Limberlost Trail

The Limberlost Trail is a very short loop through a once beautiful area of Shenandoah National Park.

Part of the Limberlost Trail is along a boardwalk.
Part of the Limberlost Trail is along a boardwalk.

Adam Says…

This is a trail that absolutely anyone should be able to do.  I would actually classify this as a walk rather than a hike.  It’s a flat, gravel trail with basically no change in elevation.  Pets and bikes aren’t allowed here, so leave them at home.  Camping is also not permitted.

No dogs allowed! What a bummer.
No dogs allowed! What a bummer.

The trail is probably best known for its views of trees, birds, and other wildlife. The trail crosses the White Oak Canyon trail in case you would like to branch off and combine that for  a longer hike.

This trail has a little history to it.  Addie Pollack bought 100 of the large hemlock trees in the area for $1000 to help preserve this land in 1920 from logging.  Her husband named it the Limberlost Forest after the novel A Girl of the Limberlost.  The Pollocks were responsible for establishing Skyland as a resort destination.  The large hemlock trees are now gone (killed by an accidentally imported insect – the  hemlock wooly adelgid), but there are still some large spruce trees in the area.

There are many fallen hemlocks along this trail. They used to be the giants of the forest.
There are many fallen hemlocks along this trail. They used to be the giants of the forest.

Since we live near Shenandoah National Park, we decided to go up in the evening after dinner to explore for wildlife and try a quick hike.  We didn’t spot any bears along the way, and got to the trail around 7:00PM.  While Christine was taking a photo of me on the boardwalk, I rounded a corner and saw a huge black bear about 100 feet away from me.  We’ve heard that lots of people have seen a bear in the Limberlost area, but this was the first time we spotted him.  I exclaimed “Bear!” to Christine, but she didn’t believe me because she couldn’t see him due to the trees around us.  The bear looked at me for a few seconds and then turned away.  We stood around the same area, hoping he would circle around and pose for some good photos, but he wasn’t feeling too photogenic that night and slowly moved along deeper into the woods.  We also saw four rabbits along the trail.  They are so used to people that they let you get within a few feet before hopping away.  As we were getting further along the trail, I paused because I thought I heard something in the woods.  There was a big crash in the bushes.  Christine was quite startled after seeing the bear, but this crash turned out to only be a doe.

The bear as about 100 feet off the trailside.
The bear at about 100 feet off the trailside. Unfortunately, I just had my wide angle landscape lens when we saw the bear.

Christine Says…

I remember the Limberlost of my youth being a very different place than it is now.  When I was a kid, the hemlocks still towered over the trail, making a cool, green umbrella of shade over the path.  There was very little undergrowth and the area always felt quiet and sylvan.

Although I still really enjoy a stroll along Limberlost, I must admit that the area makes me feel a little sad for the loss of what once was.

Although the hemlocks are gone, the trail is still lined by beautiful mountain laurel.
Although the hemlocks are gone, the trail is still lined by beautiful mountain laurel.

The best part about our walk last night was all the wildlife we saw along the short walk.  I totally didn’t believe Adam at first when he saw the bear.  He jokes about stuff a lot, and he said “Bear” in such a dramatic fashion, that I was sure he was kidding.  I don’t really feel nervous or scared when we encounter bears on hikes, but I still jumped when we heard that second crash in the woods.  I guess I’m comfortable with the bears I can see, but I don’t want one to come bursting out of the underbrush right into our path.  That would be scary!

Unlike mystery crashes in the woods, bunnies are not scary.
Unlike mystery crashes in the woods, bunnies are not scary.

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 1.3 miles loop trail
  • Elevation Change – insignificant
  • Difficulty – 0.5. This is about as easy of a hike as anyone could do.  The trail is completely covered by gravel and you could even push a wheelchair through the area.
  • Trail Conditions – 5. The trail is in great shape.
  • Views – 1. Only views are of birds, trees, and wildlife.
  • Waterfalls/streams – 0. Non-existent
  • Wildlife – 4. I would suggest going early in the morning or near dusk for the best wildlife.  We saw deer, a bear, rabbits, and lots of different bird species from pileated woodpeckers to eastern towhees.
  • Ease to Navigate – 4.5. Just follow the gravel.
  • Solitude – 1.5. Expect to see people due to the short distance and proximity to Skyland Resort.

Directions to trailhead: The parking lot is located around mile marker 43 in the central section of Shenandoah National Park.  The trail is a loop that starts at the end of the parking lot.  It’s a loop with no elevation difference, so it doesn’t matter which way you proceed.

11 thoughts on “Limberlost Trail

  1. Larry Arrowood

    Question: Does anyone know when the Eastern Hemlocks in the Limberlost Forest were destroyed? I am working on a novel (The second of three of The Shenandoah Series) and would like to have accurate info regarding the Hemlock Forest. Thanks!


    • virginiatrailschristine

      Hi Larry – when I was growing up in the 70’s through the mid 80’s, the hemlocks were healthy and standing tall. The HWA bug was first identified in Shenandoah in 1988, and the trees in Limberlost died in the years shortly after that. It happened pretty quickly.


    • John Mosher

      I first heard of the Limberlost Hemlocks being in danger in a 1970 trip with my family. There was already considerable visible damage at that time and many trees were standing but dead and dry. By 1988 the damage was just more complete.


  2. Gary Porter

    Found a book at my mothers, “A girl of the Limberlost” and wondered if it was related to the trail on the Skyline Drive. This article really helped. I hiked the Limberlost trail, as early as 1958 and as late as last summer. I also long for what the trail looked like with all the huge Hemlocks. Still a great trail for some peace and solitude and of course bears. Got a great butterfly picture there last summer, that I put on facebook. When I can no longer hike Old Rag, this may have to suffice.


  3. Rich Terrell

    I think I missed the boat on the Limberlost of the past, I wish I had seen it. The first time I was introduced to it was in the last few years, and my friend who was hiking it with me commented in much the same fashion as you, how much the trail had changed. It’s too bad.


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