The Pinnacle is the highest mountain in Rappahannock County and is located in Shenandoah National Park. The summit is directly off the Appalachian Trail, and the trailhead is easily accessible from Skyline Drive. The trail towards the Pinnacle has many boulders and places to rock climb. There are several overviews near the summit with excellent views of the Shenandoah Valley and the surrounding mountains. From the Pinnacle, you can easily climb it's more popular neighbor, Mary's Rock
From Washington DC follow I-66 West and exit onto US 29 at Gainesville. Follow to Warrenton, and take 211 West. Take 211 to Sperryville until you reach Skyline Drive. Take Skyline Drive South through the tunnel, to the first parking area past Hazel Mountain Overlook to take the Meadow Spring Trail, or continue south past milepost 37 to the Jewel Hollow Overlook for a shorter, less scenic way to the summit.
If you are just passing through the Shenandoah National Park area, and would like to reach The Pinnacle without having to enter Skyline Drive (and save $10-$15 in the process), you can also reach the summit by parking at the Panorama Restaurant on Route 211, just west of the entrance to Skyline Drive. From here, you can get on to the Mary's Rock trail, which will take you to the Appalachian Trail. From the Panorama Restaurant to the summit of The Pinnacle requires a round-trip hike of a little less than 7 miles, with a total elevation gain of about 2,000 feet based on the ups and downs (1,700 feet on the way to The Pinnacle). If you choose this hike, you can bag both The Pinnacle and Mary's Rock together.
For routes inside the park, see the "Routes" section below.
Primary Routes from Skyline DriveFrom the Meadow Spring Trail
Round Trip Hiking Mileage: 3 miles
Elevation Gain: Over 1000 feet
Park at the Meadow Spring Parking area 2840'. Do not take the trail at the parking area. Instead, cross Skyline Drive to the trail marker. Go up the trail for a 1/2 until you reach the Appalachian Trail. The trail is pretty steep, as you gain over 400' in 1/2 a mile.
When you reach the Appalachian Trail (at about 3200') you take the AT South for about a mile. Over the course of the hike along the AT, you will pass the Byrds Nest Shelter, and a few rock outcroppings. After you have hiked a mile, there will be several large rock outcroppings which could be the summit. They are all around 3730 feet, but the true summit is actually a rock outcropping with an excellent view. It is right on the Appalachian Trail, and is pretty easy to find.
From Jewel Hollow Overlook
Round Trip Hiking Mileage: 1.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 400 feet
Go down the hill to access the Appalachian Trail. Take the AT North, and hike up the AT to the summit.
Another way to explore the area is to take the Leading Ridge Trail, which can be accessed as you approach from the Jewel Hollow Overlook. This trail ends in private area, and is no longer maintained beyond a certain point. However, you can take this trail to explore parts of Shenandoah National Park generally ignored by the public. The trail is very steep and should have some extraordinary viewpoints. The trail should be pretty empty, even on a busy summer weekend.
Check with the park at 540-999-3500.
Shenandoah National Park cost $30 for an annual pass. If you do not live in the DC area, you can pay the $15 fee to enter Skyline Drive ($10 from December-February). You can hike The Pinnacle for free if you park at Panorama Restaurant.
In general, campsites are not always open during the winter and spring. Backcountry Camping Permits are required and are available free from park headquarters, visitor centers, and entrance stations. Appalachian Trail hikers may self-register for permits on the AT near Rockfish Gap (south) and Chester Gap (north).
Campfires are not permitted (except at pre-constructed fireplaces at backcountry huts and day-use shelters). Groups may not exceed 10 people. For more info consult the park website.
When To Climb
Climb all year. The park, or sections of the park, may be closed if road conditions are poor. Check with the park at 540-999-3500.