Black Creek Outfitters Guru Session – Shenandoah National Park Section Hike

On August 20th Black Creek Outfitters hosted a Guru Session led by Jack Stucki. The subject matter was “Section Hiking the Shenandoah Nation Park”. Jack believes the Shenandoah section of the AT is a great hike for beginners due to the relatively level terrain. Add to that welcoming lodges with full service facilities (dining, pool, sauna, etc.) and you have a place the whole family can enjoy.

What makes this trip a welcoming temptress are the fine folks willing to shuttle you to any put-in. Oh, and then there is a great mountain a bit south of the southern terminus. But you will have to read on for that.

The Guru discussions occur every Wednesday evening, with pauses in the series based on availability as well as breaks for planning and actual outdoor adventuring. If you are in the Jacksonville area and would like a session dedicated to a specific topic you can reach out to me or ask for Jack when you visit the store.

If you see anything which you feel is incorrect I always appreciate feedback on how to improve upon, or further elaborate, the information conveyed.


  • Jack states the Shenandoah Valley is an easy hike, compared to other sections on the AT, and one of the most beautiful. 
  • Many side trails that lead to places to sleep and more vistas. 
  • 103.3 mi – Rock Fish Gap to Front Royal VA. 
  • Add 4 miles of walking to leave the trail for the closest town. 
  • Elevation stays between 2 and 4 thousand feet. 
  • Very well manicured. 
  • Best time of year – Autumn. 
  • Got into the teens during Jack’s time in late September/early October. 
  • Blazes change from white to markers noting your location.  
  • You’ll see bears and deer. The wildlife is robust. 
  • Bears have been humanized, so be mindful. 
  • That said Jack’s experience with a mother bear and her cubs was benign. 
  • Bears Den Hostile – owned by AT Conservancy in the Shenandoah Valley. 
  • Permits – pretty easy to get a permit. You self register in the kiosk just inside the valley, coming north and south. No charge. 
  • You will be fined heavily if you do not get a permit. 
  • You can stay any place for a max of 2 nights. 
  • You can reserve spots, but they are not shelters. 
  • Shelters are first come first serve. 
  • Picnic pavilions are considered shelters. 
  • Camping shelters are called “huts”. There are 8 in the park. 
  • Most campsites have showers. 
  • The park embraces stealth camping. 
  • 50 yards from another party and 10 yards from water. 
  • Cabins are free, but they can be reserved. They’re located just off the AT. 
  • You have to be a member of the PATC – Potomac Appalachian Trail Club – to reserve a cabin. 
  • Big Meadows, in the southern part, has a resort next to it. 
  • Waysides – three of them. Here you can replenish your gear. Think of them as a convenience store. 
  • In theory you could limit the food you carry in and supply on trail. 
  • They also have kitchens. 
  • Your supposed to camp a 1/4 mile from a wayside. But knowing there are hot meals, good luck with that. 
  • Two national park lodges in the park – one 1/3 of the way from the north and south points. 
  • Four trail towns close to the park: southern end Waynesboro, 50 miles south of Waynesboro is Buena Vista, Front Royal at top, Luray just south of Front Royal. 
  • Shuttle services – Mountain Valley Shuttle Service in Lorray from Duncannan to Daleville VA 
  • Rockfish Gap Outfitters in Waynesboro will shuttle you to Royal 
  • Ironically Jack suggests the following – Rockfish Gap to Cow Camp Gap (about 50 miles) gets you over 3 Ridges Mountain. You’ll hit a mountain called The Priest. A top 3 place on the AT for Jack. 
  • Jack recommends staying on top of the mountain. It’s just above a water supply. 
  • Good place to solo hike. 
  • Jack recommends checking in at every journal. 
  • Jack noted there was sufficient natural water supply points. 
  • June, July and August are wicked hot. Memorial Day and Labor Day are crowded. As is late October to watch the leaves change. 
  • Early spring is nice – no bugs. 
  • Mid-April is when the thru hikers start to come through. 
  • You can also kayak the Valley. 
  • Most AT miles are in VA. 
  • No campfires allowed. 



Mt and Valley Shuttle Service 

Duncannan, PA – Daleville, VA 



Rockfish Gap Outfitters 

.8m from Waynesborough 


Trail Angel Network 


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