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