Route: AT through Shenandoah National Park (VA)

Location
Virginia, US
Distance
110 mi
Vertical Gain
31,500 ft
Description

John Andersen provided an updated route description:

With the northern terminus at the AT trailhead on Rt 522 in Front Royal, Virginia, and the southern terminus at the Information Kiosk at Rockfish Gap, immediately south and adjacent to the I-64 overpass on the AT, the Appalachian Trail travels 107.8 miles over the rugged ridgeline of Shenandoah National Park.  The route has approximately 24,000’ of elevation gain if traveling southbound, and approx 23,000’ of gain if traveling northbound (Rockfish Gap is 1000’ higher elevation than Rt 522).  The terrain is constantly rugged with endless rocky climbs and descents, however this is balanced by a plethora of crewing options as the AT crosses and nears Skyline drive countless times along the route.  With a challenging terrain and distance, endless views from the Blue Ridge skyline, and crew-friendly accessibility in Shenandoah National Park, this is a gem of an FKT route on the east coast.

The best resource for the AT through SNP are the maps created by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.  The PATC maps are extremely detailed and include an elevation profile with Skyline Drive crossings and other points of interest.  Maps can be purchased through the PATC at www.patc.net.  Relevant maps are Map 9 (North District), Map 10 (Central District), and Map 11 (South District).

Early runs were between Rockfish Gap and Compton Gap, a shorter distance of around 96 miles.  Matt Kirk ran this in 23h20m, but his trip report appears to no longer be on a public website.  Sue Johnston also ran this route in April 2012, as reported on her blog http://runsuerun.blogspot.com/2012/04/at-thru-shenandoah-national-park-in-one.html?m=0 but she did not report at time.

On August 9/10, 2018, Kathleen Cusick ran from Rockfish Gap to “Possoms Rest”, the actual northern boundary of the park in 29 hours, 12 minutes, for a total mileage of 104.2, just 3.6 miles shy of Rt 522 in Front Royal, where the standard route now starts/ends.

Comments

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Profile picture for user rscormier

Hey yall!

I will be heading out for a northbound supported FKT attempt starting Saturday 10/3 (starting sometime that morning) from Rockfish Gap to Rt. 522. I will have a crew consisting of my gf & a buddy, who will both squeeze in some quality trail time with me. Excited to see the sections south of Hawksbill, as I have never been through that. I'm comfortable enough with Beahms Gap through the end, so I'm sticking that in early Sunday AM. Traditional ultra time-frame!

Excited to get some redemption at the 100 mile distance. An ankle injury took me out early of both of mine last year, and both Cruel Jewel and Grindstone were 2020 victims. 

Hey Ryan,

I saw you're going for a supported nobo FKT attempt on 10/3. I was planning on doing mine starting tomorrow 9/25, but I got rained out, so I'm pushing my attempt to next weekend 10/3 as well. Out of respect for your run and attempt, I just wanted to let you know that and would be happy to coordinate if you have any concerns.

Good luck and have a great run!

I'll be attempting a supported FKT on this route starting Saturday, September 19th around midnight at 522 and heading southbound, hoping to make it to Rockfish gap before 11:24 PM. I'm excited to put together the whole route and spend a big day in the mountains with friends. 

I'm planning to carry my Garmin inReach to track my progress: https://share.garmin.com/mattcymanski

It's been great to see this route evolve over the past couple years, starting with John and Dan and some great performances by Witt and Anne this year. 

Huge congrats, Matt!!  It'll be a fun fall and cool to see what happens during the 2020 FKT extravaganza!

Wow, congrats Matt, nice work and great time and mostly I bet that was an amazing weekend with friends, killer weather!  Nice work, and good luck Will - FKT season for sure!!

On Monday Sep 21 at 4pm I will attempt a supported FKT going northbound from Rockfish to 522.  Live tracking will be available at: http://live.enabledtracking.com/ShenAT2020/.

It's so cool to see this route heating up.  Matt and Ryan, good luck to you both!  

Quick update that I strained my MCL and pulled the plug at mile 48.  It was a great adventure and a huge thanks to my crew.  Now I've scouted the southern section, and I can't wait to come back for another go!

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Hey guys,

Excited to jump into the action! I was originally planning on a supported nobo attempt starting tomorrow Friday Sept. 25, but I've been tracking the weather and have decided to push the attempt back a week. So I'll be going for a supported nobo attempt starting at Rockfish Gap on Saturday Oct. 3 and ending at US 522. My plan will be to start around 3 a.m. I know, Ryan, you announced your attempt for this date as well, so out of respect for you and your run, I'd be happy to connect and coordinate if there are any concerns. I'll be tracking the attempt with a garmin inreach mini, and I'll provide that link in the comments of this post this coming week sometime.

Happy trails,

Khal

DNF at mile 51. Picked up an injury. Huge respect for the guys on the leaderboard setting the bar high!

I'll be attempting an unsupported FKT of the AT through Shenandoah on the northbound route-Rockfish Gap to 522. Weather permitting, I plan to begin around 2 pm on Friday, October 9th. I'll be using Garmin Connect and SPOT to record the run.

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Hi all!

Figured I'd make my attempt known to keep me honest. I'll be setting out on Friday 10/9 at 4 AM to go for the women's supported record on this route. I'll be starting at Rockfish Gap and heading north. If all goes well, I should arrive at 522 between 6 and 7 AM on Saturday 10/10.

Thank you, Sheila Vibert, for setting a stout ladies time to shoot for! It looks like this should be a BIG weekend in Shenandoah with lots of folks running this line. :) Hope to see some of you out there!

Going to attempt the FKT for the out-and-back. Planning to start around 9am on 10/7 at rt 522 and will head southbound to Rockfish Gap...turn around...and then shuffle right back to 522.  God only knows when I'll make it back. Im just there for the party. I will be using my suunto9 for GPS.  Excited to see all of you out there who are also running. This adventure is also to help raise funds for Girls in the Game , so check it out: https://support.girlsinthegame.org/fundraiser/2925318

Made an attempt on the supported FKT from North to South as a first 100 mile ultra - aim big! Thanks John setting a foundation for a plan & FKT and Dan & Will for setting such an awesomely high bar. Around mile 65 a heavy fog and heavy rain set in w/ 43°F temps for the remainder of the run. Pushed to get the first 100 but stopped to avoid sever hypothermia. [ https://www.strava.com/activities/4242906807 ] I'll make another attempt.

For anyone else who'd like to attempt, hopefully the following content in my drive folder will get you started. Includes my OCD level spreadsheet w/ stops, skyline drive miles, aid station location details, trail miles, multiple times based columns, aid type requested / food plan, crew / pacer columns, next stop distance + gain, gps cords, links to crew maps, food and clothing tabs - use as you like. [ https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1ZYstdom8BKSh4fC1pxMBudidFca6y_im ]

Can anyone that is local to the area maybe give me some info on what the route is like in late spring (Mid-May) as compared to Fall time, and what some of the pros vs. cons are for doing it at that time vs. Fall (aside from the fact that it is a little bit warmer of course). Thank you!

In my view, spring and fall are the FKT seasons for this area.  Late Spring is typically still great, but can be a crapshoot re: weather - stormy and cold or surprisingly hot, so maybe give yourself a few weekend to choose from.  Trail conditions should be the same although we do start to get vegetation creeping into the trails by mid May.  

I'm planning on attempting an unsupported FKT Northbound from Rockfish Gap to 522 starting on Friday 4/16, at 6-7am. I don't have much flexibility on timing so keeping my fingers crossed for ample rain in the next 2 weeks and good weather on the 16th/17th.

I got near perfect conditions (started in the low 40s and I don't think it was expected to get higher than the low 60s all day, decent cloud cover, springs were flowing), and I had a great time running the southern portion of the Park for the first time ever. But, I ended up pulling the plug at Simmons Gap. Nothing really went wrong other than not feeling 100% committed to the task at hand. A long day in the mountain with a shower, pizza, and a warm bed was good enough for me on that day.

I learned that I am going to have to be fully committed when I come back to give it another shot. It was far too easy to stop and hitchhike back to my car. My hat's off to everyone's who has completed this one. I'll be back!

 

 

Well, I'm giving this another go. Unsupported, starting at 5am monday 4/19/2021 at Northern end (Remount rd.). Will be sure to post a report reguardless of the outcome.

Just over one year on and I'm heading out for my second attempt to try and improve on my first, on the out and back route, starting at Rockfish gap heading north to turnaround at 522 and finishing up at Rockfish gap. It will be a supported attempt again. I plan to start at around 7.30am Thursday September 9th. Hopefully my tracker will be working:

share.garmin.com/shepstar