37th Birthday Hike – Appalachian Trail VA-55 to Jim and Molly Denton Shelter

March 26, 2012 at 1:00 am 4 comments

This year for my annual birthday hike, Ryan Somma and I introduced eight-month old Sagan to the Appalachian Trail! After some research, I found there was an AT crossing just an hour away from our home! The trail crosses VA-55 and under I-66 in Linden, Virginia. We hiked from the VA-55 trailhead southbound in Manassas Gap to the Jim & Molly Denton Shelter and then turned around for a six mile round trip.

Trail Overview
The trailhead at VA-55 is well marked with a nice prominent sign announcing it is the Appalachian Trail. You cross over Goose Creek on a bridge and then you have a nice wooden walkway to keep your feet dry during flooding season. Almost immediately you cross over some railroad tracks and then you begin a pleasant ascent. I say pleasant because I found the grade and the switchbacks to all be quite manageable, even carrying an eight month old. There are rocky portions, but nothing too severe or trecherous. The trail starts to flatten out and you enter a large field reminiscent of Grayson Highlands.

Manassas Gap Hike - Trailhead
The VA-55 Trailhead

Manassas Gap Hike - Vicky and Sagan on Rocky Trail
Some Rocky Portions– But Not Too Bad

Manassas Gap Hike - Ryan and Henry Walk Through Field
The Field (Facing Northbound)

The trail reenters the woods, passes close to the homes of some individuals I now envy dearly and crosses over Fiery Run Road. There are some slight ups and downs and a couple of creek crossings before you hit upon the Jim & Molly Denton Shelter. This shelter is nicknamed “The Hiker’s Hilton” and with good cause. It is quite a fancy shelter, featuring large adirondack chairs… and a rain barrell shower!

Manassas Gap Hike - Vicky and Sagan Come Up Hill
Wouldn’t Be Nice to Live Here?

Manassas Gap Hike - Henry on Moss Rocks
Henry on a Creek Crossing

Manassas Gap Hike - Sagan Practices Walking at Denton Shelter
Sagan and Ryan at Jim & Molly Denton Shelter

Manassas Gap Hike - Family Portrait 2
Family Portrait at Denton Shelter

I’m sorry to report that I didn’t pay that much attention to the dormant trees we were passing. I know from the Virginia Hiking, Manassas Gap South video that this section homes Sassafras and the field has remnants of an old Apple Orchard. We did document the first spring activity of a couple of trees and were surprised by one lone daffodil who made a home in the middle of the woods.

Manassas Gap Hike - Seeds
Seeds Just South of the Field

Manassas Gap Hike - Lone Daffodil
Lone Daffodil

Although we saw a hawk on our drive to the trailhead, fauna sightings were pretty scarce this hike. Ryan did catch a shot of a frog at a creek crossing south of Firey Run Road. Finally, like my 35th Birthday Hike we were serenaded by spring peepers near the end of our journey.

Manassas Gap Hike - Frog - (Cropped)

When I lived in Blacksburg, Virginia, I had many nearby Appalachian Trailheads to choose from. My options are more limited here in Occoquan Virginia, but I have to say the trailhead closest to me is most satisfying. There is a whole lot to see in just three miles.

More pictures of our Appalachian Trail Hike from VA-55 to Denton Shelter can be found on my Flickr site.

Appalachian Trail – VA-55 to Jim & Molly Denton Shelter

Length: 6 miles round trip

Elevation Gain: ~500 feet

Directions from I-66 West Bound

From I-66, take Exit 13

Turn left off the ramp

Turn left onto VA-55 East

In roughly 2.5 miles there is a parking lot to your right (at the intersection of VA-725)

Entry filed under: Appalachian Trail, Hiking.

6 Year Blogiversary Sagan’s First Appalachian Trail Hike

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Shoeless  |  March 27, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    That is so AWESOME that you have Sagan out on the trail that young! Never too early to get them started!

  • 2. Wilderness Escapades  |  April 1, 2012 at 6:42 am

    Sagan looks like he is having a great time on the trail!

  • 3. Sassymaddy  |  April 2, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Awesome blog! We did this hike yesterday. Started at 55 and turned around at the shelter. Gorgeous day with dog and we had a 9 month in tow! LOL Thanks for sharing!

  • […] Birthday Hike 2011, I hiked with our first son squirming in my belly. Birthday Hike 2012, that son took his first assisted steps on the Appalachian Trail. Birthday Hike 2013, I was pregnant with my second son while I watched my first one run around the […]


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