Route: AT through Shenandoah National Park (VA)

Virginia, US
110 mi
Vertical Gain
24,000 ft

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  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 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.


I will be attempting an FKT on the AT through Shenandoah National Park starting Thursday, August 8. I will go south to north. Since it is a bit difficult to define the southern terminus of the AT in SNP, I will start at Rockfish Gap, and record "start" times at both Rockfish Gap and McCormack Gap (where the AT exits Bear Den Mountain). Northern terminus will be just north of the Compton Gap Trail at Chester Gap. This will be a supported attempt, as I will have crew meet me at several parking lots along Skyline Drive. I will try to record time and distance using my GPS (as long as battery lasts), as well as my watch.

Oops - wrong date - starting Thursday Aug 9 :)

How did it go? Thinking about doing this route soon. Been a goal of mine for at least 8 years.

Hello, I’ll be attempting to set a new supported FKT of the Appalachian Trail through Shenandoah National Park starting early tomorrow morning (8.5.2019). I’ll be starting at the southern park entry kiosk near Rockfish Gap and completing my attempt at the northern entry kiosk, north of Compton Gap. This route is ~104 miles and is the most complete traverse of the park, on the AT, possible. I’ll be using my SPOT tracker (public link below) to track my progress as well as Strava for more data redundancy. (My SPOT tracker has not been super reliable in the past on the AT due to tree cover) It is set to transmit my location every 30 minutes. I’m super excited to spend the day running in such a beautiful area. I’m very grateful to have a crew to help with this effort (Thanks Sabine and Jim), which I have never had before on an FKT attempt. Also shout-out to the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and SNP for keeping the trail so well maintained. Thanks to Matt Kirk and Sue Johnston for their inspiring efforts of this route in the past. I’ll update this list from the other side. ✌️

-El Matador

SPOT Link -

Update: I pulled the plug at around mile 70, a little before Skyland Resort. I had a great time during the attempt. It was a beautiful run, but it wasn’t my day. It was a great experience, and special thanks to Sabine and Jim for the support throughout the run. 

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Does anyone know if there is an unsupported FKT for the park? If so what is the time?



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I, Ivey Smith, will be attempting a supported FKT of the A.T. through Shenandoah National Park tomorrow, 10/11/2019. I will start at Rockfish Gap in the early morning and, with any luck, finish at the northern entry just past Compton Gap. I will track my hike with Strava:

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I will be attempting a supported FKT of the AT through SNP on Friday October 18th, 2019 at 6:00pm.  I will be starting at the AT trailhead parking on 522 in Front Royal and finishing at Rockfish Gap at the map/kiosk/parking area on the AT immediately south of the I-64 bridge.  This route is 107.8 miles.  I have 3 goals for this attempt:

1)  Establish a "standard route" from 522 in the north to Rockfish Gap in the south.  Regarding Rockfish Gap in the south, the AT leaves and reenters the SNP boundary several times between Jarmans Gap and Rockfish Gap, leaving Rockfish Gap as an obvious choice for a "complete" route through SNP.  The kiosk just south of the I-64 bridge is a natural start/end point.  Regarding 522 in the north, the AT officially leaves the SNP boundary at Possom's Rest Overlook, at which there is no parking or nearby road, it is just a spot on the AT.  Someone starting or finishing their route would have to hike to/from this spot from either 522 or from the Compton Gap trail, so why not carry on north from this point a few miles through AT conservation land to the 522 trailhead so all northbound and southbound attempts have a consistent start/end point.

2)  Matt Kirk's time of 23:20 is from Jarmans Gap to 522, 99.1 miles.  Although I intend to go further, I aim to beat Matt's time to Jarmans Gap before any claim of an FKT is made.

3)  Establish a record for most miles covered on the AT in 24 hours.  Matt's 99.1 miles is currently the record as far as anyone seems to know.  Although Matt did those miles in one calendar day, starting at midnight, I am simply going for "most AT miles/24 consecutive hours" and the pundits can establish the merits and faults of each:)

I will be crewed by Michael Dubova, Michelle Andersen, and David Horton and will record the attempt on my Suunto 9 GPS watch as well as on my phone using Strava Beacon.  I will post a Strava Beacon file on my personal FB page tomorrow at the start,  Happy Trails everyone, so excited to spend a day in my favorite park on my favorite trail!

Congrats John! You just passed thru Jarmans on your way to Rockfish breaking my time by ~1.5 hour. You're on pace to go sub-24 for Rockfish. Solid! This has been fun to watch.

Finished!  23:48:59 from the 522 trailhead to Rockfish Gap.  (I reached Jarmans Gap at 21:52:56).  The mileage of 107.8 is from the PATC maps.  I emailed them asking how they calculate their mileage and they said they have great cartographers who not only look at GPS info, but also wheel the routes in both directions.  

This was a super tough route.  Just relentless rocky single track with endless climbing, hard to get a groove.  Really fun to plan though and a great route for crew!  We had a perfect fall day, not sure it gets any better.  Thanks to Matt Kirk for setting the bar.  

I'll share a report later, but here is my Strava file:   

First, congrats to John on his FKT, setting up the route start and finish points and answering my questions about his incredible day!

I'll be heading out running northbound from Rockfish Gap tomorrow, 10/25 starting about 5pm (depending on traffic).  My brother will be crew chief through the night into Saturday with my wife and parents joining later on.  I'm really excited to get on the trail and see the whole of Shenandoah as I spend most of my time in the northern sections.  Also, our similar run times are completely coincidental!  I had wanted to do this for a couple years but finally was able to squeeze it in between Teanaway 100 and Hellgate, just so happens that it's a week after Johns'.  

Congrats to Dan Fogg on setting a new FKT today in 23:34 running northbound from Rockfish Gap.  It was fun to watch and an impressive performance for sure!  

First off cheers to you both John and Dan, you both set the bar extremely high for your efforts, many many cheers for such accomplishments! I've been tempted with trying an unsupported traverse (although Skyline drive and its handful of AT crossings has quite the amenities I hear) and was wondering your guys experiences on this trail and if you might be willing to toss out any points of insight for a potential unsupported* that one can only gather via firsthand experience on such an awesome adventure. Thanks guys and awesome work out there. Cheers again

Hi agar, I have to admit, the prospect of an unsupported or self supported FKT through the park is very tempting!  My advice first would be to get the PATC maps of the park (    Maps 9,10, and 11), so much great info there.   As far as unsupported goes, the challenge will be finding water (in addition to carrying food for well over 24 hours...).  Most of the AT there is "high and dry" - there is definitely water, but prob mostly springs, etc.  Perhaps consulting with an AT-thru-hiker's reference book could be a good guide?  But doing a "self supported" where you can stop by Skyland, Big Meadows, etc and refill - yeah, that'd be no problem, in addition to the springs, etc.  Skyline Drive crosses the AT like 40 times through the park (that is definitely not accurate, but maybe?) btw.  Good luck, I think planning is half the fun. -John

I'm going to be attepting the Northbound route (Rockfish Gap - 522 AT TH) as an unsupported FKT. Looking at taking a page outta Dan Fogg's book and starting around 6pm on Wednesday 6/10/20. Though there is a chance of scattered storms, I'm most likely going to start, and see if it will end up passing by as the night falls. Will send out a Strava tracking beacon on instagram @barretisqwerty, and try to consistantly update through instagram story as the effort takes place. 

Barret, best of luck!

My brother who crewed me pondered an unsupported run and I mentioned (as John does above) there's basically zero water crossings since you're more or less on a ridge the entire route.  This is great for keeping your feet dry, but awful if you depend on it for drinking.  Obviously stashing water along SLD should be easy enough though.  Good luck and have fun!  Let us know how it goes.

I'll be running the AT through Shenandoah starting  at rockfish gap and ending at rt 522, hopefully going for FKT starting Friday  6/19. This will be supported and I'll use my garmin watch to upload to strava and a standard Ironman watch for backup.  

Congrats to Sheila on a very impressive womens FKT!!  I would also like to note that she also establishes a new record for women for most miles on the AT in 24 hours with 95.5, according to her elapsed time and mileage from her start to 24:00 using the PATC maps as the mileage count.  This is not really an official record, but should be and I hereby submit that this SNPATFKT board currently has the record holders for most miles on the AT, and very likely on any of the long trails, in a 24 hour period;)  

This is (maybe?) a little far in advance, but with a busy life schedule and a desire to clear each bit of planning off of my plate sooner rather than later, I am announcing that I will be attempting the AT through Shenandoah National Park fkt in a Supported fashion on July 15th. I will be starting at Rockfish Gap, and hopefully finish at US 522 under the inspiring times established by John and Dan. I will be recording the attempt using my Coros Pace watch, and then upload the data via strava afterwards. You can also follow along with any updates pre or post attempt on my insta @antoniosierra22. Bring on the Sufferfest!

Good luck, Antonio!  You should have plenty of shade along the route for the heat, but there's few streams to get wet in to cool down.  Hope your crew brings lots of ice!  Have fun and let us know how it goes.

Thanks Dan. There will definitely be ice haha hopefully the higher elevations at mid day will serve as a refuge as well. Excited for the challenge!

I am new to the FKT community, but I have been backpacking for pretty much my entire life, and have worked as a backpacking guide for several summers in and around Shenandoah. I know the park like my backyard, and I'd like to attempt an unsupported FKT south-north at some point before August 19th. I may just be utterly failing to understand the math but--for an unsupported FKT to count, it has to be with 25% of the supported time. Does this mean no more than 1.75 times the supported time? Or no more than 1.25 times the supported time? Thanks for any help anyone here can provide!

Hi Leo - best of luck!  Per the guidelines, an unsupported FKT should be within 1.25 times the supported time, so less than about 29 hrs 15 min (ish, rough math).  

I will be attempting an unsupported FKT of the AT through Shenandoah on the northbound route-Rockfish Gap to 522. I plan to begin around 3AM on Friday July 17th.  I will use my Suunto9 to record the run and upload to Strava.  I will also try to record on Gaia if battery life permits. The wonderful Sheila Vibert and Brett Martin may also take some unflattering videos of me crying and sweating at road crossings (but not giving me any of their ice cold beverages, of course!) My husband, Brian Carr, will also be running this route but we will start at least 15 minutes apart to adhere to unsupported guidelines. 

I finished early Saturday evening after 39:45 hours of running (and crawling) with a total of 109.4 miles.   My first 50 miles went smooth, but nausea, dehydration after a super hot day, and self-doubt slowed me down significantly in the last 50.  So, I didn’t quite make the time I needed to count for an FKT. Either way, I am thrilled to have pushed myself to the finish. Running this route unsupported was a real challenge! Maybe I will try again in the fall when the temps or cooler…but probably not!


What were the rules about your run not being fast enough for an FKT (which I see they have recognized)? Congratulations! 

I will be attempting an unsupported FKT of the AT through Shenandoah on the northbound route-Rockfish Gap to 522. I plan to begin around 3:15AM on Friday July 17th.  I will use my Coros APEXC to record the run and upload to Strava.  I will also try to record on Gaia if battery life permits. The wonderful Sheila Vibert and Brett Martin may also take some unflattering videos of my wife crying and me smiling at road crossings (but not giving me any of their ice cold beverages or any form of help, of course!) My wife Ashley Carr, will also be running this route but we will start at least 15 minutes apart to adhere to unsupported guidelines. 

Brian, would love to chat with you about this. My cell is: 202-641-6633

Apparently Covid has people going crazy for the Shenandoah FKT.  Myself and Jeremy Lucier are also heading out as an unsupported team on Thursday July 16th at 7pm.  We will not have anyone meet us to take pictures at intersections.  Just two dudes, heading north from Rockfish Gap, carrying a crap load of calories.  I will be using my Suunto Ambit 3 and Jeremy has a Coros Apex.  Data will be uploaded to Strava for verification. 

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Wow, best of luck everyone!  While doing the supported FKT route, I kept thinking "man, i want to come back and do this solo/unsupported one day" - wishing everyone a memorable experience in the mountains - may your springs be flowing and your creeks have a bit of water in them!  Please update on this page, good or bad, when you're done!  Both successes and failures are inspiring and something others can learn from - Good luck!


Hey Everyone, thinking might try this FKT, unsupported. Anyone that has done it have tips for that?  My email is: ?

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Hi everyone. I will be attempting an FKT of an out and back of the AT through the Shenandoah, starting at Rockfish Gap, heading North to rt522, turning around and finishing at Rockfish Gap in the South. From reading the reports I believe this should equate to approx 215 miles with 47,000ft gain. I will track it using my Suunto 9 and hopefully a Garmin Inreach track. This will be a fully supported attempt. I plan to start at 07.00AM Friday 8/7/20. Excited to be exploring way more of our beautiful backyard mountains!

Myself and Ryan Ardigo will be joining in on the craziness heading NOBO self-supported tomorrow August 7th between 7-8 a.m. We are planning to start at Rockfish Gap (route 64 overpass) to Route 522. Not planning to push for time, just looking forward to the adventure. Happy Trails!

We had a wonderful time on the trail this weekend. This is such a great route, with the exception of the decent from Mary's Rock. I decided to end the adventure at Elkwallow, but plan to make an unsupported attempt at the FKT in the upcoming cooler months.

Hi Everyone,

so cool to see this route get so much attention this year! It’s a beautiful, hard, and really classic line. I’m attempting to set a new unsupported FKT tomorrow, Sept. 6, starting from Rockfish Gap heading nobo to Hwy. 522. I will only use the gear and food I bring from the start, won’t accept any help or items, and I’ll use only the natural water sources in the park. I plan to start around noon. Thanks for all of the info and inspiring efforts that have been shared here! ??? Tracker link below...

From the tracker, it looks like Witt made it and might have been sub 30!  That would be incredibly impressive and look forward to hearing more from Witt soon.

Hey Ya'll - Spending the day recovering in Front Royal, but I was able to set a new unsupported FKT of 29h37min53s! I was unbelievably fortunate with the weather and quality of the water sources. It was a beautiful and challenging experience. I really wanted to go sub-30 and was somehow able to put together a strong push over the last 20 miles or so, although that last tryptic of Hogbabck, Mount Marshall, and Compton Peak almost did me in. I'm actually the Northern VA Ridgerunner on the AT for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, so the section between the park boundary and Hwy. 522 is part of my weekly patrol, and I knew I could make up some time there. It's never felt that hard before thought, lol! Anyways, sending the FKT info now to make it official, but thanks to everyone on this page for their advice and inspiration!

Wow!  Incredibly impressive time and effort in any style, but as an unsupported effort this is truly outstanding.  A huge congratulations!

Awesome work out there!  Congrats!