, jumping down was pretty easy. The climbing back up was not. It took some momentum and jumping to reach the ledge I’d so willingly jumped down from lol. Lesson learned!

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Pretty views though!

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After letting all the sights sink in for a bit, we continued our hike. The white trail is met by the yellow Undercliff Trail pictured below. We made this right and bid the white trail goodbye.

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The yellow trail has undergone many changes since we first hiked there. Markers have been moved and “stairs” have been put in place. There are areas where you gain elevation, but overall you are now heading down to complete the loop. We did see a snake that we believe to be a milk snake while on the yellow trail. He was way more scared of me than I of him and he quickly slithered away. I didn’t have time to snap a picture but here’s exactly what it looked like and a quick description.

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There’s a green trail you can take to make the loop shorter. But we continued on the yellow until we got to this Murray’s Bridge.

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Here’s a picture of Nicole slipping on the rocks around the creek. It is very slippery. Shortly after I fell as well because why not? LOL! I saved my phone from ending up in the water, which was in my hand on the way down.

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While walking the yellow trail you’ll encounter the red trail which is called the Brook Trail. This is the trail that will later dump you out onto 9D to your car.

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It’s very well-marked and hard to miss.

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The Cornish Estate lies between the red and blue trail (Brook Trail and Cornish Trail respectively). There’s some pretty neat ruins throughout the area.

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Finally when you make it to the road, make a right. It’s just a quick walk to make your way through the tunnel and back to your car. And you’re done!

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Like I said, the first time we did this hike it took us four hours! We have done this hike several times now. It takes us approximately 2 hours now to do start to finish. As promised, here are some pictures from the other times we’ve done the hike. Enjoy!

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