Petites Gap to Cornelius Creek Shelter – Wildflower Row
On Saturday, I joined a group of six other hikers (mostly from the Charlottesville/Potomac Appalachian Trail Club area) for a hike along the Appalachian Trail. We started at Petites Gap which is Mile Post 71 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We hiked about 7.3 miles on the AT, then we went 1 mile down Apple Orchard Falls Trail to Apple Orchard Falls. From there, we backtracked 0.5 miles up Apple Orchard Falls Trail. Next we cut across Apple Orchard Road 1 mile to Cornelius Creek Trail. We ascended 0.6 miles to get back to the AT. Finally, we hiked 1.6 miles down the AT to the Cornelius Creek Shelter. We ended back up at the Blue Ridge Parkway at Mile Post 80.5.
This section of trail had it all– views, waterfalls, wildflowers. It offered so much, it felt like 4-5 different hikes combined into one. Some many features of this section are described below:
View of Devil’s Marbleyard
As we ascended through Thunder Ridge Wilderness, we pass a rock outcropping with a views of Devil’s Marbleyard. It’s quite a different perspective than Mike E and I had a few weeks ago at the Marbleyard.
Thunder Ridge Overlook
Also accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway, we passed by an overlook near the high point of Thunder Ridge.
As we neared the summit of Apple Orchard Mountain, we passed under a boulder balancing precariously above the trail.
Ken, with remarkable faith, sits on top of the Guillotine with the Appalachian Trail below
Apple Orchard Summit
Our passage took us to the summit of Apple Orchard Mountain. At 4225 feet, this is the highest point the trail reaches in some time. Northbound hikers would have go to 1000 miles to New Hampshire to reach a higher elevation. Meanwhile Southbound hikers would need to go 600 miles.
Apple Orchard Mountain was named for the trees at the top. They are not apple trees, rather they are red oaks that have been twisted and deformed by wind and ice. To the locals, the trees appeared to be a deserted orchard. Thus the name.
The summit sports more than trees and great views. An FAA air traffic radar tower is present up there as well.
Apple Orchard Falls
Our side trek took us to beautiful 150-foot Apple Orchard Falls.
Apple Orchard Falls
Black Rock Overlook
One of our final stops of the journey was Black Rock Overlook which provides outstanding views, including Peaks of Otter to the left.
Peaks of Otter (Flat Top) from Black Rock
Last, but not least, our hike provided us with a steady stream of wildflower viewing opportunities. The Appalachian Trail Guide to Central Virginia describes this section well.
This area is famous for its spring flowers– acres of large flowered trillium, being crowded by mayapple, as well as a showing of bloodroot, showy orchids, large-flowered bellwort, mountain lily-of-the-valley, blue cohosh, and rattlesnake plantain (an orchid).
However, we met a thru hiker named Biker Barb who improved upon the guidebook’s description.
It is like walking through a botanical garden.
Biker Barb was right. Our journey provided such a variety and high quality of specimens, it very well could have been a botanical garden.
It was a wonderful and fulfilling journey. Many thanks to Jere Bidwell for organizing this trip and inviting me!!!
Entry filed under: Appalachian Trail, Apple Orchard Falls, Apple Orchard Mountain, Black Rock, Blueridge Parkway, Devil's Marbleyard, Hiking, Jack in the Pulpit, Jere Bidwell, Mayapple, Mountain Laurel, Peaks of Otter, Pink Lady Slipper, Rhododendron, Spiderwort, The Guillotine, Thunder Ridge, Trillium, Wildflowers.