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Hiking Shenandoah National Park, Fourth Edition

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Hiking Shenandoah National Park, Fourth Edition
A Falcon Guide: Where to Hike Series
By Bert and Jane Gildart
FalconGuides (2012)
An Imprint of Rowman & Littlefield
ISBN: 978-0-7627-6464-8

Reviewed by Boris Segel - May 26, 2015

The fourth edition of Hiking Shenandoah National Park is a superior guidebook to the various trails in the Shenandoah National Park that can be accessed from the Skyline Drive located in Virginia. Filled with hypsometry maps (maps that used colored tints to denote elevation), elevation charts of the hikes, full colored pictures, and detailed information about each hike, this guide is an excellent resource for anyone interested in hiking in the Shenandoah National Park. Several of the hikes in this book include sections of the Appalachian Trail. However, the full extent of the trail through the Shenandoah is not covered.

In all, this guide covers 59 different hikes. These hikes range from long and strenuous to short and easy, so there is sure to be at least one, if not several hikes in the area that will suit your specific desires. Toward the end of the book, in Appendix C, you'll find a handy 'Hike Finder' guide that has the hikes in this guide organized in topics such as Easy Day Hikes, Hikes with Children, Moderate Day Hikes, Strenuous Day Hikes, Backpacking Trips, Hikes with Great Views, History Hikes, and Hikes to See Waterfalls. This 'Hike Finder' makes it very easy to find just the right type of hike for your mood and time limits!

The hikes in this guide are organized by location, starting with the North District and covering Miles 0.0 to 31.5 on the Skyline drive. The guide then moves on to several Compton Gap Hikes (near mile marker 10.4), followed by a section on the Central District (miles 31.6 to 65.5. The South District, covering miles 65.5 to 105.4 is next, and the guide concludes with a bevy of hikes around the Loft Mountain Complex near mile marker 79.5.

Each 'hike' in this guide follows a similar format. The authors, Bert and Jane Gildart, have included the relevant section of a hypsometry map with the trail in question marked out, along with any intersecting trails. The location of the trail, its length and average time to hike the trail is also given, along with information about its level of difficultly, trail surface, and expected traffic. Additional notes, such as where you can get topographical maps of the trails are included, as well as information such as whether or not dogs are allowed on the trail. Most important, the authors provided detailed instructions on how to find the trail head. A chart with the elevation of the trail is included. A detailed overview of the trail is provided that gives you information on what you might see along the trail, hints about things to look out for such as the locations of spectacular views are noted. Brief geological insights can also be found in a few of these descriptions. A short 'miles and directions' section is provided for each hike that lists key points and the milage at which you will encounter them. Each hike is also enhanced by the inclusion of one or more color photographs of sites you may see on the hike.

In addition to these detailed hike guides, the authors have also included background information about the park, tips on taking safe hikes, and other information that make this a guide that will please not only hikers, but naturalist, rockhounds, and anyone who is willing to venture out of their car while traveling along the Skyline Drive. For rockhounds in particular, while you are not suppose to collect rocks within the confines of the National Park, you can view many outstanding geological features while in the park. For instance, along the Riprap Trail (Hike #55) you can view huge blocks of relatively young Erwin quartzite (they are only about 500 million years old), whereas if you hike the Old Rag trail (Hike #12), you can see granite that is more than a billion years old! Basaltic columnar joint rock formations, Catoctin greenstone, phyllitic mudstone, mafic dikes, opferkessels (panholes), and many more geological features can be found throughout the Shenandoah National Park - you'll just need to put on your hiking books, grab a copy of this handy guide, and go exploring!

Related Reviews:

Maryland's Geology, by Martin F. Schmidt, Jr.
Schmidt provides a comprehensive, yet highly readable, over view of Maryland's geology and the geologic forces that sculpted its landscape.

The Modern Rockhounding and Prospecting Handbook, by Garret Romaine.
A fun to read, and use, guidebook on the ins-and-outs of rock, fossil, and meteorite collecting, as well as offering insights into prospecting for gold. This handy guide also offers tips on getting outfitted for your rock collecting expeditions, and displaying your new treasures once you get them home.

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