Shawl Gap/Sherman Gap Loop

 

 

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Description: This is an9.4 mile, moderate trek with a maximum elevation gain of 1400 feet with 1200 feet being gained in the first 1.7 miles. There are several ups and downs along the ridge walk causing one to replicate some of the elevation gain.

This hike features great views of the Shenandoah Valley, river and SNP to the east as well as views of secluded Fort Valley to the west. There is one section, near the side trip to The Point which features the sweet fragrance of Fringe Tree (AKA Old Man's Beard) during the months of June and early July. There are only a couple of minor stream crossings of no important note on the return leg.

The hike starts just across the bridge at the Elizabeth Furnace Picnic Area.

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Trail Notes: From the parking area, cross the bridge over Passage Creek and immediately turn left onto the Massanutten/Tuscarora Trail. It will be blazed in blue and orange with a residual yellow blaze here and there from when this was part of the Shawl Gap Trail. Follow the Creek for about 1/3 of a mile, passing the ruins of Elizabethís Furnace on your right. Witch Hazel blooms here in the under-story in November.

 

Turn away from the creek and begin to climb, crossing a part-time tributary on a footbridge. A series of short and long switchbacks bring you to the top of the ridge at about 2.43 miles from the start of the hike. The intersection of white-blazed Buzzard Rock Trail is to the left and yellow-blazed Shawl Gap Trail straight ahead.

 

Turn right, staying on the orange/blue-blazed Massanutten/Tuscarora Trail. Soon pass a large campsite. There is no water on this portion of the mountain so bring plenty if you intend to spend the night.

 

Climb up and down three peaks with alternating views to the east of the Shenandoah Valley, River and SNP and to the west of Fort Valley.

 

At 2.07 miles from the last intersection arrive at the intersection of pink-blazed Sherman Gap Trail on the right. If you wish to shorten your hike by 1.4 miles turn right here and skip the walk out to the view of "The Point".

 

To obtain more sweeping views of the Shenandoah stay on the Massanutten Trail and head south. Here the woods look like an urban blight area as the trees are blazed in alternating orange, pink and blue stripes. For a short distance, The Massanutten, Tuscarora and Sherman Gap Trail share the same tread. As you drop into a slight saddle the Sherman Gap Trail turns left and descends from the ridge leaving you on the orange and blue-blazed Massanutten/Tuscarora Trail. It is in this area where a thicket of Fringe Trees grow. In June and possibly early July the fragrance can be noticed well before you get to this point.

Climb out of the saddle and walk out to the edge of the knob. At about 0.7 miles from the first Sherman Gap Tr junction, arrive at a close up view of "The Point" on the Shenandoah River and a good place for lunch.

 

Retrace your steps, passing the Sherman Gap trail on the right, to the first pink-blazed Sherman Gap Trail, now on your left, that you encountered earlier.

 

Turn left and descend, steeply at first, watching for more views of Fort Valley on the left.

 

At 2.53 miles from the last intersection, come to white-blazed Bots Trail. Turn right. Soon you will again be walking along the banks of Passage Creek.

 

In about 0.92 miles from the last intersection the official white-blazed trail bears right and enters the upper picnic area. I recommend staying along the creek a bit longer, following an obvious but un-blazed fisherman's trail (marked red on the map)to the lower picnic area. The bridge is at the end of this section.

Critique this outing!

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Name: Ed S.                                                                                                              Hike: Shawl Gap/Sherman Gap Loop

Date: 06/13/13                                                                                                       Rating: 3.5

 

Critique: This was an OK hike, but without anything spectacular about it. There are only a few window views, and only typical streams. The Elizabeth Furnace ruins are a plus. The ridgeline hike never gets very technical, and some stretches where poison ivy makes for difficult walking. The Sherman Gap Trail seemed endless, and often fairly open to the sun. Instead of taking the Botts Trail at the end, I continued on the Sherman Gap Trail and then the Bearwallow Spur to reach to the Tuscarora Trail to get back to the picnic area. My advice, take the Botts Trail. While the ford on Passage Creek was easy if deep enough to get my shorts wet, the bottomlands trail past it was overgrown, buggy, muddy, and miserable. On the plus side, I got to experience my first cicada brood since 1987.

 

A Periodic Cicada

 

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 Name: Brandon F.                                                                                                   Hike: Shawl Gap/Sherman Gap Loop
Date: 11/4/07                                                                                                         Rating: 3.5

Critique: Slow day for a Sunday. Picnicking/cookout season is officially over, apparently.

I decided to take a shortcut while going up the Massanutten/Tuscarora Trail. After the rock field, there's a 4-way intersection with an unmarked, but wide, trail: the old Shawl Gap trail. For being unmaintained, it sure was in good condition - fewer rocks, wider, and the only blowdowns were minor tree trunks that you can easily step over. But it is steeper.

The biggest blowdown was at the intersection of the Mass/Tusc. Trail with Sherman Gap. It's right at the intersection, and not as easy to walk around (not that it's hard).

Also, I don't recommend walking to The Point, as the views aren't really there. If you keep walking down the Mass/Tusc. Trail (maybe 0.5 mile beyond The Point?) I think you'll come to an overlook and a campsite that's normally arrived to via the Veach Gap Trail. I didn't go there today as I wasn't sure how long it would take me and daylight savings is gone.

This is mainly a walk in the woods, on and along a mountain. The views you get are basically teasers and aren't very photo-friendly. Maybe lesser hikers would give it a lower rating, but it takes a lot to make it a bad hike for me.
3.5

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Name: Kris                                                                                                                Hike: Shawl Gap/Sherman Gap Loop
Date: 6/9/07                                                                                                           Rating: 4

Critique: Though I enjoyed the hike very much, I drop the rating to a four for a couple of reasons. The poison Ivy at spots on The Massanutten Trail on Massanutten Mountain, about a mile after the intersection with Shawl Gap and Buzzard Rock trails, completely covers the trail from both sides. It is not possible to go around this. This is a concern to those of us that are very susceptible to it, as I am. The views are, of course, very obstructed at this point. but some nice ones can still be had. Also, both the trails at the base of Massanutten near Elizabeth furnace are very overgrown. That being said, i would likely give this a 5 rating during the no leaf periods of time. The hike is a great workout, with some gorgeous forest and rock formation. Passage Creek offers a nice cool down after the hike ( I love the creek). The trail is quite rocky in places, so footing must be concentrated on at times. The out and back for the view is a must do, but entails quite a sharp little climb getting there. I tis a bit of a bushwhack to get out to the knob. The entire trail is choked with wild blueberries and should be ripe in another week or two. The descent down Sherman Gap Trail is a little tough on the legs, especially the first mile down.  I was able to complete this hike in about 5 1/2 hours including numerous photo stops and a quick lunch.

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Name: Murry Moskowitz                                                                                        Hike: Shawl Gap/Sherman Gap Loop
Date: Dec 3, 2006                                                                                                   Rating: 5

Critique: Excellent hike.  Mostly easy but tough in spots.  Excellent views east and west of Massanutten Mt, especially in spring and fall when there are no leaves blocking the view.  There are a few stream crossings but they are easy to get across.

We took the counter-clockwise routes so we ended the hike at Elizabeth Furnace which was a nice end to a long day of hiking.

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