MILE 22.2, ENTRANCE ROAD, west side, for MATHEWS ARM CAMPGROUND. (Closed in winter.) On your left as you approach the entrance station, 0.7 mile from the Drive, is the beginning of a trail to Elkwallow Wayside and Campstore. See Map MN-6. On your right you'll see a parking area. The Traces Trail begins at the edge of the parking area.

After you pass the entrance station, turn right to enter the campground, or turn left to reach the trailer sewage disposal facility and the beginning of the Knob Mountain Trail.

Three hikes that you can start from the campground are described.

Map MN-6 - Mathews Arm and Elkwallow Area

Click here for a printable map

HIKE HN-23: Traces Trail. Circuit 1.7 miles; total climb about 335 feet; time required 1:40. See map MN-6. Pets are not allowed on this trail. The trail begins at the edge of the amphitheater parking area, and encircles the campground. This is an easy walk on a relatively smooth trail, which is moderately steep in a few spots. The "traces" are evidence left by the mountain residents who once lived here - old roads, overgrown fields, rock piles and walls, and the remains of a homesite. There are several junctions along the trail, but at each of them a marker post tells you which way to go to stay on the Traces Trail.
HIKE HN-24: Knob Mountain, Jeremys Run, and Elkwallow. Circuit 5.8 miles; total climb about 1,130 feet; time required 4:30. See Map MN-6. A moderately difficult hike through the woods; no views, but a variety of forest environments. Part of the trail is rough; another part is quite steep.

You start on the yellow-blazed Knob Mountain Trail from the end of the loop at the trailer sewage disposal facility. Follow the gravel road about 0.25 mile toward the waste-water treatment plant. This yellow-blazed trail was formerly a fire road almost to the summit of Knob Mountain; but because it's in a wilderness area it has been closed to vehicles and reclassified as a trail. It goes along the east side of the mountain, mostly downhill. For about two and a third miles from the start the trail is on the crest of a ridge. At a low point between two knobs, in a former clearing, turn left at the concrete marker post, onto the blue-blazed Knob Mountain Cutoff Trail.

The Knob Mountain Cutoff trail descends steeply at first, then less so, to the upper end of Jeremys Run. Cross the stream, reach the concrete post marked junction with the Jeremys Run Trail. Continue ahead, uphill on the Jeremys Run Trail. In less than half a mile join and continue on the white-blazed AT which comes in from the right. After another tenth of a mile, keep left at the trail junction. (Ahead, on the right fork, it's less than a hundred yards to the Elkwallow Picnic Area.) Three tenths of a mile beyond the junction, you reach the blue-blazed Elkwallow Trail. Turn left and return 1.9 miles to Mathews Arm Campground. This last part of the hike is mostly a gentle uphill climb. For most of its length the trail follows an old woods road, and is in fairly good condition. Only the last 200 yards of it, just before you reach the campground road, is somewhat rough and rocky.

Map MN-7 - Mathews Arm and Overall Run Area

Click here for a printable map

Overall Run Falls
Photo taken by Larry W. Brown

HIKE HN-25: Overall Run Falls. Round trip 3.8 miles; total climb about 1,140 feet; time required 3:40. See Map MN-7. A moderately difficult hike to the highest waterfall in the park.

Take the blue-blazed Mathews Arm Trail, which begins at the end of "B" loop in the campground. Follow the trail mostly downhill for 1.4 miles from the campground to its junction with the Tuscarora/Overall Run Trail. Turn left on the blue-blazed Tuscarora/Overall Run Trail. Follow it downhill for about a tenth of a mile, and take the side trail to the left. It goes to a small overlook with a good close view of the upper falls. Like most of our waterfalls, this is a cascade down the rock face, rather than a sheer plunge. Its total drop is 29 feet.

Continue downhill on the blue-blazed main trail, which goes down a steep stone staircase near the edge of a steep gorge on your left. Watch for one or more short side trails going to the left, to viewpoints from which you can see Overall Run falls. Like the upper falls, this is a cascade down the face of the rocks; the total drop is 93 feet. It's a spectacular sight in springtime, when the stream is full. In a dry summer, the stream may go completely dry.

From Overall Run falls, the trail descends steeply, and then begins to level out after it crosses the stream. The lower end of the hollow is especially beautiful. Explore it if you wish, but note that it's a long hard climb back to the campground.

Note on Map MN-6 that a short trail goes from the lower end of Overall Run to Beecher Ridge and from there to the upper end of Heiskell Hollow. Thus, from lower Overall Run, you might use either the Beecher Ridge Trail or the Heiskell Hollow Trail on your return trip. Either is much longer but will take you through a delightfully wild area where you'll rarely meet another hiker. But be sure you have the necessary time and energy, plus some skill at map reading.

Thompson Hollow Trail Entrance
Photo taken by Larry W. Brown

HIKE HN-26(P): Thompson Hollow to Overall Run. Round trip from park boundary. From 2.6 to 4.6 miles; total climb from 480 to 640 feet; time required from 2:40 to 4:30. See Map MN-7. A fairly easy hike into lower Overall Run. This is the only hike in this guide on the western side of the park that begins at the park boundary/perimeter. Park in Thompson Hollow, outside the boundary. (See upper left corner of Map MN-6.) The length of the hike depends on how much of Overall Run you want to explore.

To reach Thompson Hollow start at the beginning of the Drive, then turn left on U.S. 340. Go about ten miles to Bentonville, and turn left on SR 613. Go less than a mile, and turn right on SR 630. From there it's a little over two miles to the park boundary. The road is paved, but narrow. There is a small parking area at the end of the road. When you park be careful not to block the road or access to private property.

A Park Service sign announces that you are at the Thompson Hollow Trail. The actual trail head is several hundred yards ahead, up a private gravel road. Visitors are required to walk, not drive, up the road from the parking area. Follow the blue blazes. They will lead you to the beginning of the trail at the park boundary. Cross the ridge, joining the Tuscarora Trail which comes in on the right. At the junction with the Overall Run Trail turn right, and explore at will. The lower end of the hollow is truly delightful, with large boulders, small cascades, and several pools deep enough to swim in. At last report there were still trout in the stream. The length of the hike will depend on the amount of your exploration. Return the way you came.
MILE 23.9, AT CROSSING. There is limited parking beside the Drive. It is recommended that you park at Elkwallow Wayside (in view to the south). Distances on the AT: North (on the east side of the Drive) it's 1.6 miles to the Drive crossing at mile 21.1, just south of Rattlesnake Point Overlook. South (on the west side) it's 3.9 miles to a side trail that goes to the Drive at mile 26.8.

MILE 24.0, ELKWALLOW WAYSIDE. Usually open from May to October. Snack bar, campstore, souvenirs, water, toilets. The outdoor telephone is in service all year.

MILE 24.1, ELKWALLOW PICNIC GROUND. Elevation 2,420 feet. The one-way road makes a loop around the picnic area and returns to the Drive at Mile 24.2. There are picnic tables and fireplaces and several drinking fountains, which are drained in winter. The comfort station is on the inside of the loop, near the middle. Pit toilets for winter use are just outside the far end of the loop at the second parking area. Also at this point, a connecting trail goes less than a hundred yards to join the AT. See map below. Via the AT, it's a short walk to the head of Jeremys Run. 

Map MN-8 - Knob Mountain and Jeremys Run Area

Click here for a printable map  

Jeremys Run
Photo taken by Matthew Singer

Jeremys Run is one of the most beautiful streams in the park, with an endless succession of cascades, cataracts, and pools. Near its lower end is a small waterfall. The stream flows through a rather steep-sided, rocky canyon. The upper half is narrow; the lower half somewhat less so. The trail is moderately steep at each end, but has a gentle slope throughout most of its length. There are trout in Jeremys Run; be sure to have the required Virginia state fishing license if you want to fish. The trail crosses the stream at least a dozen times. Do not take the map too literally at this point. The crossings are not easy. In spring, and in rainy weather in summer, the stream is high and the trail is soggy. Waterproof boots that come nearly to your knees are recommended. This hike should not be attempted if it has been raining and streams are high.

Two circuit hikes into Jeremys Run are described. Both begin here at Elkwallow Picnic Area, and both are rather long and difficult.

HIKE HN-27: Knob Mountain and Jeremys Run. Circuit 11.7 miles; total climb about 2,615 feet; time required 10:00. See Map MN-8. This is a long and tiring hike; parts of the trail are steep, and there are many stream crossings. If you can cope with the difficulties, it's a delightful, highly rewarding experience.

Take the connecting trail from the second parking area, and in less than a hundred yards reach the white-blazed AT, which joins from the right. On the left and about 60 feet from the trail, is an unprotected spring. Continue downhill on the AT. In less than a tenth of a mile, the AT turns off sharply to the left; continue ahead on the blue-blazed Jeremys Run Trail. About 0.3 mile after you leave the AT, watch for a trail junction where the Jeremys Run Trail turns sharply to the left. Continue ahead here, on the Knob Mountain Cut-off Trail. Cross the stream, and climb steeply up to the blue-blazed Knob Mountain Trail. Turn left.

The former road ends about two miles from the Cutoff Trail, a hundred yards before you reach the high point on Knob Mountain. From here it's 3.3 miles to Jeremys Run. The trail descends steeply at first, then more gradually, then steeply again. At the foot of the ridge, cross the stream; turn left on the Jeremys Run Trail and pass the foot of the Neighbor Trail on the right. Pass an attractive waterfall in less than 0.7 mile. From there it's about 4.2 miles to the junction where the blue-blazed Cut-off Trail from Knob Mountain comes in on the left. Turn right, and continue half a mile uphill to your starting point.

Jeremys Run
Photo taken by Matthew Singer

HIKE HN-28: Jeremys Run and Neighbor Mountain. Circuit 14.0 miles; total climb about 2,765 feet; time required 11:40. A rewarding, but very long and tiring hike, with a lot of climbing; part of the trail is steep. See Map MN-8.

Start as above, from the lower parking area of the Elkwallow Picnic Ground. The trailhead is marked with a sign. At the intersection with the Knob Mountain Cut-off Trail, about half a mile from the start, keep to the left on the blue-blazed Jeremys Run Trail. Follow it downstream for 4.8 miles, to the junction with the yellow-blazed Neighbor Mountain Trail on the left.

Turn left onto the yellow-blazed Neighbor Trail, which climbs by switchbacks to the crest of Neighbor Mountain. A part of this trail is moderately steep. Along it you may see a few white birch trees, which are rare in the park. (They're somewhat easier to spot in winter.) Watch for the yellow blazes. From the high point on Neighbor Mountain, the trail continues near the ridge crest, with a few ups and downs, reaching the AT 4.6 miles from Jeremys Run. Turn left, downhill, on the white-blazed AT. In less than 0.3 mile the trail forks; keep left. (The right-hand branch goes 160 yards to the Drive at Mile 26.8.) Continue another 3.4 miles to the junction with the Jeremys Run Trail, which comes in from the left. Turn right, and continue uphill to your starting point in the picnic area.

MILE 24.2, ROAD,
west side. This is the exit road from the Elkwallow picnic area. Do not enter. The entrance is at mile 24.1.

MILE 25, GEOLOGY. Here, and for more than a mile to the south, the Drive runs close to the contact between the Catoctin lavas and the Weverton formation; often it's just above road level. In many places the bank on the west side is made of broken purplish slate of the Weverton.

MILE 25.4, THORNTON RIVER TRAIL, east side. Park in the paved parking area. This trail is the former Thornton Hollow fire road. It descends steeply at first, then less so. About 2.5 miles from the Drive it crosses the Hull School Trail, then continues to the park boundary. To the right, from the junction, the Hull School Trail climbs to the Drive at mile 28.2. To the left it crosses the saddle of Fork Mountain, then descends to join the Piney Branch Trail and the Keyser Run fire road. (See the lower left part of Map MN-4.) The Thornton River and Hull School trails are fun to explore if you have enough time and energy.

MILE 26.4, JEREMYS RUN OVERLOOK. Elevation 2,410 feet. The overlook provides a narrow, V-shaped view across the hollow of Jeremys Run, with Neighbor Mountain to the left and Knob Mountain to the right. Jeremys Run, which was formerly called Jeremiah's Run, is a delightfully scenic place of cascades and cataracts.

Two circuit hikes that go into the hollow are described. Both are rather difficult. They begin at Elkwallow Picnic Ground, mile 24.1.

Across the Shenandoah Valley is the Massanutten. Its two prominent crests are Kennedy Peak on the left and Strickler Knob on the right, both with an elevation of about 2,600 feet. Between the two ridges of the Massanutten is the Fort Valley. It's a natural stronghold, accessible through a narrow passage between sheer cliffs. In the 1730s it was occupied by a man named Powell, who needed its defendability because he was in trouble with the law. For a while thereafter the valley was called Powell's Fort Valley, and the ridge to the west of it Powell's Fort Mountain.

Legend: Powell discovered a rich silver deposit in the Fort Valley, and became an outlaw by making counterfeit silver coins out of real silver. According to legend the mine is still there, still loaded with silver; but its location is unknown.

History: In 1748, when George Washington was 16 years old, he surveyed the Fort Valley for its owner, Lord Fairfax. Thirty years later, after the hard winter at Valley Forge, Washington's advisors suggested that the Continental Army might have to surrender to the British. Washington is alleged to have replied that rather than surrender he would retreat to the Shenandoah and take refuge with his army in the Fort Valley.

Geology: Most of the drainage area of Jeremys Run, below the overlook, is on ancient lavas of the Catoctin formation. The higher parts of Knob Mountain, Neighbor Mountain, and the Blue Ridge between here and Elkwallow, are capped by sedimentary rocks of the Weverton and Hampton formations.

MILE 26.8. PARKING AREA, west side. AT access; hikes. Short access trails to the AT and Neighbor Mountain Trail begin here, but are not visible from the Drive. From the parking area, as you stand with your back to the Drive, the yellow-blazed connector trail to Neighborhood Mountain Trail goes to your left, the right side trail goes about 150 yards to the AT. From that point on the AT, distances are: north (to the right) it's 3.6 miles to Elkwallow Picnic Ground; south (to the left) it's 1.6 miles to the Drive crossing in Beahms Gap, mile 28.5.

MILE 26.9, GEOLOGY. The jointed sandstone beds in the road cut on the west side of the Drive are in the lower part of the Weverton formation. The blocks are eroding into roughly spheroidal form, and surface weathering has produced a variety of colors.