Tuscarora Trail between Elizabeth Furnace and US340, VA Backpacking Trip

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This 14.7 mile linear backpacking trip took place Memorial Day weekend, May 29-30, 2004. Participants were Frank Maida, Charlie Johnson and myself.

Saturday, 5/29- The weather looked good for this Memorial Day weekend. Initially, it was Frank M and myself scheduled to do this backpacking trip, the second weekend in a row. Then on the way to Elizabeth Furnace, within the Massanutten Mountain area of the George Washington-Jefferson National Forest in VA, our starting point, Charlie J called me on the cell phone to let me know that he was on his way to join us. That was great as we would now be a threesome. I arrived at around 8:15AM, the others arriving by 8:30. The cicadas were buzzing away in this area. It sounded like an army of weed whackers nearby. We shuttled my car to the lone parking space near the intersection of VA628 and US340, then we were on the trail by 10AM.

The first 2 miles would have us pass the Elizabeth Furnace itself, a neat piece of history, then ascend 1400 feet up the western slope of the Massenutten East Mountain range. We would be hiking the Tuscarora as well as the recently renamed Massenutten Trail (formerly Massenutten East and West Trails that were finally connected to each other a few years ago) for over half of this hike. We finally reached the ridge and intersected the Shawl Gap Trail.

The trail surface was rocky and not even but was well maintained. We would then spend the next 3 miles ridging. We would descend a bit from the top of the mountain when there were rocks on top to the east side and then occasionally get back on top of the ridge. The views along this stretch were fantastic! We could see the valley below as well as the opposite ridge that Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park were on. We met a few day hikers and a very nice lady who was trail running a 22 mile stretch. We met her at around the 18 mile mark for her and she did not appear exhausted at all. Amazing. We then intersected the Sherman Gap Trail. The trail the next 3 miles would be a pleasant down of about 450 feet towards Little Crease Shelter.

If you plan to do this hike, there is a campsite area at around the 7 mile mark. It sounded like there was water there (though we did not physically inspect the area). It's an isolated area and not close to any roads. You may want to consider camping here and making this a 7 mile one day, 7 mile the next hike. The next few paragraphs will explain why.

We arrived at Little Crease Shelter at around 4PM that afternoon. We had made very good time that day. It was really nice to get to our campimg destination early as we had time to leisurely set up our tents, cook some food and start a fire. Frank M did his customary excellent job of creating a first class campfire. We noticed 2 daypacks and sleeping bags in the shelter but no occupants. We wondered where they were.

About 6PM a lone backpacker came in and informed us that a party of 8 was about to arrive. They did and we had some nice conversations. They were young urbanites from DC that had come to enjoy the woods for the weekend. There were 4 couples and they brought a guitar and alot of beer. We were concerned about them and the noise factor. However, they said that they would be quiet and gave us each a beer. Hey, that was all I needed to be happy. The 2 occupants of the shelter returned at dusk. They were 2 young men from MD. They brought food and beer as well. A bit later, a couple from MD came in as well. All 3 groups had parked in the parking area off of VA678 and hiked a mile in to the shelter. The group of 8 did party hearty until about midnight, which effected our sleep. Also, a whiporwill perched itself above Charlie's tent and proceeded to seranade us all night. Lastly, the 4 dogs that the group of 8 brought in with them barked enough during the night to keep us awake. So, sleep was kept to a minimum that night.

Sunday, 5/30- Sunday morning was a bit humid but OK. It was a little cool last night but comfortable. We all got up around 6ish and were on the trail by around 8:30AM. We immediately had a 600 foot climb back up to the top of Massenutten Mountain East. At the top we would leave the Massenutten Trail and start the long descent to VA613. It was a pleasant down. Good views at the top and descent tread. This down was about 2 miles.

When we got to VA613, we took a short break, then hiked about 2.5 miles along this country road towards the Shenandoah River. It was a pleasant country stroll. We did experience some vehicular traffic. Probably a combination of people going to church as well as campers and canoeists returning from or going towards the Shenandoah River.

We reached the river around 10:30AM. Very good time. The trail, at this point, varied from the 1988 map and 1997 guidebook that I had. It immediately turned right after the Shenandoah River and continued along VA628 until the end of the hike. The map and guides had you continuing on VA613 to a short section of trail, which put you on VA629 and then on VA628. I'm not sure why this reroute occured but it resulted in a more gradual pull away from the river. Again, there was some fantastic scenary at and beyond the Shenandoah.

So we hiked the final 1.5 miles along VA628 and got back to my car before noon on that Sunday morning. We then shuttled my car back to the Furnace and Frank's and Charlie's trucks. We then said our goodbyes and got home at a decent hour.

This was a good hike. The Tuscarora, originally developed as a possible AT route in the 60's, was rustic, rocky and a good challenge. It's sad that this trail will probably never be totally off of roads due to development in the area. However, there are sections of this trail that make for a fantastic day hike or weekend backpacking trip. This section is definitely one of the latter.

Mike C

More Pictures

Group picture at Elizabeth Furnace, GW-JNF, VA
  Group picture at Elizabeth Furnace,
  GW-JNF, VA.  By Charlie Johnson
Little Passage Creek @ beginning of hike
  Little Passage Creek @ beginning
  of hike.  By Charlie Johnson

Cris-crossing trees along Little Passage Creek
  Cris-crossing trees along Little
  Passage Creek.  By Mike Calabrese
Scenic view from Tuscarora Trail
  Scenic view from Tuscarora Trail, VA
  By Charlie Johnson
'The Point' along the Shenandoah River
  'The Point' along the Shenandoah River.
  By Charlie Johnson
Little Crease Shelter- Tuscarora Trail, VA
  Little Crease Shelter- Tuscarora Trail,
  VA.  By Charlie Johnson
Big up first thing Sunday
  Big up first thing Sunday.
  By Charlie Johnson
Unique mailbox along VA613
  Unique mailbox along VA613.
  By Mike Calabrese


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