A Great Day Hike or Two Day Backpack Trip - Rockytop Trail and Big Run Portal Trail Circuit Hike.
14.2 to 14.6 miles. PATC Map 11 Shenandoah National Park, South
|Fall Views along the Rockytop Trail|
The Rockytop Trail is indeed just as it says, rocky in many places, though none of the trail is steep. In early August this trail goes by some magnificent blueberry bushes for great berry picking. But the bears like it too, so be sure to keep an eye out for them on the trail in late summer. There are plenty of places along the ridge for fine views of the Shenandoah Valley.
|Rocky footing along the Rockytop Trail. May see snakes in warm weather.|
Once you descend off Rockytop, the trail ends at the Big Run Portal Trail. This trail runs alongside Big Run, a large trout stream. Depending on the time of year, you can rock hop at the water crossings you will find (and there are around six of them). But in high water, you will need wading shoes. I find traditional Crocs work well, and the trail is flat enough that you could hike in your crocs to each water crossing until you get past the turn-off for the Patterson Ridge Trail.
|Big Run in the Big Run Wilderness|
Big Run is a beautiful stream and well worth some time if you wish to do some backpacking. Again bears have been sighted, so be sure to use bear proof technique with your food.
Once you reach the Big Run Link Trail, you can can complete the circuit by a modest hike of long switchbacks to return to the ridge. From there you can take the Rockytop Trail back to the AT and your car or use the Madison Run spur trail (directly across) to the fire road and return to your car that way. It is slightly shorter to go this way.
I have done this hike multiple times using the many trails in the system and rarely see anyone. So if getting out on your own and away from crowds for wilderness adventure is your style, check out the Big Run area.