Trail winds back and forth along both sides of Shenandoah Mountain. The trail is all singletrack. There are several rock slide areas that have to be hiked. Trail is mostly downhill after the first 1/2 mile climb. Great views to the west! Trail is 14.75 miles on the mountain and about 2 miles down Scotchtown Draft Road to the car.
Take Rt 250 West out of Staunton, turn left on SR-629 at West Augusta, drive 4 to 5 miles, take right on FR 173 (Benson Run Road) just before Deerfield. Go through the pasture, bear left at fork, go through the metal gate, drive up FR 173 to the top, park - trail leads into woods on left.
Southern Trailhead - Go south on SR-629 about 10 miles, park second car at the intersection of SR-629 and SR-627 (Scotchtown Draft Road).
Summary: Rode this trail yesterday and it was quite the ride. Started out at the parking area on fireroad 173 as described below. This ride truly is a traverse. I'd say about 70-80 percent of the single track is off camber and a bit hairy if you happen to stray from the center. I caught myself a few times nearly tumbling down a 35-40 degree bank. There wasn't much time for sight seeing as I had my eyes glued on the ground. However, I wouldn't let that scare you away. This trail has some of the nicest backcountry singletrack I have encountered in va. Trails are relatively smooth with rock gardens on the western sides of the mountains. Had a little trouble about a mile after jerkemtight. The trail seems to go straight, but it actually curves off to the left. My dad spotted a bear in that area as well. The last 3 miles of trail is a sweet section of downhill until you hit the road. I'd recommend a shuttle of some short because the 16 miles of road to get back to the car is a drag. All in all, I'd recommend this trail. PS - DO NOT ride this thing without a buddy. If you fall/get injured/etc, you'll be miles from help with little or no cell service.
Recommended Route: Ride it with a buddy. Have him park his car at the end and then drive up to fr173 (through the gate) and park. Go up the fireroad until you reach the Shenandoah mtn trail. It is marked with single yellow diamonds.
Review Date July 3, 2013
Overall Rating 4 of 5
Aerobic Difficulty 3 of 5
Technical Difficulty 4 of 5
Ridden Trail: Ridden Once
Reviewed by: Mike Abel
Cross Country Rider
Summary: Just rode this trail with a friend of mine. The other reviews were very accurate. Lots of mountain side, off camber single track. The trail is extremely overgrown in places with a ton of large sticker bushes. I would suggest wearing some type of protection on your arms. We didn't and ended up pretty scratched up. We parked at the parking area just inside the forest service gate on FR173. If you park before that, you will be on private property and in the middle of a cow pasture. From the parking area on 173, it's about a 4 mile fire road climb to the trail head. The trail is easy to follow and as others have mentioned, the jerkemtight junction, which is at approximately 14.96 miles from the parking lot is the only place that could be confusing. We didn't see any jeep trails or the other single track that was mentioned in other posts. The SMT, however, is marked with diamonds and a red ribbon tied around a tree and heads off in a southerly direction. If you do the entire loop, it will be about 36 miles and the last 15 miles is a combination of fire road and blacktop. We did see a bear and my buddy flatted, so I suggest making some noise on the blind turns and bring spare tubes. Overall, I didn't find the ride too difficult fitness wise, but the the off camber trails with fairly steep drops, rock gardens, and encroaching bushes and trees did make it technically challenging.
This was a fun trail but I would suggest riding in the winter to get better views of the valley and not have to deal with the overgrowth.
Summary: I love this trail! Definitely worthy of its IMBA epic status. Start off with an almost five mile grunt up the fireroad, then a couple really good climbs once you hit the singletrack. But after that, it's golden, just superb riding! Lots of fast ridge riding, flying along the side of the mountain. You'll need plenty of stamina to complete the trail, as the total trip is about 35 miles. Some decent handling skills will come in helpful too. Some of the riding is along the side of the mountain, slightly off-camber, with a steep slope on the downhill side; a few rock gardens spice things up (most of them are navigable).
Don't cut the ride short by taking the shortcut out at Jerkemtight. The last few miles is an awesome downhill, makes all the work up to that point more than worth it.
For a little extra fun, take the little extra singletrack on the other side of SR 627. It's another 2 miles of singletrack, not well marked (I got lost a couple times trying to find my way). But made for a little bit of extra adventure! Takes you out to SR 678, at which you can turn left to get back to SR 629 and to your car. Makes for a total of 42 miles.
Recommended Route: Park on left when you first get on FR 173 (the directions above say to drive up to the top, but from what I've read elsewhere and have seen done, it doesn't seem like that is really proper; besides, the 5 mile climb is a good warm up!)
Climb up FR 173 - 5 miles, so long, but not very steep for the most part. Enter trail on left (there is a small sign). Continue on trail for many miles. Make sure to stay on correct trail when you get to Jerkemtight Junction. There are 2 different singletrack trails heading off the west side of the ridge and 3 jeep roads heading in different directions. The 2 trails seem to drop off the west side of the mountain. The SMT is the one that heads more southerly. Marshall Draft trail is the one that drops straight down the western slope towards sugar tree road. The SMT only drops a bit to meet up with the ridge again and some of the sweetest down hilling toward Scotchtown Draft. The road to the east is Jerkemtight Rd. heading 5 miles down to Rt. 629.
Come out to SR 627. Cross street to take the little extra adventure described above. Ride road back to car. Make sure to bring plenty of food and water for the trip.
Other recommended trails in the same area: Too many to list. Grap a guide book or a map and have a blast. Lots of great riding in the area!
Summary: Rode this trail August23. I suggest wearing something to cover your shins and arms. There was enough growth on the side of the trail to make our legs ans arms burn from the tiny stickers. The trail was fun, a nice long climb a lot of side hill riding similiar to Douthat. We removed some downfall blocking the trail but there is still a good bit of downfall which requires a dismount and scramble over. The descent was fun. I prefer the descent on Hankey mountain trail which we did after this one. Overall a great trail I think it may be best to ride in the winter, better views no stickers.
Other recommended trails in the same area: Hankey Mountain
Summary: Well, the IMBA does not use the word EPIC lightly when it awards that moniker to a trail. In the case of the "Southern Traverse" aka "The Shendoah Trail", the word EPIC is well deserved. It turned out to be an EPIC event for myself and a friend this Friday June 11th.
We arrived late to the trailhead at FR 173 due to a massive pile up on 81 near Harrisburg Pennsylvannia. We started at 2:30pm. About one mile in we took the wrong forest gate and proceeded to do a 7 mile warmup on the wrong trail. The warmup was 3.5 miles up hill, where once we realized we had made a mistake it began to pour! We had a slippery blast down back to the point we had made the wrong turn.
Undaunted, we began once again at the correct forest gate. This section of the trail is exactly as described by the guys at Shendoah Bicycle Company, up hill for 4 miles. The rain began to slow about 2 miles into this climb. Once we summited, it began to rain again.
We quickly set off on the Shendoah Trail heading south to avoid getting to cool after the climb. Soon we realized we would be climbing another 1100 feet to summit the "Bump". About 1 mile into the single track we came around a corner and a large bear was sitting with his back to us. Once it realized we had arrived it quickly exited over the ridge. From this point forward I whistled prior to every corner to avoid another bear encounter.
Just as we got into a pretty decent rhythm of riding and got used to the steep drop and slippery rocks n logs, lightnening struck fairly close by. Definetely put us into a paranoid state of mind. We kept riding although the rhythm was completely gone for about a mile. The lightnening strikes ended after about 10 minutes but the thunder could be heard for the remainder of the ride at various times.
Leg cramps got my friend about 22 miles into the ride. They were severe and allowed only walking for about a half mile. Luckily they subsided and we were able to ride again.
We finally arrived at the bailout point, Jerkemtight Road, that the darkening conditions forced us to take. This bailout was described as an old Jeep trail that was a steep descent for 5miles. It was extremely steep and tough due to water running along it most of the way down.
We arrived on the road in the dark. Found our car after riding north for approx 5 miles, it was now 9:00pm!
Did I mention that both of us endo'd at various times on the ride? In addition, I fell 3 other times when I slipped on logs or rocks. Oh yeah, I flatted at about the 18mile point also!
All in all sitting here writing this I still enjoyed the ride. Learned some good lessons about starting to late and using a topo map vs written directions. Recommend that you ride this trail with no fewer than 3 people and start it early morning to guarantee enough light. Also connect with the crew at Shendoah Bicycle Company and Shendoah Touring prior to riding. The HarrisonBurg area is a great spot to set up base camp to ride this part of Virginia!
Recommended Route: Park the cars just off 629 at FR173, Ride up to the Shendoah Trail(app. 5 miles), follow southwest, try not to take Jerkemtight road, it was very tough and hazardous..no kidding!
Other recommended trails in the same area: Mud Run