I love a good hiker shelter on the Appalachian Trail, so last week I set out to hike to the Sam Moore Shelter in Bluemont, Virginia.
This 13.5-mile section runs from Snickers Gap (Route 7) to Ashby Gap (Route 50). As the name implies, there are ups and downs, ups and downs.
The overall elevation gain on this hike to see the Sam Moore Shelter exceeded 2,000 feet, so it was definitely a good workout. It was tough, but not vicious.
|Elevation Gain||2,083 feet|
|Terrain||Mostly dirt & rock trails|
|Driving Directions||Click Here|
The hike begins from a large parking lot on Route 7 at Blueridge Mountain Road. This is the same lot for the popular Bears Den Overlook hike.
The trailhead is located in the southwest corner of the lot. There is a large trail kiosk, which largely features the menu for Bear Chase Brewing Company.
Bear Chase is just .5-mile up Blueridge Mountain Road. It’s a great spot to stop for brews, views and snacks after a hike on the Appalachian Trail.
Walk past the trail kiosk onto the blue-blazed spur trail that leads to the Appalachian Trail at the .3-mile mark.
You’ll know you’ve reached the Appalachian Trail when you see another large trail kiosk. This one reads “You are now on the AT” at the top of the sign.
The kiosk relays quick facts about area geology, local historic battles, wildlife, like black bears and pileated woodpeckers, and the small town of Bluemont.
You’ll also see various hiker-theme jokes that will put a smile on your face. There’s even a map of the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.
At the sign, turn left for the southbound stretch toward Bears Den. From here, it’s a mild ascent until you reach Bears Den Overlook at the .7-mile mark.
Bears Den Overlook
Given the short distance from the parking lot to the rocky west-facing overlook, the easy Bears Den Overlook hike is popular with locals and families.
Many hikers stop for a snack or lunch at the overlook to take in the views across the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The wide-open views are to the west and northwest, so it’s also a go-to spot for colorful sunsets. Kids like to scramble the large rocks, too.
A short walk past the overlook is the Bears Den Trail Center, which serves the needs of thru-hikers with showers, laundry, short-term resupply and bunks.
There is also a primitive campground that has five camp sites, each with a fire ring and picnic table. Each site fits two to three tents.
The Roller Coaster
Continue following white blazes past the Bears Den Overlook for your first big downhill on this stretch of the Appalachian Trail Roller Coaster.
If you’re like me, you may be head down in an effort not to trip on a tree root or slip on fallen leaves. However, stay alert as you near the 1.0-mile mark.
At this point, the Appalachian Trail makes a sharp right turn, but it’s very easy to miss. If you see lots of yellow blazes, you’ll know you missed the turn.
Clearly, I say this from experience. Thankfully, once you see yellow blazes, you need only backtrack 15 or 20 steps to get back on the Appalachian Trail.
Continue descending until you cross over a stream on a wooden footbridge at the 1.4-mile mark. The trail is relatively flat for the next .5 mile.
Up to this point, you’ll note the sounds of cars motoring east and west along four-lane Route 7. From this point on, it gets much more quiet on the hike.
You’ll cross over Spout Run at the 2.6-mile mark. It’s an easy water crossing with plenty of stable rocks to hopscotch across to the other side of the trail.
There’s also a small cascading waterfall. In warm weather months, this would be a nice spot to take off your shoes and enjoy a splash in the cool water.
Once across Spout Run, the Appalachian Trail jogs to the left (note the double blaze) and it’s time for a big climb. Get ready to ascend more than 400 feet.
You’ll complete this climb at the 3.2-mile mark. It’s only a .6-mile ascent, which isn’t too bad. At the top, there’s also a primitive camp site.
Then, it’s a .6-mile descent until you cross one more stream. You’ll see a sign for Sam Moore Shelter and Sawmill Spring at the 3.8-mile mark.
Sam Moore Shelter
Follow the sign to Sam Moore Shelter, which is .1-mile off the Appalachian Trail. Cross a small wooden footbridge and you are at the hiking shelter.
You’ll first see a picnic pavilion (really, just one covered picnic table). There is a small fire ring to the left of the picnic table. Up the hill to the right is a privy.
The log cabin-style lean-to shelter is just beyond the picnic table. In front is a stone fire pit with logs on all sides that serve as benches.
Inside is a log book on the wall. It’s fun to flip through to read the notes and trail updates from those who had passed through in previous months.
The trail shelter is a good spot to re-fuel and re-hydrate. Once finished, re-trace your steps to the parking lot. Your hike is complete at the 7.7-mile mark.
The hike to the Sam Moore Shelter took me nearly four hours to complete, including time spent snacking and flipping through the shelter log book.
The Sam Moore Shelter is one of 62 Appalachian Trail shelters in Virginia. It’s also now the 15th shelter I’ve been able to visit along the hiking trail.
While the hike to Bears Den Overlook can be busy, you will see few, if any, hikers on the rest of the trail hike to the Sam Moore Shelter.
This section of the Appalachian Trail is maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. If you like this hike, consider volunteering or making a donation.
Hungry for more? Take a look at 15 of the best hikes near Bluemont, Virginia to find a few more hikes to add to your must-do hiking list.