In the Land of Goshen

In the Land of Goshen

Page Type Page Type: Article
Activities Activities: Hiking


One of the meanings for the word Goshen is ‘land of peace’ and that certainly is true for my experiences there. Six of the past ten summers I have had the pleasure of spending a week camping and hiking in the beautiful 4,500 acres of Goshen Scout Reservation. Protected by the Goshen Pass Natural Area Preserve established by the state of Virginia, Goshen is deep in the Appalachian Mountains, near George Washington National Forest, and Shenandoah National Park. Its six camps are centered around a 450 acre lake and dam with a tremendous variety of activities taking advantage of the rugged terrain including more than 50 miles of hiking trails within the camp boundaries alone and immediate access to the Tuscarora Trail network. Crews also come in from all over the mid-Atlantic to take advantage of the Lenhok’sin High Adventure program which is set up similar to Philmont in New Mexico offering 5 – 10 days of hiking with themed outpost stops to learn about Civil War life, caving, blacksmithing, black powder shooting and so on.

But the heart of Goshen is the land itself, the beauty of this area once described as the loveliest spot in Virginia.
View from Viewing Rock, VASunset view from Viewing Rock on Little North Mountain
Maury River, VA Swinging Bridge ViewMaury River from Swinging Bridge

Getting There from the South

One of the pleasures in the Land of Goshen is the actual drive in from the south along VA Route 39 from Interstate 81, a twisting, turning, roller-coaster ride through farms and past the Virginia Horse Center north of Lexington, Virginia. But once you get through the blink and it’s gone, hamlet of Rockbridge Baths, start watching on the right. The road will leave the flat little vale and rise to the deeply forested v-shaped valley in the distance twisting precariously while drawing your eye to the right.

Rt. 39 keeps climbing up the Goshen Pass following the 3.7 mile Maury River gorge which thank goodness, has several pull-offs because you will definitely feel the need to stop and admire the views. The thick forest parts here, showing rhododendron bushes on the hillside, dramatic rock formations, and vistas up and down the gorge. If you can, stop and spend time here picnicking, hiking, tubing, kayaking, rafting, climbing, and fishing depending upon the season you visit.
Goshen Pass, VA along the Maury River GorgeGoshen Pass, Maury River with some of the climbing areas visible

Maury River, VA Swinging BridgeSwinging Bridge - Trailhead to eastern section of Goshen Pass and great swim hole
About 1/10 of a mile before Rt. 39 meets Rt. 601 you will see a dirt road turn-off to the right. This leads to a parking lot and the Swinging Bridge, a well-known local swimming hole and trailhead for many hikes leading up into the eastern section of the Goshen Pass Natural Area Preserve, especially for non-Scouts wishing to hike up to Little North Mountain, Viewing Rock, Jump Mountain, Chambers Ridge and Forge Mountain
Little North Mountain, VA and Lake MerriweatherLittle North Mountain isn't so little at over 2300 ft and 24 miles long

If you’re heading into Goshen Scout Reservation you need to drive a little bit further on Rt. 39 and then turn onto Rt. 601 and soon you’ll see this tremendous vista. Stop the car and take it all in for a few moments. Now you know you’re in the Land of Goshen. This panorama can only hint at the possibilities. CLICK TO ENLARGE FOR FULL IMPACT.
Land of Goshen, VA PanoramaLand of Goshen, Land of Peace

What is the Land of Goshen?

Most everyone knows the Boy Scout camp stereotypes and stories so I wanted to pick some shots that show the quieter side of Goshen; the moments that stand out in my mind as what Goshen will always be to me!

This place takes me completely away from whatever is going on in my life at home; all I have to do is walk along a path, any path;
Light in the Forest, Goshen, VA
Glistening Flora, VAGlistening leaves

or stop to watch some ants at their level................
Ant Mountains, Goshen, VAAnt Mountains

Or stop at the lake..................................
Great North Mountain and Lake Merriweather, VATaken at that perfect photo hour with Great North Mountain in the distance and the waterfront of Camp Bowman at rest

...................and watch clouds move across the lake like pillows across a satin sheet.
Bratton Mountain and Knob Mountain, VAEven though the Little Calfpasture River runs through Lake Merriweather it often appears as smooth as glass.

Everywhere I turn there are rising mountains around me beautiful with the
Bratton Mountain, VA Sunset and Bratton Mountain (3130 ft.)

changing scene of early morn mist and chill, then warming sun comes giving way to heat of the afternoon.

By evening after a campfire
Campfire Time, Goshen, VAAn impromptu troop campfire
Bratton Mtn and Lake Merriweather Sunset with Campfiresthe final night campfires and mountains beyond
you have the stars to guide your walk through the woods and a wonderful chill to drive you into your sleeping bag. The kids wiggle flashlights wildly around in the dark but I prefer to tread silently enjoying that rare absence of ambient light. Finally the week comes to a close with the last campfire along the lake
Knob Mountain Sunset, VAsunset over Knob Mountain followed by taps

Each day has been different and wonderfully unpredictable here. Hopefully some of the places here might inspire you to hike the trails in the Land of Goshen or go back to your own Land of Goshen.

The Times They Are A Changin’

If you are a Scouter you may already know about the big plans for Goshen Reservation to be the site of the 2013 National Scout Jamboree (currently held at Fort A.P. Hill in Port Royal, VA) and jamborees thereafter bringing in up to 240,000 people a day for 10 days every few years. Meetings are currently being held with the local communities concerning impact upon the environment, infrastructure etc. and can be followed in the news.

Goshen Reservation is also tentatively scheduled to become a full, national high adventure center like Philmont is for the western states. This of course, means no more normal summer camp as our council has known it since 1967. I am not taking sides here on either issue but I’m glad to have known ‘The Land of Goshen’ as a ‘place of peace.’

External Links

Moving the Scout Jamboree to Goshen Reservation
(Google search) or try:

Times Dispatch article

Local Forum

Another forum

Map, Flora, Fauna and More for Goshen Pass Area Preserve
Goshen Pass Natural Area Preserve Information


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-19 of 19
Bob Sihler

Bob Sihler - Jul 25, 2009 10:37 am - Voted 10/10

Great place

I had the privilege of going to Scout camp here twice as a kid, and it is a place of many great memories. Thank you for sharing this, stirring those memories, and showing much more of the area.


silversummit - Jul 25, 2009 11:23 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Great place

Glad you enjoyed this! I have much more info on the area that I might put together for an area page after my trip out west in August. There is virtually nothing on SP!

Thank you looking and writing!


Deltaoperator17 - Jul 25, 2009 1:03 pm - Voted 10/10

Love it

Love the pictures and the narrative, very good stuff Kathy- keep it coming, we are greedy


silversummit - Jul 25, 2009 2:29 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Love it

Thanks for your very kind words. I'll try to keep up with the hunger once in awhile!


lcarreau - Jul 25, 2009 10:47 pm - Voted 10/10

Great Kathy ...

I'm getting forgetful in my old age. What kind of camera are you
using now ???

I'm on the verge of buying a new camera, and it will probably be
a canon. Looks like the photos you took are very clear and focused! !

Larry ... of AZ


silversummit - Jul 25, 2009 11:36 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great Kathy ...

I took all the posted pictures with a Canon G9 but it died suddenly right at camp July 9th. Really worked beautifully for me for 18+ months but was out of warranty and instead of buying another point and shoot I bought a DSLR, a Canon Rebel XSi and while I'm still overwhelmed with learning so much I already love it.

The Canon G series is very, very good especially outside in the daylight but as you see it's special modes work well at night etc. too! Happy camera shopping - read the reviews online!


desainme - Jul 25, 2009 11:54 pm - Voted 10/10

Land a Goshen

I thought Land a Goshen was between the right coast and Europe


silversummit - Jul 26, 2009 12:52 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Land a Goshen

Interesting......Don't know about that one!
Lots of Goshens in the world it seems!

I was writing about the Goshen camp in Virginia which is located near the ever so small town of Goshen in Rockingham County, Virginia.

And as it turns out by coincidence I actually live in a neighborhood marked on our county maps that is known as Goshen and my home is one road over from a Goshen Road.

Seems I was destined, some would say, to write about this place!


BobSmith - Jul 26, 2009 8:51 am - Voted 10/10

All Over.

I've traveled all over my native southern Appalachians, but I've never been to that spot. Missed it, somehow. I hope its new status doesn't ruin it, but it sounds as if if will.


silversummit - Jul 26, 2009 10:15 am - Hasn't voted

Re: All Over.

Then definitely go soon! This spot is so unique with lots of history also.

Luckily, at the present time buses and large vehicles have to come in from the north and can't make the turns on Rt. 39 in Goshen Pass. Maybe that will protect some of the beauty of the region for awhile.

Thanks for reading about this special place.


lcarreau - Jul 26, 2009 10:38 am - Voted 10/10

One final question ...

Kathy, what is that area in Virginia known for, in addition to
peace and tranquility?

Are there lots of tobacco crops? What about coal mines?

My ancestors worked in the coal mines of eastern Washington state.

How about caves - any caves in that area ???


silversummit - Jul 26, 2009 11:44 am - Hasn't voted

Re: One final question ...

No mines that I know of but Luray Caverns and many others etc. are nearby and several universities such as Washington and Lee, VMI, James Madison etc. are nearby.

Right in Goshen Pass there is a plaque and memorial to Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806-73), one of the fathers of oceanography, and later head of coast, harbor and river defenses for the Confederate navy. Since he loved the Goshen Pass so much he asked that his casket be carried down through the pass during the rhododendron's bloom which delayed his burial by three months. The local river was renamed in his honor.

I have mining too in my western Pennsylvania background!


gregorpatsch - Jul 26, 2009 9:27 pm - Voted 10/10

Beautiful Spot

I've enjoyed some fun climbing in Goshen Pass. Definitely a beautiful spot. Thanks for sharing.


silversummit - Jul 26, 2009 10:48 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Beautiful Spot

Wow! You're the first person I've talked to who has climbed there! Did you go to W&L? Or were you just passin' through?

Glad you got to appreciate this place first hand.


gregorpatsch - Jul 26, 2009 11:03 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Beautiful Spot

Actually, I did go to W&L for one year before transferring to UVA. Lived in California for a few years, now I'm back in Charlottesville.


dandrew - Aug 2, 2009 4:17 pm - Hasn't voted

Goshen graduate

I enjoyed your article. I attended scout camp at Goshen's Camp Marriott over three summers. I love that part of Virginia and always look forward to returning when I can. There are so many great memories associated with my time there. Goshen Scout Camp inspired me to go on and do two Philmont treks. I'm also a proud graduate of Goshen Elementary School (Gaithersburg, MD).


silversummit - Aug 2, 2009 8:22 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Goshen graduate

Thank you for your kind words!

It's great to hear from someone who knows Goshen (the camp) and Goshen ES. My son also graduated from Goshen ES so we must have lived near each other at some point. Lots of wonderful memories.....

Have you checked the Philmont page here on SP?

Glad you checked in!


CheesySciFi - Aug 13, 2009 10:13 pm - Voted 10/10

Some good news

I've hiked up in the southern part of the Blue Ridge and Massanutten Mountains near Harrisonburg, but I never even heard of Goshen until I read your article. It seems like a really wonderful and peaceful place.

I did a Google search on Goshen, and I found out that the Scouts don't plan to hold their 2013 Jamboree there. From the Roanoke Times:

Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Goshen ruled out as site of Boy Scout Jamboree

By Matt Chittum | The Roanoke Times

The Boy Scout Jamboree won’t be coming to Goshen Pass in Rockbridge County.

Jack Furst, a member of the Boy Scouts of America board who is heading the search for a new site for the annual gathering for over 200,000 scouts and volunteers, said Tuesday that the Goshen Scout Reservation was crossed off the list because of “a wide variety of issues.”


silversummit - Aug 27, 2009 9:17 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Some good news

Sorry to take so long to respond; I left for a two week vacation right as you wrote.

Sounds like Goshen has received a break! I certainly hope so! Thanks for letting me know!!!

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