Thursday, June 5, 2014

Shenandoah National Park: Story of the Forest Trail (Blog Hike #470)

Trail: Story of the Forest Trail
Hike Location: Shenandoah National Park, Byrd Visitor Center
Geographic Location: south of Luray, VA
Length: 1.9 miles
Difficulty: 2/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: May 2014
Overview: A nature trail loop through high elevation forest.

Directions to the trailhead: The Byrd Visitor Center is located on the west side of Skyline Drive at mile marker 51.  This mile marker is located 15 miles north of US 33 or 19 miles south of US 211.

The hike: For my introduction to May hiking in Shenandoah National Park, see the Blackrock Summit loop blog entry.  The Story of the Forest Trail may be the easiest trail of significant distance at Shenandoah.  The trail explores the forest surrounding Big Meadows, a rare fairly flat area located atop the park’s main ridge crest.  The Big Meadows Campground and Lodge lie adjacent to the trail, so it is best to think of this trail as a campground trail.  Nevertheless, the Byrd Visitor Center also lies along this trail, so all visitors can easily access this interesting hike.
Trailhead near Visitor Center
            From the Visitor Center, exit the front door, turn right, and walk along the sidewalk beside the parking lot.  The trail starts across the Visitor Center entrance road at a wooden sign bearing this trail’s name; there is also a white sign for Dark Hollow Falls here.  The Story of the Forest Trail is marked with powder blue paint blazes, but the path on the ground is obvious and easy to follow.
            The trail descends gradually through young high elevation forest as it passes over some wooden waterbars.  At 0.3 miles, you reach the lowest elevation on the hike as you use a stone bridge to cross a small creek.  Immediately after crossing the creek, you reach an intersection.  The trail to Dark Hollow Falls turns right, so you need to turn left to stay on the Story of the Forest Trail.
Crossing creek on stone bridge
            What has thus far been a gradual descent now becomes a gradual ascent beside the gurgling, rocky stream.  At 0.4 miles, you cross the stream again, this time on an ugly concrete/steel bridge.  Just after crossing the stream the second time, your trail crosses the yellow-blazed Skyland/Big Meadows Horse Trail.  Continue straight to stay on the hiker-only Story of the Forest Trail.
            The trail curves left to leave the stream as the gradual ascent continues.  With a name like “Story of the Forest,” I was expecting this trail to have an interpretive brochure or some nice interpretive signs.  Unfortunately, the Visitor Center did not have any brochures when I inquired, and I did not see a single interpretive sign along this trail.  I guess park rangers leave the forest to tell its story on its own.  A large number of songbirds enjoying the brushy high elevation forest were chirping away, but I could not decipher the story they were telling.
Climbing gradually
            At 0.8 miles, you reach the outskirts of the campground picnic area.  As directed by a metal directional band wrapped around a concrete post, you need to turn left here to continue the loop.  A little more gradual to moderate climbing will bring you out at the campground road at 0.9 miles.  Turn left to begin the paved campground access trail that runs adjacent to the road.
            The final 0.9 miles follow the paved campground trail back to the Byrd Visitor Center.  The rock-strewn forest to the left makes for interesting observation, but the cars driving on the road just feet to your right are a constant nuisance.  Upon reaching the Visitor Center at 1.8 miles, turn left and walk across the parking lot to your car to complete the hike.

1 comment:

  1. Walked this trail alone yesterday during the afternoon and you are spot on in your description. I didn't see another soul on the trail. It was beautiful, peaceful, and very woodsy. I saw a doe a feet few ahead of me crossing the trail. I was able to get a couple of pictures of it. Dark Hollow Falls trail is not far away and there were several hikers on it.