Sometimes you just want an easy hike. Or, maybe an easy second hike, especially at Shenandoah National Park since there are trails all up and down Skyline Drive.
This was me last week. I had just hiked the 5.1-mile Sugarloaf Loop. I wanted to do a second short hike, so I set off on the 1.6-mile Range View Cabin hike.
Both hikes are listed on the large kiosk for the Piney River Trailhead. This hike leads to one of six Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) cabins in the national park.
|Elevation Gain||151 feet|
|Terrain||Mostly rock & dirt trails|
|Fee||$30 per vehicle (good for seven days)|
|Driving Directions||Click Here|
Arriving at the Trailhead
The parking area is located at milepost 22. Here you’ll see the Piney River Technical Building, which housed the offices of park architects and engineers in the 1930’s.
These professionals drew up plans for the Civilian Conservation Corps workers building the park. This area was also home to NP-12 (aka “Camp Red Bird”) of the CCC.
As you walk past the building toward Skyline Drive, you will see the Piney River Trailhead sign on the right. Your hike on the Sugarloaf Loop begins here.
The First Steps
Walk past the large trail kiosk and you will slowly descend along the forested Piney River Trail. Heads up, there is a four-way intersection at the .2-mile mark.
Turn right to proceed along the white-blazed Appalachian Trail. At the .3-mile mark, the trail splits in two. Stay right for the Range View Access Road.
Here it gets a bit confusing. The concrete trail marker indicates that you should stay left for Range View Cabin, though the kiosk at the trailhead says to stay to the right.
Honestly, you can get there both ways. However, you will have much less chance of going off in the wrong direction if you follow the Range View Access Road.
As you continue on the Range View Access Road, the trail becomes less maintained. You will arrive at Range View Cabin at the .8-mile mark.
Range View Cabin was built almost entirely by PATC volunteers in 1932. For the stonework, the club hired Charlie Sisk, a local stonemason.
You can’t enter the cabin, but it’s very cool to explore the grounds, as well as the outside of the cabin, which features an open fireplace and a wooden table.
A short walk from the cabin, you’ll find a spring and an outdoor privy. Inside the cabin, there are four double-deck bunk beds and a wood stove.
The views from the cabin are okay, but are largely marred by electricity poles and power lines. As you prepare to walk back to the trailhead, there are two ways to go.
You can re-trace your steps, starting along the Range View Access Road. Or, you can take the unmarked path immediately to the left of the PATC cabin.
The unmarked path is kind of a shortcut. In less than .1-mile, this path connects with the Appalachian Trail.
When it does, turn left. Then, make a quick right onto the Range View Access Road. Re-trace your steps to return to the trailhead. Your hike is complete.
From the parking area, this hike took me less than 45 minutes, including time spent exploring the grounds at Ridge View Cabin.
The Piney River Trailhead is just across Skyline Drive from the Mathews Arm campground and picnic grounds.
For drinks, snacks, souvenirs and restrooms, Elkwallow Wayside is just two miles south on Skyline Drive (open seasonally).