A fantastic loop through the George Washington National Forest in Virginia.
From the TH for Turkey Pen trail, you will follow a jeep trail for about 1.5 miles, and then take a left, crossing a small stream onto the Mills Creek trail. For the next 9 miles or so the trail is mostly a single track climb. A lot of the climbing is easily runnable and almost flat. As you approach the Slacks trail and Bald Mountain you really start to climb, with nearly 1000 ft of gain in the last 1.5 miles.
Following the climb, you will be back on a jeep trail for a few hundred meters, followed by a quick right to an overlook and on to the single track, the Turkey Pen Ridge trail.
The beginning of the Turkey Pen Ridge trail is steep, covered in loose rocks, and has very tight switchbacks. The first 1.5 miles descends over 1200 feet, followed by some great single and double track, with multiple stream crossings. Around mile 15 you will end up back at the top of the jeep road, for a nice easy run back to the parking lot.
The loop may be run in either direction.
There was ample water for filtration, though I did not have a filter with me. You will get your feet wet.
--submitted by Ryan Pelletier
Very nice route with good views to both sides when you get up on the ridge. Some clarification to help others find and run this route. It currently shows up on the FKT display of all routes about an hour and a half drive north of its actual location. It is near Sherando, Virginia, not Front Royal, Virginia. Trailhead coordinates are 37.963198,-78.971229. There is inconsistency in the names of the trails in this location depending on what map you look at. The directions below reflect the names that are currently displayed on the on site map board and the signs on the trails. To follow this in the directions described
Follow jeep trail to its end at about 1.3 miles then turn left on Mills Creek Trail. After about a mile turn right where trail forks and start a major climb to the ridge (I missed this turn the first time I tried the route). After about 0.7 miles, turn right onto the Torey Ridge Trail and continue climb to the ridge. Follow Torey Ridge Trail several miles until it reaches the Slacks Trail and turn right on Slacks Trail. Follow up the edge of Bald Mountain til it reaches a gravel road. Turn right on the road and follow it about 0.3 miles, then turn right into a parking area. The Mills Creek Trail starts here. Follow it straight down the mountain all the way back to the original point where you left the jeep track originally (about 6 miles on Mills Creek Trail) then retrace steps 1.3 miles to trailhead. Keep in mind that these are the trail names currently in place: they do not match the trail names on all maps of the area so you may be confused looking at other maps. Enjoy the route. The +- one mile steep descent from Bald Mountain on the Mills Creek Trail is quite fun if you like flying down a mountain like that: I found the footing good and quite navigable. It might not be for everyone like that though. In the opposite direction it would be a slow slog up.