Turk Mountain is a 2.2 mile hike of moderate difficulty. The trail is located at the far southern end of the park, and is less-traveled than many of the park’s other hikes.
We weren’t feeling terribly energetic on Saturday, so we decided to do a short hike in the southern district of Shenandoah National Park. Since it was cool, we even got to bring our pug, Wookie, along. The Turk Mountain trail is only 2.2 miles long, but it seems a bit longer due to the uphill portion. When you start, you will be on the Appalachian Trail for .2 miles. Then you will split off to join the Turk Mountain trail (marked by blue blazes). The last half of a mile is all uphill. During the climb, the side of the mountain blocks all breezes. We recommend hiking this on a cooler day with low humidity. Most of the times we have hiked this trail, it has been hot and humid, and when the breeze is blocked it feels stifling. There are some views to the east at about .9 miles into your hike at the last switchback, but the views are much better ahead. When you reach the summit, the breeze will instantly greet you again. Continue just past the marker to climb onto the summit rocks. You will get some great views of a large talus slope and the valley below to the west.
This is a fun hike that a lot of people try due to the shortness in distance and close proximity to the southern entrance to Shenandoah National Park.
As we entered the park on Saturday morning, I was telling Adam that I don’t feel like we see as much wildlife in the southern district as we do elsewhere in the park. Wouldn’t you know, as soon as the words finished coming out of my mouth, we passed a huge bear sitting right on the side of the road. I like to think he was serving as the park’s official greeter that day. A little later we passed a doe and fawn and a turkey with her brood of babies. What are baby turkeys called – turklings? turklets?
I digress… and now onto the hike! Turk Mountain is a fun, short hike that we’ve done several times in the past year. It’s a hike I choose a lot when I want an excuse to go to Sonic (this hike is near the Waynesboro park entrance. That town is home to our area’s only Sonic). I just love their coconut creme pie milkshakes. 🙂
Wow, I digress again. We had beautiful weather for this trip along the Turk Mountain trail. For the first half of the hike, we enjoyed cool, pleasant, breezy weather. The conditions were ideal for hiking, and I started wondering if we’d made a mistake in not selecting a longer hike. By the time we passed through the saddle and started our uphill climb, I was glad we’d decided to keep things short. The uphill portion of Turk Mountain isn’t terribly steep, I think I was just a bit tired from my busy week.
When we arrived at the summit of Turk Mountain, we had the entire rocky jumble all to ourselves. We climbed around on the rocks and enjoyed the crisp, gentle wind. The rocks at the summit of Turk Mountain are somewhat different looking than other rocks in the park. I don’t know much about geology, but the color seems to have more pink and gray undertones than other summits. Because this summit receives less foot-traffic than other SNP hikes, the rocks are in better shape – still covered with lichen and other plants. When you visit more popular summits like Old Rag or Stony Man, be sure to notice barren the rocks are.
Wookie was so cute climbing around like a tiny mountain goat. I’m always amazed by how confident and agile he is on rock scrambles. The view from the top was a bit hazy, so I didn’t get any great photos. But it was still a fun hike and a very pleasant morning in the park.
It’s been a while since I’ve gotten to accompany my masters on a hike. The last hike I did with them was the Dry Run Falls hike and I got a lot of ticks that day. Since the temperature was cool for late June, I was allowed to come along. This hike had a few things that I like – scrambling over rocks and views. I’m really good at climbing over rocks, so I was able to do this pretty well. I wouldn’t recommend all dogs to attempt this hike, since you really have to watch your paws or you could hurt yourself. Adam had to carry me over a few precarious rocks because I have short legs. However, I was able to confidently go back quicker than he could. On the way back down from the summit, I ran across a couple hiking up. For some reason, the woman cowered behind her husband and didn’t want to be near me. I tried to sniff her leg and she jerked it back quickly. I guess she thought I was really scary or vicious. Or maybe she was intimidated by my colorful Aztec-pattern collar. The bonus for the day is that I didn’t get any ticks on me.
- Distance –2.2 miles out-and-back
- Elevation Change – 690 feet
- Difficulty – 3. This hike has some nice flat parts to it, but the elevation change is over a short distance, making this a strong uphill for a portion.
- Trail Conditions – 3. Some of the trail is very smooth, but other parts are covered by sharp, pointy rocks.
- Views –3. There are some nice views from the top, but there are better hikes with more expansive views. The talus slope makes for some interesting scenery to add to the view.
- Waterfalls/streams –0. Non-existent.
- Wildlife – 1. You likely won’t see a lot here due to the steepness of the trail. The summit does provide for nice hawk and bird viewing.
- Ease to Navigate – 4. Just one turn from the AT on to the Turk Mountain Trail.
- Solitude – 3. There aren’t as many visitors to the southern section as other areas of SNP, but it is fairly popular. The summit rocks don’t lead to a lot of room to get views, so you may be sharing the beauty with others during mid-day hikes.
Directions to trailhead:
Follow Skyline Drive to mile 94.1. Park at the Turk Gap parking lot. Cross the drive and pick up the trail.