Sunday, January 8, 2012

An Easy Day in Shenandoah: Harris Hollow, Bluff, and Mount Marshall Trails

A friend of ours is very, very close to having hiked every trail within Shenandoah National Park.  She has less than 18 miles left and is hoping to have finished the park by her birthday at the end of the month.  The only trail in the north district that she had left to do was the Harris Hollow Trail, which is only 2.8 miles long, including a 1.6 mile walk up a road to the park boundary.  We made a day of it, parking a car at the park boundary at the Mount Marshall trailhead and driving further up the road to leave a car at the Harris Hollow trailhead.  Our plan was to hike up the Harris Hollow Trail, down the Bluff Trail, and then leave the park by the Mount Marshall Trail, which would be just about 10 mile, with a side trip thrown in.  We added a bushwhack to a very lovely waterfall.

As I mentioned, the first mile of the hike was up a road to the park boundary.  It was a steady climb, but after last weekend, none of it seemed too difficult.  Harris Hollow is one of the higher elevation boundary trailheads, so the climb seemed really short.  We are used to starting way down in the valleys when we hike in from the boundary, but we had driven half the climb today.  Soon enough, we arrived at the Gravel Springs Hut, which is just below the Appalachian Trail and Skyline Drive.  There was nothing wrong with the Harris Hollow Trail, per se, but I can't say that I feel the need to do it again.  There just isn't anything remarkable about it, either.  We took a short break in the sun before turning downhill on the Bluff Trail.  We took another break for lunch at the junction with the Big Devil's Stairs Trail.  From there, the trail winds gently downhill for a couple of miles to meet the Mount Marshall Trail.  The Mount Marshall Trail is an old road that descends steeply to the valley below The Peak.  For once, we made it back to the car while it was still daylight. 

It was nice to do an easy hike today and the bushwhack to the waterfall was definitely the best part of the day. The falls were actually a series of half a dozen or so cascades in a narrow valley.  Getting to them was all kinds of fun scrambling over boulders.  On the way out, we lucked into a deer trail, which made it much easier.

P.S. to the owners of Cafe Indigo in Sperryville:  If you are going to be closed for the month of January, you might want to mention that prominently on your website instead of featuring your "current" menu.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
The waterfall.  We didn't have ideal lighting for taking pictures of it (too bright), so I stacked my ND4 filter with my circular polarizer counter the brightness of the falls a little bit.  I have no idea if one is "supposed" to do that, but it seemed to work all right. 
I think this is Lycopodium selago (Mountain Club-Moss).  It is about 6 inches tall.  If it is, I have no idea what it was doing growing beside a road.
 Another view of the waterfall.  This one is probably 25 feet or so from top to bottom.
 More waterfall.
Yet more waterfall.
Even more waterfall.
Bootshot next to the falls.
 A dried stem of flowers.
 Fungus on a downed log.  They are about 1 1/2 inches at the widest point.
Bright green moss growing near the trail.


  1. Hey,

    Can you tell me exactly where the Harris Hollow trailhead is? Do you happen to have GPS coordinates, or can you mark it on Google Maps? I'm hoping to start a hike from there this week, and don't want to have issues finding it. :-)

    1. Thanks for the help!

  2. Nice pics! Are the waterfalls pictured in the Big Devils Stairs area or Harris Hollow?

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