West of Harrisonburg and running parallel to Skyline Drive, the Shenandoah Mountain Trail is a hundred-mile hiking trail that rolls through the lush Appalachian woods circling Shenandoah Mountain. Get ready for thick brush, rocks and 12,000 feet of vertical. If you are looking for big mountain routes on the east coast, the Southern Traverse is it. The Traverse is the southern most section of the Shenandoah Mountain Trail located in the George Washington National Forests Dry River and Deerfield Ranger Districts. The trail works its magic along the spine of the massive Shenandoah Mountain. Shenandoah Mountain is a massive 90+ mile long mountain that is the border of Virginia and West Virginia for the northern most 60 miles of its ridge.
For a nice one day ride, start out with a 4 mile climb on FR 173 out of Deerfield Valley (1205 ft.). The Fireroad climb is a nice steady grade that climbs 1,300 ft to the saddle (2590 ft.) of the mountain where you pick up the Shenandoah Mountain Trail singletrack heading south. The trail continues to climb up towards the summit of the Bump at 3634 ft.
The only bailout on the ridge is 11 miles in on Jerkemtight Rd. You will know you are there when you come to a field on top of the ridge with a pond. Jerkemtight Rd. is a forest service road that is steep and rough heading back down to the east for 5 miles and onto Rt. 629. Taking this bailout would take the cherry off the top because the last 5 miles of trail is the sweetest, but it would get you back to your vehicle (civilization) quicker in case of emergency.
The Jerkemtight juncture is a tricky one at 3550 ft. There are 2 different singletrack trails heading off the west side of the ridge and 3 jeep trails heading in different directions. The 2 singletrack trails seem to be dropping off the west side of the mountain. The Shenandoah Mountain Trail is the one that heads more southerly. Marshall Draft trail in the one that drops straight down the western slope towards sugar tree road. The Shenandoah Mountain Trail only drops a bit to meet up with the ridge again and some of the sweetest down hilling toward Scotchtown Draft. The northern jeep road will take you to the summit of North East Peak at 3811 ft. and the southern one takes you to Wallace Peak lookout tower at 3795 ft. The road to the east is Jerkemtight Rd. heading 5 miles down to Rt. 629.
The Trail skirts around North Sister Knob at an elevation of 3292 and then coils you up onto South Sister Knob at 3088 for a screaming fast 1100 ft descent to Scotchtown Draft Rt.627. I suggest a small break here to try and stop smiling to keep your face from cramping. Take a left on Rt. 627 and another left on Rt. 629 and enjoy about 10 miles of beautiful rolling country roads back to the trailhead.
An abbreviated ride is to proceed up the Jerkemtight FR for 5 miles on your bicycle and pick up the Shenandoah Mountain Trail on the ridge. This would eliminate a possible bonk in no mans land- the 11 mile section of ridge that will put your tongue on the ground if you are not fresh and fit.
To reach the hiking trailhead for this ride from Harrisonburg, head north on Main Street. Take your 1st left on Water Street
Take your 3rd left on Rt. 42 - South High Street
Traveling south on Rt.42 through Dayton, Bridgewater, and Parnassus To Jennings Gap road Rt. 736
Take a right on Rt. 736 and travel for 3.5 miles to SR250. Take a right on SR250 heading West for 7 miles to West Augusta and SR629. Take a left on SR629 heading south into Deerfield Valley. Turn right on FR 173 about 6 miles down the road. Once turning onto FR 173 park immediately on the left. This area is a right-of-way road only, the land is private so please park only in the area between the creek and the road on the left.
Overall, Shenandoah Mountain Trail is the 13th most popular hiking trail of all 23 hikes in Virginia.