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Compton Gap, Shenandoah National Park

  • Dec 15, 2012 · 8:30 AM
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Join me for an out and back 4.5 hour hike.This is a hike for any skill level if you’re willing to hike 4.5 hours - lunch on the trail.

I have led roughly 150 hikes with various groups. My leadership style is different from most hike leaders. Details are below.

HIKING REQUIREMENT: For your safety each hiker must have this map CLICK. PRINT. BRING. while hiking.

HIKING EXPECTATIONS: There are normally a mix of those who have hiked with me b4 and those who have not. Hikers may initially know no one but that changes quickly and we ALWAYS have a great time.

Most hike 6-10 miles; faster hikers may cover 12-14 miles.If there are problems along the trail, we ask all hikers to help each other. Otherwise hike at a pace which works for you; break when you want. We will spend time understanding the trail, the blazes we'll follow, and where to look for arrows the fastest hiker puts along the way. The slowest hiker picks them up on the way back.

HIKING TRAIL: Hike the white blazed Appalachian Trail out and back as far as you would like. The exciting part of the hike, which you’ll want to leave plenty of time for, is checking out the blue blazed Compton Peak east & west trails.

Adam Takes in the View from Compton PeakFrom the AT, one trail crosses the crest of Compton Peak then goes a short distance down the northwest slope. The trail is rough and rocky. Toward the end it’s a little hard to follow but the viewpoint ledge, marked with a blue cross, is worth the trip. To the right of your view, the sharp crest in the distance is on the Blue Ridge outside the park. To the left of it, and much closer, you can see Skyline Drive on the near side of Dickey Ridge, which takes a sharp turn to the right at Gooney Manor Overlook, near the left end of your view. On the highest part of Dickey Ridge is the tower of the FAA radio beacon. From there the ridge descends to the right, toward the town of Front Royal. From a second, lower ledge, you can see farther to the right - including a part of the Piedmont.

On the other blue blaze trail you'll see a fine example of columnar jointing. This particular rock formation raised Henry Heatwole's interest in geology, as he characterized it, "from near zero to the threshold of enthusiasm". Maybe it will do the same for you.

Follow the blue blazes downhill to a boulder that rises ten or fifteen feet directly in front of you. Climb to the top. There's a view directly ahead out into the Piedmont. The Blue Ridge goes to the right, with a good stretch of Skyline Drive, including Jenkins Gap Overlook, in view. Straight out from this rock, The Peak rises beyond the near ridge. At the right of your view are the two summits of Mt. Marshall.

After enjoying the view at Compton Peak, climb back down the boulder and continue to follow the blue blazes to the base of the cliff and then look up. The lava cracked into these prismatic columns when it cooled some 800 million years ago. The thrusting force that formed these mountains tilted the columns to their present angle. During subsequent erosion, the downhill side of the cliff crumbled away, so that you now look up at the lower ends of the giant prisms.


ARRIVE AT LEAST 15 MINUTES EARLY to form carpools as we leave promptly. If you are willing to drive to the trailhead, please have enough gas. Plan to give your driver $7 for gas.

If you need or can offer a ride to our carpool location be specific in posts below. Use If you take metro and meet at Vienna Metro you need to be there by 8am or you won't make it to Centreville Park & Ride on time.

RSVP ETIQUETTE: Change your yes or waitlisted RSVP to no before Wednesday if your plans change. It's unfortunate but if you are a No Show or continually change your RSVP after Wednesday before a hike, you may not be welcome on my future hikes. Managing how many hikers show up is a frustrating challenge. I absolutely understand that life sometimes gets in the way but please be respectful of both waitlisted hikers and my time and energy planning your successful adventure.

DONATION: Please take into account $5 FOR CHARITY when deciding about this hike. Donations are given to the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club which maintains our hiking trails. PATC is a non-profit, tax exempt public charity as described in section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.

SAFETY: When hiking, I carry my phone, driver’s license, medical insurance card, credit card, cash, headlamp & whistle.

YOUR PICTURE: Smile, click. I require a picture of each hiker for emergencies so don't be surprised when I take your picture

HIKING SHOES OR BOOTS are important.

HIKING POLES are helpful. My favorite are Black Diamond.

WATER: ALWAYS bring more than you think you need.

FOOD: It's important to have healthy snacks to munch as you hike. Also bring your lunch so you may stop along the way, eat it and perhaps enjoy a spectacular view.

CAMERA: But of course!!

HUMOR: An absolute must.

PETS: Not allowed on this hike

Call or email questions (before 9pm)

Jayne Hiking Addict

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  • Jayne Hiking A.

    Thanks for supporting PATC (order 1772) by donating $25. That parking lot was darn cold but the hike was sunny. It was great to see wonderful views now that the leaves are gone and I hope everyone enjoyed checking out Compton Gap as much as I.

    December 15, 2012

  • Jayne Hiking A.

    Assuming the gods are with us; no driving, hiking problems, etc.
    8:30 - 10:00 Drive to Trailhead (quick bathroom break included)
    10:00 - 2:30 Hike, take pictures, eat lunch on trail
    2:30 - 4:00 Return to Centreville Park & Ride

    December 2, 2012

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