Bluff Mountain Trail Loop - Appalachian Trail (Virginia)
TRAIL DISTANCE - 15 miles
TYPE - Day Hike
Today's hike started out with a six mile stretch of the AT followed by Bluff Mountain and Marshall Mountain trails to complete the loop.
This was our first (but far from last) experience on the Appalachian Trail. The day before we had climbed Old Rag Mountain, and while we were in the area we planned to hike an AT section. The day's hike started from the parking lot along famous Skyline Drive going south, and almost immediately started gradually climbing. The trail was clearly marked, well maintained, and the fall colors were just starting to change. This section of the AT parallels Skyline Drive, and there were some really great overlooks and rock formations, at one point we were looking across a valley at the famous road.
We took a lunch break at the Gravel
Springs Hut, which is provided for thru hikers or those spending three
or more nights on the trail. While eating lunch we heard what we are sure
was a bear flipping rocks in the creek bed downhill from us. The flipping
continued for 15 or 20 minutes, fortunately moving downslope from us.
We decided to take the side trip to Big Devil's Stairs that was supposed to lead to a nice vista, but in our opinion it was overgrown, and the view wasn't worth the 1.7 mile long steep climb down to it (and back up of course). Your experience may be different, especially if the leaves have fallen. By the time we got down to the vista, we were regretting it and NOT looking forward to long hike back up out of there.
The trip north from the hut along the Bluff trail/Marshall Mt trail back to the parking lot was uneventful; most of the scenic vistas were along the AT. Overall it was a nice experience on the Appalachian Trail. Great views, isolated trail, great company. What else do you need?