I have done the two highest points in Shenandoah National Park...why not the third highest? Hazeltop in not as frequently visited as the two 4k peaks (Stony Man and Hawksbill) but I thought it would be worth the trip. First, I did Mary's Rock (3514') with a 1,210 foot hike, mostly on the mountainside, and very scenic. I finished that hike around 11:30am on a Wednesday (I took a day off of work.)
I drove down Skyline Drive, past Big Meadows, which are basically, Big Meadows, right off of Skyline Drive. About a mile and a half past the meadows was the Milam Gap trailhead. I was short on time, needing to get home early to eat dinner and catch the 7:30 showing of Farenheit 9/11, of which I had already bought tickets two days prior. At Milam Gap, I took a look at the nice route descriptions they have, and noticed a long loop hike, but decided not to take it. They always overestimate the hiking time. For example, the 7.4 mile hike was estimated to be a 6 1/2 hour hike! I don't think so! It did Mt. Elbert in less than 5 1/2 hours, (the highpoint of Colorado, with a lot more elevation gain and more miles).
I took the Appalachian trail. The hike was very straight, like a hike down the woods where you can see the trail ahead for a long distance. It was relatively flat, with little elevation gain. Eventually, the trail got steeper and moved towards a high point. I could tell because of the wind. I got to what seemed was the top. I could tell because the trail afterwards dropped a lot of elevation. I climbed all this way for THIS!? Oh well, I walked to the top, but continued south on the AT to Skyline Drive, over a mile away. I went almost 600' down to Bootens Gap, around mile 55.1 on Skyline Drive. I had hiked 2.8 miles, and now I woudl walk 2.8 miles back. Actually, I ran some of the flat part back so I could make it back to Alexandria for dinner, and Arlington for the movie. I must return to Hazeltop to do the long loop hike. I guarentee it won't take 6 1/2 hours though!
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