Brown path through the woods
Dickey Ridge

Beginning the Dickey Ridge Trail

Our first Dickey Ridge Trail hike was on a rainy Saturday in October. We arrived in the park late in the day, beginning our trek at 4:00 pm. The sky was grey, the earth, dank and our moods reflected the weather. Our black lab, Toro, died 10 days prior, and this was our first hike without him. His unexpected illness and subsequent death pierced our hearts and our emotions were still very raw.

We parked at the trailhead and opted to walk without packs. Our hike would not be a long one, walking out and back for two hours, aiming to beat the sunset. We stuffed our raincoat pockets with safety items and opened the Suburban hatch to retrieve Faith, our 8 year old girl. She refused to leave the vehicle, hunkering down and out of our arms reach. Her big brown eyes were sad and her body shook.

Walking with a broken heart

Faith, our rescued fearful girl, was bonded to Toro. He was her safety net, protector, mentor, cuddle buddy, play pal and hiking partner. Without Toro, she didn’t want to hike. My stomach clenched and I saw my husband swallow back tears as he finally coaxed her to jump to the ground. Her tail tucked under her belly and she pressed against my leg as we walked to the path. Her behavior was reminiscent of years prior and I feared that she would regress to past tendencies.

Man in orange raincoat, with brown dog standing on hind legs
Brian and Faith at the Dickey Ridge Trailhead

I had a glimmer of hope when she stood on hind legs, paws hugging my husband, her typical sign of affection whenever we stop along a trail. Her tail was not wagging, but she was at least trying. They posed for a photo and my husband managed a weak smile despite the sadness of the moment.

We walked as a unit, Brian at the front, Faith heeling on my left.

Silence. Tears. Sobbing.

The trail was nondescript, as I was lost in my own grief. A lot had happened in the past month: a nephew’s lost battle to cancer, our oldest son’s wedding, Toro’s brain tumor. We had been riding an emotional rollercoaster and all of the feelings erupted like a volcano spewing lava. My chest heaved and tears poured from my eyes.

After 45 minutes of hiking, Brian stopped moving.. A lone deer stood on the trail, framed by the tunnel of trees. She paused and watched us intently for several minutes. When she moved on, we resumed our walk.

Pausing to watch a deer

My tears stopped as I was deep in thought about the deer. Her stillness brought me peace. Her steadfast steps into the trees reminded me that life goes on and that we have been given the strength to navigate the good and the bad.

I looked down at Faith as she walked by my side. She returned my gaze, seeking both attention and approval. I stopped, squatted down and stroked her head. At that moment, I knew that she would be ok, and that I had worked through my grief. We, too, could move forward, like the deer.

Brown dog with white face and big eyes looking into the camera

Completing the Dickey Ridge Trail

After a warm meal in Front Royal, and a great sleep in a dog friendly hotel, we returned to the trail ready to hike 10 miles. We walked as a trio and by the end of the day, it felt almost normal. We knew that time would make it easier. Plus, our 6 month old puppy, Zinfandel, would soon be able to join us for shorter sections. That was an exciting prospect for all of us. We completed the Dickey Ridge Trail in December, with Zin as part of the crew and with much lighter hearts.

brown and black dog running on a brown grass in the woods
Faith and Zin playing in the woods

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord and exult in my saving God.
God, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of deer
    and enables me to tread upon the heights.

Habakkuk 3:18-19

Our 3 hikes on the Dickey Ridge Trail

Hike 1 – Dickey Trail out and back – 7.8 miles

Autumn leaves strewn on a wooden bridge and trail
Dickey Ridge Trail crosses a stream at .5 miles south of the trailhead

Parking is on the side of Skyline Drive, just north of the Shenandoah National Park entrance. The trail crosses a small stream at .5 miles and gradually climbs 1,100′ over the next 3.5 miles. This entire section is in the woods without views or overlooks. The path is easy to see and is well marked with blue blazes on the trees.

Click the green map name to connect with AllTrails and this custom map.

Hike difficulty classifications (link) 
Route typeOut and back
Trail difficulty level
Easy to moderate
Geographic locationShenandoah National Park, North Section
Trailhead parking optionsRoadside parking on Skyline Drive north of the SNP entrance.
Trail amenitiesNone
Elevation - trailhead604'
Elevation - highest peak1,779'
Elevation gain1,503'
Total mileage7.8 miles
Water sourcesCreek along the trail
HighlightsGentle trail; lots of deer
Water trickling over brown rocks and leaves

Hike 2 – Dickey Ridge – Snead Farm – Fox Hollow Loop – 10.55 miles

This loop is an undulating downhill path for about 8 miles. The elevation increases about 1,200′ over a 2.5 mile stretch, followed by a 600′ downhill stretch.

The hike begins at the Lands Run Gap parking area. After crossing Skyline Drive, take the Dickey Ridge Trail northbound (left), walking 2.3 miles to the intersection at Snead Farm Trail. Turn right onto Snead Farm Trail and follow the forest path to the old farm complex. The barn still remains, as does the foundations of the various buildings used until the 1950s. At mile 3.4, we turned right onto the Pump House Access Road, which leads, not surprisingly, to a pump house. This can easily be skipped. Click here for a SNP map of the area.

Walk the farm road another .4 miles and reconnect with the Dickey Ridge Trail. Turn right and walk .6 miles to the Fox Hollow marker, turning right again. Follow the Fox Hollow trail and until is joins Dickey Ridge. Pass the old Fox Family cemetery.

We turned right onto Dickey Ridge for a short out and back, to connect to the spot that we had turned around the day before. This can also be skipped by turning left onto the trail to return to the parking area.

There is a nice view point on Dickey Ridge, mile 7.9 on my map. Note that the map below was drawn via AllTrails. My recorded walk looks really wonky and added 5 miles to the total. (Feel free to check it out here.)

Follow Dickey Ridge Trail 4-5 miles back to the Lands Run Gap parking area. This distance depends on if you skip the little O/B section after Fox Hollow.

Hike difficulty classifications (link) 
Route typeLoop
Trail difficulty level
Moderate to strenuous (due to length and elevation total)
Geographic locationShenandoah National Park, North Section
Trailhead parking optionsParking lot at Lands Run Gap off Skyline Drive
Trail amenitiesNone
Elevation - trailhead2,006'
Elevation - highest peak2,432
Elevation gain1,955'
Total mileage10.5 miles
Water sourcesAt Dickey Ridge Visitor Center
HighlightsSnead Farm remnants, Fox cemetery, view of Signal Knob
Grey sky, blue mountains, dirt trail
View point from Dickey Ridge

Hike 3 – Dickey Ridge – Appalachian Trail – Springhouse Road Loop – 4.73 miles

Springhouse Road

Starting from the Lands Run Gap parking lot, walk approximately 2 miles southeast on Dickey Ridge Trail until it ends. On the return, turn north (right) onto the Appalachian Trail and then north west onto Springhouse Road to close the loop.

Marker for the spring

This is a lovely forest loop with about 600′ elevation climb. The loop goes around Carson Mountain, but there is not a view or trail that leads to its summit. The only water source is a small spring near the PATC building.

Hike difficulty classifications (link) 
Route typeLoop
Trail difficulty level
Moderate
Geographic locationShenandoah National Park, North Section
Trailhead parking optionsParking lot at Lands Run Gap off Skyline Drive
Trail amenitiesNone
Elevation - trailhead2,003'
Elevation - highest peak2,557'
Elevation gain1,102'
Total mileage4.73 miles
Water sourcesSpring near the shelter
HighlightsWell maintained forest trail; picnic tables and privy at the shelter
Stone shelter in a clearing
PATC cabin

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God-loving, healthy lifestyle enthusiast, mother, grandmother, animal obsessed and married to my best friend. Life is good!

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