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Lower Hawksbill to Salamander to Appalachian Trail Loop

Stanley, Virginia



2.68 miles

Elevation Gain

666 ft

Route Type



Added by Alyssa Gregory

This is a mid-length moderately easy hike to the highest summit in Shenandoah National Park, Hawksbill Summit. The hike goes along the Appalachian Trail for about half of it.

This is one of 2 trails that will take you to the summit of Hawksbill Mountain. The other is the Upper Hawksbill Trail (which I also wrote an adventure about!). This trail is a combination of the Lower Hawksbill Trail, the AT, and the Salamander Trail.

The parking are area for this hike is at mile marker 45.6 on Skyline Drive. From the parking lot, you can either go clockwise (left) or counter-clockwise (right) on this trail. The clockwise direction will bring you to the summit much sooner (about 1/4 of the way in to the hike). Therefore, if you just want to do the summit, you can go to the left at the trail head and just go to the summit and then come back (1.5 miles round-trip).

If you decide to go to the right from the trail head, you will soon encounter the Appalachian Trail, which can be identified by the sign posts with the AT symbol on them and the white blazes on the trees. When you come to the junction with the AT, go left (south) and continue on it. This part of the trail is mostly flat and very enjoyable as it winds through the woods along the edge of the mountain. Periodically there are clearings where you can see out to the rest of the mountains.

When you get to the next junction, where the AT and the Salamander Trail meet, you will want to continue left onto the Salamander Trail. This will windingly take you upward to the summit of Hawksbill Mountain. You will know you've almost reached the summit when you see the Byrds Nest Shelter and a really nice view. This is not quite the summit - To get to the summit, go to the right a little bit further. From the summit you can see Old Rag and for miles around. There are a lot of good rocks up there to sit on to have a snack or some lunch. It can get a little windy at the top so bring a windbreaker.

When you're done enjoying the summit, follow signs for Lower Hawksbill Trail to get back to the parking area (~0.8 miles).

This trail is dog-friendly (on leashes) and kid-friendly as well. I saw plenty of dogs and kids when I was doing it who seemed to be enjoying it. It was not very crowded on the trail even though we were there in mid-October, a popular time for park visitors.

This trail can be combined with the Upper Hawksbill Trail for a longer hike (~4.5 mile lariat).

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Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly

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