I can’t believe that Friday will be December, and this hiking year is almost at an end! We’ve had some amazing experiences on the trail this year, and November’s hike was no different. What with Steve being a little under the weather, we haven’t been able to get on the trails as much this month as we’d have liked to, so by Thanksgiving weekend, I was really craving a good hike. With my parents being in town for Thanksgiving, I also wanted to do something a little special with them. Once it became clear that our plans to escape to the mountains for a couple of days after Thanksgiving were going to work out, I started researching the best family-friendly (read: kid-friendly) hikes at Shenandoah National Park, and Stony Man Mountain immediately jumped out as the hike to do.
There are two ways to hike Stony Man. The main trail, which hits only Stony Man Mountain, is a 1.6 mile out and back with 340 feet of elevation gain – basically, the easiest possible way you could ever expect to climb a mountain. There’s also a longer, and a little more challenging, trail called the Passamaquoddy Loop, which covers Little Stony Man as well. That would normally be our choice, but with Steve still recovering and the babies not getting any easier to carry, we opted for the shorter trail this time.
Someone would have liked to hike on his own two feet, I think. Soon, little man! (Really – soon. Mommy isn’t going to be able to schlep you forever.) He was also desperate for a hiking pole of his own – that’s Nana’s, collapsed all the way down. Too funny!
The trail was beautifully maintained all the way up. My parents are used to hiking on Adirondack boulders, so I think they enjoyed the groomed trails in Shenandoah. There were still plenty of opportunities for bouldering. My dad is part mountain goat! (I’d have been up there with him, but I was carrying 36 pounds of my heart’s most precious treasure on my back.)
Even with the relatively gentle incline, I was still feeling it. This is one densely-packed little boy!
But even so, it seemed like no time at all before we reached the summit. The final “push” to the peak was anything but – just a flat, gentle trail through the woods to the overlook (we’d already done all of our climbing).
Looking forward to that view!
Breathtaking! The valley floor with the long mountain ridge in the background was absolutely stunning to behold – and there were two peregrine falcons swooping through the skies. I think my parents were definitely not disappointed with this one.
Nana is a bird!
Just off to the left, the mountains reach back and back and back in shaded layers of azure, cerulean and sky – our Blue Ridge.
It was a lovely day on the summit. The sun was warm and there was no breeze to speak of, so we were comfortable lingering, taking pictures, and goggling at the view. (My dad was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t take the kids out of the backpacks to pose for pictures with the grandparents, but that was one thing I wasn’t comfortable with – the dropoff after the boulders was pretty steep. Next time they come, I promised, we would take them to Great Falls – the kids can run around there.) We spent about twenty minutes at the summit, just soaking in the payoff of a wonderful hike.
Another wonderful national park experience! We love having Shenandoah in our backyard, and we hope to get there a lot more in 2018 – and it was fun to take my parents there for the first time. We all share a love for the national parks and for hiking, so a family visit to Shenandoah was long overdue. Can’t wait to see where our family adventures take us in 2018!
What’s your favorite national park?