Saturday, May 1, 2010

Douthat State Park, VA - Beards Mountain/George Washington National Forest

DISTANCE: 13 miles (8 miles without George Washington National Forest)

TRAILHEAD: If staying in a cabin, simply walk uphill on the road towards the Guest Lodge where you will find the Guest Lodge trailhead at the top of the road.

A couple of things I wanted to do on this trip - hit the trail at the crack of dawn since I could practically walk out the cabin door onto a trail, and hike a bit into George Washington National Forest.

Head up the blue-blazed Guest Lodge trail. (My pedometer registered .2 miles here, the distance from the cabin to the trailhead, which is included in all of the distances.)
At 1 mile turn left on the yellow-blazed Mountain Top trail.

At 1.4 miles arrive at a scenic overlook of Douthat Lake. In this picture the sun was rising over Beards Mountain behind me but had not climbed high enough to light up Douthat Lake. The mountain ahead is where Hike 1 took place.

At 2 miles, turn left at an unmarked connector trail to reach George Washington National Forest. The log you see to the left is a step up for the unmarked trail. The yellow-blazed Mountain Top trail continues to the right. The unmarked trail is overgrown and hard to see at times but veer to the right going uphill and you will run into the light blue-blazed trail in George Washington National Forest at the top of the incline.

A note about George Washington National Forest: I can't speak for the entire forest since this is the only part I saw but the trails were terribly overgrown. They seem to be staked out for restoration and according to a mountain biker I ran into the following day, the trails are in very bad shape everywhere, he had checked into it and was told restoration was to take place with stimulus money received. Aside from that, according to the topo maps, I had thought the trail would be along the ridge of Beards Mountain. It was actually somewhat lower so there were no views at all until an overlook was reached over 2 miles out.

At this point I turned back around and backtracked to Douthat State Park where the trail are much better maintained and much more scenic. So in my opinion, you won't miss much by skipping that part George Washington National Forest. It wasn't awful, just not what I had expected. Subtract 5 miles from distances below if omitting GWNF.

At 6.4 miles reach the Douthat State Park boundry and follow the unmarked trail downhill, meeting back up with and turning left on the yellow-blazed Mountain Top trail.

A view to the east from the yellow-blazed Mountain Top trail:

At 8.2 miles turn right on the blue-blazed Buck Hollow trail.
At 9.3 miles turn left on the blue-blazed spur trail to an overlook of Douthat Lake.

If you have a dog along, this is what your dog might look like 2 days and 21 miles later...

She was OK, had a little power nap and we were off and running again. We both found this to be a very nice (and surprisingly less buggy) spot for a break.

Retrace your steps back to left on the blue-blazed Buck Hollow trail.
At 10.6 miles turn right on the white-blazed Wilson Creek trail.
At 11.5 miles turn right on the orange-blazed Ross Camp trail. You can turn left here, go a short distance, then turn right on the road and walk a much shorter distance along the road back to the cabins. We went right and took the longer, more scenic route.
At 12.2 miles turn left on the blue-blazed Guest Lodge trail.
At 13 miles, arrive back at cabin.

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