Hawksbill Summit

Luray, Virginia 22835

Hawksbill Summit

Hawksbill Summit Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"This loop hike to the summit of the park’s highest mountain offers spectacular views. The trail begins at the north end of Hawksbill Gap parking lot. A level spur trail about 100 yards long leads to the Appalachian Trail, which is marked with white blazes. Turn left (south) onto the AT and begin climbing. The trail is rocky, and as always, good hiking boots are recommended.

Toward the summit, foxtail blooms in great abundance; columbine also appears, as does a species of wild geranium. Several rock outcrops tilt upward, revealing layers that look
like a stack of pancakes. The area is one of outstanding natural splendor."

More Hawksbill Summit Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Best of the Appalachian Trail Day Hikes (Menasha Ridge Press)
Leonard M. Adkins & Victoria and Frank Logue
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"Hawksbill is not the tallest mountain in the Old Dominion (Mount Rogers has that honor), but it does have the distinction of being the loftiest peak within the boundaries of Shenandoah National Park. Unlike the long and involved climbs you must undertake to attain many other paramount pinnacles, Hawksbill is reached in a moderately easy ascent of less than 700 feet in elevation. Take the Hawksbill Trail from the parking lot and ascend through balsam fir and red spruce. At 0.7 mile make a right at a trail intersection to come to Byrds Nest Shelter 2 and Hawksbill’s summit at 0.8 mile. Continue to the stone-walled outlook for the almost-360° panorama. Beneath you are Timber and Buracker Hollows, which funnel East Hawksbill Creek to the town of Luray, some 3,000 feet below. The view west is of Page Valley and Massanutten Mountain. To the north is Stony Man, to the east is Old Rag, and to the south are Spitler Hill and Naked Top."
AMC's Best Day Hikes in The Shenandoah Valley (Appalachian Mountain Club Books)
Jennifer Adach and Michael R. Martin
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"Challenge yourself with a short, steep climb to Shenandoah’s highest peak. The reward: great views and a return route that’s all downhill. The distance may be short, but the first mile of this hike is certainly a challenge as you gain more than 600 feet to reach the summit of Shenandoah’s highest peak. Small parking lots are on either side of Skyline Drive, but the trailhead is on the western side, marked by an informational sign."
Hiking Shenandoah National Park (Falcon Guides)
Bert & Jane Gildart
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"A loop hike to the summit of the park’s highest mountain offers spectacular views. At 4,051 feet, Hawksbill is the park’s highest peak. It’s also a good place to see birds. In fact, much of Virginia’s endangered peregrine falcon history has been recorded at Hawksbill and on several other surrounding park mountains. From 1989 to 1993 and from 2000 to 2015, SNP Natural Resources staff and project partners successfully restored over 150 peregrine falcons to the park. The goal of this project is to boost peregrine falcon numbers in the Central Appalachians, where peregrine recovery has been slow. This restoration work directly supports the conservation and long- term recovery efforts for peregrine falcons in the park and throughout the Central Appalachians."
Top Trails Shenandoah National Park (Wilderness Press)
Johnny Molloy
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"This is an easy, favorite hike that starts at a high elevation and gets to the top of things in Shenandoah. Along the way you enter a “sky island” of Canadiantype forest. Outcrops below the summit are just warm-ups for the nearly 360-degree view from the summit of Hawksbill. The Upper Hawksbill Trailhead is on the west side of Skyline Drive at milepost 46.7. From the Thornton Gap Entrance Station, take Skyline Drive south for 15.2 miles to reach the parking area, on your right."

Hawksbill Summit Trip Reports

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One of my favorite day hikes in Shenandoah NP, with barely-perceptible elevation changes on a well-kept trail, great views, and a lovely picnic spot at the top.
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After arriving at the first set of 30+ feet falls, I whipped out my tripod and camera and set to work capturing the abundant flow of water cascading over rock ledges on film. There’s something about seeing water rushing headlong over any obstacle, creating a white mist or film over rocks. After the first set of falls, I walked a few feet further, guessing another set would reveal themselves as the water disappeared into empty space before me. Sure enough, there was the second cascade. These falls equal 63 feet altogether but are broken into two sets.
Along the lower area of falls are rock ledges on the left hand side of the river, rising about 20 feet vertically. These “cliffs” are up on the bank some 80 feet above the river. Anyways, along a 100-foot length, small streams and drips of water fell over the edge, creating a long thin sporadic waterfall of sorts. This would only be observed during wet weather season. This shimmering tumble created a fairy tale setting for deep woods tales.


Hawksbill Summit Photos

Trail Information

Nearby City
800 feet
Elevation Gain
Trail Type
Skill Level
2-3 hours
National Geographic Trails Illustrated Topo Map 228; Map 10, Appalachian Trail and Other Trails in Shenandoah National Park, Central District (PATC, Inc.)
Local Maps

Trail Log