For anyone wanting to pack the Massanutten Trail, Hopefully this will help. I spent last week packing the trail with my local Boy Scout Troop. With the intention of some younger scouts doing only sections, the plan was for 5 of us to do the entire route by averaging about 10 miles a day, and having drop points on days 3 and 6 (Day 6 has a reason to it.) We started our hike just above Waterfall Mountain heading east. Sorry for spelling errors, I am not going back to reread this. Also- if you do not want to read the whole thing read days 2 and 7 and kniw that the trail is very dry.
Day 1- 12.5 miles covered from Chrisman Hollow Road across Kerns Mountain, crossed Moreland Gap road, then traveled approx. 4 more miles to camp on the highest point on Short Mountain. Summary- first parts of the hike were fairly easy, some small elevation changes, but nothing major. After crossing the Edinburg Gap Road there is a pretty nasty elevation hike to get to the ridge on Short Mountain. This day was very dry-we encountered no water, but with two road crossings you can cache water easily. Little room on Short Mountain to camp, and we got in late so we assumed no more hikers would be through and put our tents right beside the trail. Very DRY! I Cached water into this area and ran within 15 yards of a 200 lb. black bear- they are all over the place!
Day 2- 13.5 Miles Route- From the elevation on Short Mountain back down to Edinburg Gap, Cross over 675, follow the long ridge of Powell Mountain to Woodstock Tower, cross SR758 and hike about 4 more miles to Mine Gap Trail. Summary- This was the hardest day of the hike. I asked myself several times if I could even continue. This part of the hike was also very dry and you must cache water at the Woodstock Tower. The descent down Short Mountain was no trouble, though we did have to go up to go down in several areas. Then the trail continues on Edinburg Gap Road for 1/2 mile before crossing the very busy 675. Now Hell starts. For the next 1 1/2 miles you will be climbing up Waonaze Peak. WAONAZE PEAK IS THE REASON I AM WRITING THIS ARCTICE. No one warned us about it, and it smacked us in the face. Very large elevation change, many switchbacks and several steep climbs. This was the hardest elevation change on the trail for me, the other adult and all the boys. It kept climbing, especially after you see the trail sign for Bear Trap Trail and bear left up the hill. Do Not underestimate Waonaze Peak! And when you think your almost at the top- you're really only about half way there! After this, according to the sign it should have been about 5 more miles to Woodstock. It seemed more like 8. The ridge is not that difficult, just seemed longer than claimed. You'll know you are at Woodstock Tower when you can look to your left and see a breathtaking view of the Shenandoah River and surrounding farmland. Tower is to the right. Cross over route 758 and collect the water you cached (you really need to do this) and 4 more easy miles to the small campsite at Mine Gap Trail. A Bear and Deer both scattered over the ridge top at points in this last 4 miles.
Day 3- 11.0 miles Route-Mine Gap Trail down the mountain to walk Strasburg Reservoir Road, pass the Reservoir, climb to the top of Signal Knob, descend to the parking lot and pack to the campground at Elizabeth Furnace. Summary- Easy hiking along the ridge for about 1 1/2 miles until a sharpe descent down from Powell Mountain, finally coming to Strasburg Reservoir Road. Easy hiking the next 4 miles on the road. Shortly after getting on the Road you will find the miracle we found: a very cold (our day the heat index was + 100) piped stream. Use this opportunity to purify your water and place your water bottles in the stream to keep cold. Over the next two miles you will see several more streams and even pass over Little Passage Creek as you continue a slow climb to Strasburg Reservoir. If you want to see the reservoir you need to make sure to get off the road and follow the MMT. Best chance to go to the Reservoir is as soon as you spot it. The trail moves slightly away from the reservoir as you go. Finally back to the road to start your climb up to Signal Knob. It's a road, so the climb is not terrible, I'd say probably the 4th most challenging climb on the trail, but it isn't easy with a pack on. When you make it up to the summit you have a great view of Strasburg and the surrounding areas. We were lucky enough to be up there when a massive storm completly erased Strasburg from view. After leaving Signal Knob and passing by WHSV TV3's tower you climb about another 150 feet before starting your slow descent down the mountain, passing nice views of the valley as you go. WARNING- this is a very rock trail. Ankle Breakers everywhere for a large portion of this trail. One of my boys absolutely hated this part of the hike because of this trail. Finally 4 miles later near the bottom you will know your near the parking lot when you pass an old cabin on your right- If anyone reads this and knows what it is I'd like to know. Camping at Elizabeth Furnace gives you a chance to have someone meet you with more supplies (and we also had pizza waiting on us). Many water sources on this section of trail, even one we stopped at after the reservoir, before going up to Signal Knob. Elizabeth's Furnace does have water spigots (SP) for water.
Day 4- 8.8 miles Route- from Elizabeth's Furnace we hiked up to Shawl Gap, Followed the ridge of the Massanutten until descending until we were between Little Crease Mountain and the Massanutten Mountain, winding up at the Little Crease shelter. Summary- The next three days were easy, with the hardest part being first. Climbing to the top of Shawl Gap was not easy. Was reminding me some of Waonaze Peak, but not quite that bad, probably the third hardest climb on the trail, but did offer nice views. Once on the ridge the Massanutten elevation changes would occur. Though you are on the ridge the trail follows the natural flow of the mountain and you will experience some rapid, but short elevation changes. This range is not as flat as the previous three days. Also before you descend off the ridge, the trail will for a short time follow what seemed to be a goat path around one of the peaks. Very narrow..I kept hitting my sleeping pad against the sides of rocks. Finally you descend easily off the MM between the MM and Little Crease Mountain, and for the first time since leaving Elizabeth's Furnace you will get a reliable stream to purify. Pass by a campsite on the left, and go a little less than a mile, cross over two small strams after taking a left and arrive at the luxurious Little Crease Shelter. Several areas around to purify water. A three sided shelter with plywood bunks that can fit 4-8 people and enough good ground to set up tents. Great area! Leave your comments in the hiking journal provided.
Day 5- 9.2 miles Route- Back up to the ridge via Veech's Gap, then follow the ridge past Milford Gap, Indian Grave Ridge to Habron Gap. Veech's Gap has alot of history to it-look it up! Not much to write about this day. Starts from the shelter immediately climbing up Veech Gap to the ridge. It takes about a mile, but it was not a hard elevation. Following this just follow the ridge. Some short steep elevation changes were seen after Indian GRave Ridge trail, but nothing like we had seen before. We finally saw our first people on the trail here, on horses crossing over Milford Gap. Once at Habron Gap there is room for two or three tents just past the trail intersection. Very dry here. Take the trouble and cache water into Habron Gap (Cache-1.5 tough miles from SR684, but worth it).
Day 6- 6.9 miles Route- follow the ridge past Stephen's trail and Kennedy'S Peak trail until arriving at SR 675, after about 20 yards take a right and follow the trail down to Camp Roosevelt. Summary- Very easy day- probably could have combined day 5 and 6 together. Basically follow the ridge again. Nice views of the "Luray" valley adn Shenandoah River. Once you pass Stephens Trail the trail in places gets very nice, almost like mulch. Very comforting on you feet. Seems like no time before you make it to Kennedy's Peak Trail. This is a seperate trail that goes to the summit. We did not do the trail this time, as we had been there several other times. If you have never been, it's a view you really will enjoy. After getting to the KP trail, keep following the easy trail. It will widen as OHV's are allowed on the trail. As said earlier, this is very easy in this area. Make it out to Edith Gap. At this point you will have probably passes a couple of day hikers. We enjoyed telling them we were on our 60th mile at this point. Once you are on SR 675 do not cross the road. Instead hug the shoulder heading west and follow the road for about 20 yards before entering the woods again on the MMT. Follow this descent for about a mile before getting to the parking lot for the Stephens Trail. Take a left to SR675, then follow SR675 to Camp Roosevelt. This was by far the easiest day. Camp Roosevelt will feel like the Hilton, with flush toilets and running water. There is a $10 fee for staying at the Camp (as there is with Elizabeth's Furnace). We choose to have someone make one last drop here. The purpose for this was the last day we knew we had to climb Waterfall Mountain.
Day 7- 9.3 miles Route- Cross 675 then follow the MMT along, then across Middle Mountain, through the intersection of Scothorn Gap to the base of Waterfall Mountain, then up! Summary- Our drop person brought us light packs for this day, as we only carried water, lunch, FA kit and a poncho (60% chance of rain). They took our heavier gear. Starting out we were all excited, knowing we would have a shower and air conditioning by the end of the day!. Crossed 675 and followed the MMT easily for about a mile. The next 3 1/2 miles we spent slowly, then more sharply climbing up Middle Mountain. Not that difficult, but many areas out in the sun for long periods of time, made it very hot. Several switch backs in the area. Finally at the top, break for lunch, then make it down to the intersection of Scothorn Gap. Easy descent. Take a left to head South and use the next 2 miles to get siked up for Waterfall Mountain. There is a long area where you are skirting the mountain, before passing over a reliable stream. There is also a very rocky descent as you pass to the valley floor before making your way to Waterfall MT. You will know you are almost there when you cross a second stream, hike shortly and see a very nice campsite to the left. Take the break at the bottom of waterfall mountain, and start your climb. It is ONLY .6 of a mile right! OMG am I glad we dropped our packs. After several switchbacks it's over. The MMT has almost been beat. It's .4 of easy walking back to Chrisman Hollow Road and nothing feels better than this. Use this time to glow about your victory.
Helps- We took walkie talkies to help communicate when we got spread out. For the most part they gave us constant contact. This trail can be done quicker, but take your time and enjoy it. Make sure to have good dinners, on days 1,2,3 that is about the only thing that kept us going. The MMT is not the AT. This trail is very dry. Do not get yourself in trouble, Cache water in before you go. This was the first backpacking trip I had planned, and everything I read said we needed 3k-3500 calories a day. This was far to much food, and we ended up carrying it around in our bear bag for no reason. 2500 calories would be fine.....stay away from vienna sausages...I won't even go down that isle anymore at Walmart. Lastly, the views kept us going, dinners kept us going, the challenge kept us going, but more than anything we kept each other going. Enjoy this hike with others.
Buy the map from the forestry center, and use these guides and search for the mileage points on the MMT I found them on the internet and they helped me know what was coming. I just wanted to warn you of a couple things on the trail such as how dry it is and Waonaze Peak. Happy Hiking