Day Hikes around Beagle Gap || Shenandoah National Park

Near perfect conditions will be the way I will remember this day in early April. The view was clear down to the Shenandoah Valley and you could see back to Charlottesville, VA. This hike was a daughter and Dad day hike and she had asked to keep it shorter than the Doyle River Loop we did back in October.

I planned to enter the park in the South District and head north only around 5-7 miles which would put us at Beagle Gap. From there we would be able to get in two short day hikes and would not spend a lot of time driving up the Parkway to get to a trailhead.

Beagle Gap sits between Bear Den Mountain and Little Calf Mountain. What's cool about this area that both sides of the Skyline Drive are meadows. This area was part of the Royal Orchard.

Lower Meadow Bear Den Mountain at Bagle Gap
The lower meadow of Bear Den Mountain overlooking the town of Waynesboro Virginia

Our first leg of our day hike would take us up to the top of Bear Den Mountain via the Appalachian Trail. This area of the trail is not in Shenandoah National Park but in the Appalachian Trail Park. At the top of Bear Den Mountain is the location of two radio antenna farms.  

Illegal Camp Fire Site Bear Den Mountain
illegal campfire
On our way up there was a side trail that took us to some rocks. As you can see in the picture above some idiot made an illegal campfire. They did a good job of covering up the spot... But as you can see the small tree did sustain some damage. This was a very bad spot for a campfire due to all the pine needles. Last year the Rocky Mount Fire took place 16 April 2016 and was the 2nd largest fire in the parks 90-year history which burned 10,326 acres. I am sure that fire was caused by humans.

Family Picnic Site of what use to be the Royal Orchard

Back in the mid 90's you could see down in the valley from this location. This spot is just off the AT and the radio towers are behind me. There are about four old tractor seats at this location which makes a great place for lunch. The owners of what was the Royal Orchard use to come to this spot for family picnics and to watch fireworks.

Steel Table at the Royal Orchard site Bear Den Mountain
Time to make lunch

I don't know how many times you are going to find a half-inch steel table in the mountains, but we found one here and we used it to make our lunch. My daughter likes backpacking meals and she has a fun time helping fix our meal.

Royal Orchard apple tree Shenandoah National Park
Appletree bloom

The old apple trees from the Royal Orchard are just starting to bloom.

The second leg of our hike takes us up to Little Calf Mountain. Just before getting to this point we met our first thru-hiker of the season. He had started out on his thru-hike on 10 February and had just entered into the South District of the park. If you have a new PATC map of this section. the trail on the map does not match what is on the ground. This is not a big issue but just something to keep in mind. This also goes with some of the tracklogs and other online maps. Again not a big issue.

Little Calf Mountain Shenandoah National Park
Summit of Little Calf Mountain

From Little Calf Mountain I wanted to make our way to Calf Mountain Shelter because I knew there was a spring there and I wanted to use my Sawyer Mini filter to be able to get some mountain spring water. Sawyer Mini is an easy filter system to use. 

Spring at Little Calf Mountain Shelter Shenandoah National Park
Marking the way to the spring at Little Calf Mountain Shelter

The spring is in better shape than the sign. Depending on the time of the year and rainfall you will reach water running across the trail. This is not the spring. The spring has a white PVC pipe at the source.

Pictured below is a benchmark for the Appalachian Trail Park. I think by the end of the day we still hiked as far as we did in October... Whether you just hike Bear Den Mountain or Little Calf Mountain, both get short family hikes that give you a great place to stop and have lunch. 

Appalachian Trail survey marker Appalachian Trail Park
AT Survey Marker