Big Run Loop Trail Circuit

Description: First, forgive me for not having more photos posted for this hike. This is not meant to imply that this is a "less than worthy hike". When I scouted this circuit I combined it with the Doyles River Loop described on this site. After the starting point at the vista I put the camera away until I reached the waterfalls of the above mentioned hike. While there are no cascading falls or grand vistas this is, none the less, a very rewarding trek. This has got to be some of the healthiest forests in the park. There was no sign of blight or fire anywhere. The trail takes you deep into a a hollow though a series of long switchbacks to the point that you don't realize you'll have to climb back out some 1000 feet in elevation to get back to the top. It's also a route that apparently isn't heavily traveled so you can expect some solitude throughout the course of this 5.9 mile moderate loop except for the portion of the AT that is part of the Doyles River loop.

Google Custom Directions

Special Note: Google Maps and other on-line mapping programs might suggest you use old fire roads that are no longer accessible by automobile. Use a real map to confirm your route. This trailhead is just south of Mile Post 81 on Skyline Drive. Additional parking is just north on the opposite side of the drive at the Doyles River Trailhead Parking Area.



Printable/Downloadable Map

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Zipped National Geographic. TOPO! GPS and Universal GPX Files

GPS Text File for Non-TOPO! Users




Trail Notes: From the overlook find the break in the stone wall with the trailhead post for the Big Run Loop Trail and a kiosk. Descend via a series of very long switchbacks. For a while you will be walking on a relatively flat intermediate ridge line. While it falls away from either side of the trail you can sense larger ridges around you. At 2.32 miles from the beginning cross the headwaters of Big Run and climb steeply a short distance to the southern terminus of the yellow blazed Big Run -Portal Trail. A short distance to downstream and to the right of this trail is a "No Camping" sign. This used to be the site of a shelter. To explore more pools along the run you can hike down this trail. TO complete the hike as described walk through this junction. You will still be on the Big Run Loop Tr but it will now be blazed yellow (Open to equestrians).

In a hew yards the trail will make a hard switchback to the left and begin a long, steady climb along the side of a hill. As you approach the top the trail will again switchback. In 1.33 miles from the last trail junction arrive at a 4X trail intersection. To the right is the blue blazed Rockytop Trail. Straight ahead is the yellow blazed Madison Run Spur Trail. To the left is the continuation of the Big Run Loop Tr (Now blazed blue agai.). Turn left onto it.

The climb is a lot more gradual here. In 0.65 miles reach the junction with the AT. Turn left onto it. In 0.35 miles cross Skyline Drive. Soon you'll walk through the Doyles River Overlook with views of that drainage. In 1.20 miles from the drive crossing come to the intersection with the Doyles River Tr. Turn left onto it and in a few yards arrive at the Parking area for that trailhead. Turn left and walk down Skyline Drive to your starting point.

Critique This Outing


Name: Siva Srikanth                                                                                                  Hike: Big Run Loop Trail
Date: 05/01/10                                                                                                          Rating: 5

Critique: This trail is the best maintained trail that I have been on in the Shenandoah National Park. We started at the Big Run Overlook and went counter clockwise. The descent down is like walk in the park, literally, as you are walking on a smooth trail between bushes. No rocks to deal with. As you are going uphill on the Big Run Portal trail you realize how far you have gone down (maybe 1000 feet). This part of the trail had good vistas and rich in wild flowers - wild azaleas and irises. We continued to Madison Run Fire Road and got on the AT at Brown's Gap parking towards Doyles River Parking. It took us 2hours 31 minutes for the loop which is close to 7 miles. The reason for this good timing was the bugs. My friend and I forgot our bug spray and paid for it. I consider this hike "a must do".


Name: Richmond Hiker                                                                                              Hike: Big Run Loop Trail
Date: 7/ 27/08                                                                                                           Rating: 3

Critique: This is a nice short day hike. The uphill portions were not bad at all. The only reason I did not give this hike a 5 would be a lack of a lot of nice vistas or waterfalls, although there were tons of wild blueberries to eat. The biggest problem I had with this trail was the large number of black bears I encountered. Within 20 minutes of leaving the overlook, I stumbled upon a black bear 20 yards away. 30 minutes after that I came across a much larger bear who stood up on its hind legs. That absolutely terrified me. Would make a great winter hike with the leaves off the trees and bears hibernating.


Name: Natasha                                                                                                           Hike: Big Run Loop Trail
Date: 1/13/07                                                                                                            Rating: 4

Critique: An excellent afternoon hike. Took about 2 1/2 hours with a steady pace and a few stops. I found the descent to be on the steeper side and wouldn't want to try this hike in reverse. The climb out of the valley wasn't bad at all. It did get the heart pumping but the long switchbacks made it a nice steady climb. Because we did this hike with the leaves off the trees, there were plenty of nice views to be had of the ridges up around you as you hike. It was neat seeing the overlook where we parked and just how far down into the valley we went. One could make this hike longer by heading down to the Madison Run Fire Road and the Browns Gap Parking area and then taking the AT from there to the Doyles River Parking area. Overall, a nice hike, easily done in a few hours that is definitely more secluded with nice terrain.

Note to MRHYKER: The directions to the trailhead are incorrect. They are to another trail. But your directions in the description to the overlook were correct and the trailhead was easy to find.

MRHyker Note: Oops! My bad! That was the waypoint for the Doyle River Loop trailhead I did on the same day. It's fixed now.


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