There are two routes to Kennedy Peak just north of Luray, Virginia. I recently tackled the 5.3-mile out-and-back hike on the orange-blazed Massanutten Trail.
A second route is a 9.5-mile loop that returns from Kennedy Peak by way of the Stephens Trail. Both hikes share a trailhead at Edith Gap on Fort Valley Road.
The hike is beautiful, particularly when you can see neighboring peaks through the trees. I’m eager to take on the loop hike another day for views from the overlook.
As in, scenic 360-degree views from the two-story wooden overlook. Along the way, you’ll pass by a half-dozen dispersed camp sites with primitive fire rings.
|Elevation Gain||889 feet|
|Terrain||Mostly dirt, sand & rock trails|
|Driving Directions||Click Here|
The parking lot at Edith Gap is at a bend on Fort Valley Road (State Route 675) There are no marked parking spaces, but there is room for at least a dozen cars.
The trail begins just to the left of an open overlook that peers into the valley and farms down below. More than a few people stop here to take in the views.
I read that this overlook is actually a paragliding launch area. From land or sky, take in the views of the Luray Valley and Shenandoah River.
The hike begins with a mild ascent on the orange-blazed Massanutten Trail. After the first few steps, you’ll see a wooden sign for “Massanutten Tr 408.”
Apparently, the “408” indicates that this section of the 70-mile Massanutten Trail leads to Kennedy Peak. Later, the “408A” is the white-blazed spur to the overlook.
The trail slowly ascends toward the ridge. It’s a rather wide trail with scenic views on both sides. Keep your eyes open for primitive camp sites with fire rings.
I saw six sites for dispersed camping alongside the trail on the way to Kennedy Peak, not including the overnight shelter at the peak (which is ah-mazing).
At the 1.5-mile mark, the trail bends right. The trail also narrows and becomes more steep. You’ll reach a switchback a few steps later at the 1.7-mile mark.
At the switchback, the trail gets much more rocky, too. At the 2.2-mile mark, the trail appears to fork, but this is not the case. Stay left to continue to Kennedy Peak.
If you were to turn left, the path leads to a hidden camp site with a very nice stone fire ring. The northwest-facing views here are quite a delight, too.
At the 2.4-mile mark, you will reach “408A.” This white-blazed spur trail leads away from the Massanutten Trail to Kennedy Peak. It’s short too, only .2-miles.
Turn right here to walk along the eastern ridgeline. You’ll see a handful of spots to stop for wide-open views. As in, no trees to keep you from the sensational vistas.
At the 2.6-mile mark, you will reach the two-story wood and stone overlook atop Kennedy Peak (elevation 2,560 feet). Let me tell you, the views are spectacular.
Climb the steps to the top of the overlook (an old fire lookout tower) for 360-degree panoramas, as well as a comfy bench to rest on after your hike to the top.
From here, east-facing views are of the Shenandoah River and Luray Valley, while west-facing views wow with the Massanutten Mountain Range. Superbly scenic.
Take in all the views from the overlook, then descend the steps to check out the overnight shelter just under the top deck. There’s even a fire ring. So cool.
It’s free to camp most anywhere along the Massanutten Trail. Dispersed camping is allowed throughout the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.
As I noted above, you can reach Kennedy Peak by way of a 5.3-mile out-and-back hike or a 9.5-mile loop hike (here’s a map for the loop hike on AllTrails).
For the loop hike, re-trace your steps from Kennedy Peak, from white-blazed “408A” to orange-blazed “408.” Rather than turning left, continue straight ahead.
The Massanutten Trail will soon meet-up with the Stephens Trail. Turn left when it does. This will loop you all the way back to the parking area on Fort Valley Road.
From the parking area, this hike took me nearly two hours, including time spent stopping and snapping photos of every single primitive camp site.
For curious stalagmites and stalactites, the trailhead for Kennedy Peak is also less than 15 minutes from Luray Caverns, the largest caverns on the east coast.