Passamaquoddy Loop Hike: Go Clockwise for the Win at Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park

The 2.5-mile Passamaquoddy Loop Hike at Shenandoah National Park is quite popular as far as I can tell. The Passamaquoddy Trail (not the full loop) has more than 130 reviews on AllTrails.com.

The hike also has an average rating of 4.5. That’s better than most trails. So, why did it take me two tries to complete this scenic hike at Shenandoah National Park?

I hiked this trail last week, successfully this time. My first go was in June when I could not find a section of trail.

I was with two of my kids and my anxiety levels were rising as I floundered around trying to find the trail. Eventually, I gave up and we instead tackled the Stony Man hike.

This time I was on my own and bumbled in the same spot as before. Argh. I eventually found where I needed to go despite there being no trail markers in this spot to guide me.

Trail Stats 
Length2.5 miles
DifficultyModerate
Trail TypeLoop
Elevation Gain568 feet
Duration1.5-2 hours
TerrainMostly dirt & rock, some rock scramble
Dog-FriendlyYes
Fee$30 per vehicle (good for seven days)
Driving DirectionsClick Here

Arriving at the Trailhead

There are two ways to reach the Passamaquoddy Trail (one section of the overall loop). On AllTrails.com, the driving directions lead you to the Little Stony Man parking area.

From here, you can hike a spur trail, then hook up with the Appalachian Trail to walk a short distance to connect with the Passamaquoddy Trail.

Stony Man Parking Area

I personally find this approach to be confusing, so I suggest beginning your hike from the Stony Man parking area at mile marker 41.7.

Not only is the parking area much larger with room for well over a dozen cars, but the hiking loop is easier to follow. If you do it correctly, that is (which I did not).

On the north side of the parking area, you will see a large trail sign. The instructions mirror what I studied on the two-page sheet on the park’s website.

You’ll want to go clockwise – trust me, clockwise – though somehow I still ended up going counter-clockwise.

Honestly, there is no benefit to choosing one direction over the other, though you will have a far easier time connecting to each segment if you hike this loop clockwise.

In going counter-clockwise, I encountered the same dilemma I had before in finding an unmarked trail section. Blurgh.

The First Steps

From the trailhead in the Stony Man parking area, you immediately make a left onto the yellow-blazed Furnace Spring Horse Trail.

Somehow I missed this completely and began my hike along the Appalachian Trail. So keep your eyes open. I can’t be the only one to make this mistake.

From here, however, I will share with you how to hike this counter-clockwise.

If you too unintentionally blow right past the Furnace Spring Horse Trail, simply continue straight along the white-blazed Appalachian Trail.

Much like most trails in the park, this one is also mostly dirt and rocks as you traipse through the leafy, shaded forest.

As you reach the .35-mile mark, you’ll come to a four-way intersection and a trail re-route notice, which does not apply to this hike at all.

Turn right to stay on the Appalachian Trail. From here, you’ll descend the trail and step down wooden or stone steps along the way.

By the .7-mile mark, the trail narrows and becomes more rocky, so watch your step. You’ll see lots of ferns and wildflowers alongside the trail.

Within the next quarter-mile, you will need to take a left to steeply descend to reach the Passamaquoddy Trail (this is where I got fouled up the first time).

However, I can’t advise this without first walking a few steps past the spur trail to Little Stony Man Cliffs. It’s one of the best viewpoints in the park.

Little Stony Man Cliffs

Re-trace your steps to connect with what I can only call a nightmare of a spur trail on the right. You’ll go down, down, down steep steps until you reach a T-intersection with no trail markers to indicate which way to go. Ugh.

Turn left at the T for the Passamaquoddy Trail. This is roughly at the 1.1-mile mark of the loop hike.

If you turn right, you will connect with the Appalachian Trail and eventually wind up in the Little Stony Man parking area by way of another spur trail.

I did not like this descent one bit. It was 40 or so steep steps to the bottom. However, it may not be so bad and the spur trail may be more obvious if you complete this trail clockwise, going up the spur trail instead of down. I’ll have to save that exploration for another day.

Once you are on the Passamaquoddy Trail – and hiking it in the right direction – the rest of the trail is quite straightforward.

You’ll see a massive granite rock on the left and it’s quite rocky for a bit of time. At the 1.25-mile mark, look for a small field of rocks to navigate.

Here you’ll also be rewarded with some delightful valley views, so savor them. By the 1.5-mile mark, the trail begins to flatten out, thankfully.

Just past the 1.85-mile mark, you’ll see what looks like a hobbit door on the left. It’s not. More likely it’s for the electrical technicians given there are power lines above.

In a few steps past the door, turn left at the second trail marker onto the yellow-blazed Furnace Spring Horse Trail.

This section of trail has a completely different feel from the rest of the loop. There are far more evergreen trees and the trail feels less defined with twigs, sticks and logs across the trail in some points. Fortunately, there are enough yellow blazes to keep you on the trail.

At the 2.35-mile mark, you’ll reach a trail marker. Turn left and you will see the parking lot. Phew, you did it. Congrats.

Hike Options

For a longer hike, add in the Stony Man Trail. To reach Stony Man Summit, simply go straight at the first four-way intersection you encounter (when going counter-clockwise).

This will put you on the blue-blazed Stony Man Trail. It’s basically a lollipop that will return you to the four-way intersection. Turn left for the Appalachian Trail.

Stony Man Summit Sign

For a shorter hike, hike .95-mile from the Stony Man parking area to reach Little Stony Man Cliffs. Re-trace your steps for a 1.8-mile hike.

Wrap-Up Notes

This hike took me 1 hr, 25 minutes to complete. Surprisingly, I didn’t actually see anyone else on the trail this day.

The Stony Man parking area is a short drive from Skyland Resort, which is a stone’s throw from the Millers Head Trail.

Simply turn right from the parking area to reach Skyland, which has a full-service restaurant and a grab-and-go snack shack.