Sunday, November 27, 2011

Five Meadows Circuit (George Washington National Forest, Conicville, VA)

Stumbles Recommended!

Over the course of this moderately-challenging hike, the Five Meadows Circuit (8.2 miles) passes through five meadows of at least three types, with views to boot.   Alaska, The Hammer, and I hiked it in mid-August, and the lushness of summer is definitely the time to see this area. 

Five Meadows Circuit
(Google directions here)
This hike follows a lollipop formation, with the loop climbing to the West Virginia border, following North Mountain ridge, and descending FR 252 for the return.
Click on map to enlarge.
Map Points 1 to 10:  The "trail" begins at a parking area next to the likely-closed gate for FR 252.  From here, walk 1.2 miles along the fire road to the yellow-blazed Laurel Run trail, and turn right.

Map Points 10 to 23:  Laurel Run climbs steadily but never sharply, through new-growth forests and two grassy meadows, for 1.8 miles to the West Virginia border.  The second opening in particular offers nice views to the east.  Shortly before Laurel Run ends at the border, you will pass what they'd call a "pothole" in the Pacific Northwest: a small, stagnant pond.  In other words, bring your own water.

Map Points 23 to 31:  Laurel Run dead-ends at a forest road on the West Virginia border.  At this point, make a sharp left onto the well-marked North Mountain Trail, which is red-blazed.  The next 2.2 miles are the real highlight of the loop: varied terrain, meadows, and views.  One minute, you'll be in shaded brush.  The next, a rocky outcrop offers an excellent vista.  Then a grassy meadow.  Then a fern enclosure.  It's a good time. 

Map Points 31 to 40:  The North Mountain Trail will intersect the purple-blazed Stack Rocks Trail.  Switch to the purple blazes and head downhill for 2.2 miles.  The trail will be steep at points, and caution should be used in slick conditions.  

Map Points 40 to 46:  The Stack Rocks trail will intersect FR252.  Turn left and walk 1.9 miles along the road back to the parking lot.  Along the way, you'll pass a few clearcuts - a reality of hiking in a national forest.  We didn't stop to ponder much, given that we were caught in a torrential summer thunderstorm by this point.  At least it is a flat, easy stroll back to the car.

Logistics:  The parking area right before the (likely closed) gate on FR 252.  Directions are here.  No special considerations are needed for this hike, other than to take the basic safety precautions that you 
would in any situation.