Powell Gap is a fantastic short hike to a beautiful view of the eastern valley. Even if you’re not a regular hiker, this walk can be done by nearly anyone. The rock ledge on the ridge provides better views than many of the scenic pull-outs along Skyline Drive.
For the final leg in our mini-hike trio, we chose the short walk up to a rocky ledge overlooking Powell Gap. The hike follows the Appalachian Trail the entire way – which is only a brief half mile. The trail goes rather steeply uphill the entire way. And although it’s short, our Falcon Guide still rates this trail as “moderately strenuous”. I would agree with that assessment if this hike was longer, but due to the shortness, I think this trail would be quite easy for anyone to do.
The overlook along the ridge-line comes atop a beautiful, little rocky ledge. Views face eastward, and include a wonderful look at the rolling mountains and the valley below. If you look to the north, you can even see a little snip of Skyline Drive winding its way through the forest below.
We spent a good twenty minutes on the rock ledge. Adam covered his face with his cap and took a brief nap. He exclaimed “That was the most comfortable rock I’ve ever laid on!” when he woke up. Apparently, it was smooth and the shape cradled his back perfectly. While he dozed, I enjoyed the nice summer breeze and watched butterflies fluttering about in the trees right below the overlook.
I could have happily stayed longer, but we were both hungry and wanted to squeeze in a picnic lunch on the beautiful summer day. We ended up having our picnic back in Harrisonburg – at Lake Shenandoah. Even at high noon, it never got hotter than 81. It was such a perfect day!
- Distance – 1 mile out and back
- Elevation Change – 300 feet
- Difficulty – 2. Although the trail is a bit steep, the route is so short that the hike qualifies as easy.
- Trail Conditions – 3. The trail is typical of this section of the AT – well graded, but some rocks and uneven footing.
- Views – 3.5. A very nice view of the mountains and the eastern valley.
- Waterfalls/streams – 0. None.
- Wildlife – 2. We didn’t see anything, but in the park it is always possible to see deer, bears and other wildlife.
- Ease to Navigate – 5. There is only one trail in the area, so it’s nearly impossible to get lost as long as you head south on the Appalachian Trail
- Solitude – 4. This section of the AT is not heavily traveled. We did come across two section hikers.
Directions to trailhead:
At Mile 69.9 on Skyline Drive. Park on the eastern side of the road along the meadow. The trail begins just near the Powell Gap sign on the eastern side of Skyline Drive.