This route links up many highlights of the central Shenandoah National Park and is a significant challenge with 44 miles and almost 13,000 feet of climbing.
Shenandoah Peaks and Ridges is big loop with offshoots to summit the two 4,000 foot peaks in the National Park (Stony Man and Hawksbill) and ascend / descend the four difficult and steep Ridge trails in this area – Sam’s Ridge, Buck Ridge, Crusher Ridge, and Leading Ridge.
Leading Ridge is the steepest trail in the Shenandoahs, and the route also includes the climb with the biggest vertical gain in SNP (Cedar Run to Hawksbill, ascending over 3,000 feet in 3.7 miles). In short, this route has it all!
You can start at any location along the route and go in either direction as long as private land rights are followed (Sam’s Ridge has a short hike from public parking, the bottom of Leading Ridge has no parking and is accessible only outside of hunting season, and the bottom of Crusher Ridge has no public access). The bottom of each Ridge trail also has a pylon marking the terminus of the descent.
In a clockwise direction starting at Buck Ridge, the route navigation is as follows: Buck Ridge, Hazel Mountain Trail, Sam's Ridge, Hot Short Mtn Trail, Nicholson Hollow, Weakley Hollow Road, Cedar Run, Hawksbill, AT (stopping at Skyland), Stony Man, AT, Crusher Ridge, AT, Leading Ridge, AT, Byrds Nest Fire Road, Skyline Drive, Buck Ridge.
I hope the establishment of this route will lead others to take on this challenge and explore less well known parts of the Shenandoahs.