Features: Birding — Fall Colors — Spring — Wildflowers — Wildlife
Dogs: No Dogs
This is a fairly easy and pleasant trail that heads downhill, mostly beside a stream, from Skyline Drive. Be aware as there are a couple rough stretches, but if you want to escape from the crowds, this is one of the better options in the park that is still easily accessible.
Because this is a one-way run, you'll either have to leave a car at the bottom of the trail, plan for someone to meet you there, or use the trail as an out-and-back run (doubling the distance to six miles).
To get to the eastern end of the trail, from Thornton Gap at mile 31.5, take U.S. 211 east toward Washington. Continue 3.7 miles to a small parking area off to the right. Look for the Buck Hollow Trail marked by a concrete post.
From the trailhead off of Skyline Drive, the trail dives gradually at the beginning, then continues to gain in grade with some steep sections. The trail passes through a young forest of mostly mountain laurel, which is very nice to stroll through. Keep your eyes open for some dead hemlocks, many of which were destroyed by the hemlock wooly adelgid.
About three-quarters of a mile from Skyline Drive, the trail bends to the right and crosses a rocky stream bed before descending along the ridge some distance from the stream. Further along, it bends back to the left, descends to the stream, and makes a sharp right.
From here, watch for the blue blazes. After another quarter-mile, the trail turns left and crosses the stream, but this turn is often missed. Look out for the blue blazes! A double blaze means that the trail is about to change direction. If you think you may have missed the turn and are running out of trail, cross back to the left bank of the stream and you'll find the trail there, within a hundred feet of the water.
For a large stretch of the trail, you'll follow an old road that originally went to a sawmill further up in the hollow. Look out for these occasional traces of old logging road that join the trail, keeping with the blue blazes.
The park and Potomac Appalachian Trail Club trail crews have done thorough work in this area. The trail crosses the stream again and after another quarter of a mile leaves the old dirt road to become much smoother and narrower. The trail quickly crosses the Buck Hollow stream for the last time, then crosses the Thornton River. Both crossings are fairly easy unless the water is high from recent rains.
After this last crossing, the parking area at U.S. 211 is less than 200 yards away, through what was once a grassy clearing near an old homesite.
Thanks to Larry W. Brown, for sharing this trail description. Check out his comprehensive Guide to Shenandoah National Park
The trail winds through areas that are overgrown with black locust, Ailanthus, and Japanese honeysuckle.
In summer you may find pink phlox in bloom at the end of the trail right be fore the U.S. 211 parking area, still surviving from an old flower garden.