Hightop Mountain

  • Highlights: Mountain views, AT, wildflowers
  • Distance: 3 miles out and back, optional extension to 6.4 miles
  • Elevation Change 935 feet or 1,891 feet with longer option
  • Trail Surface: Dirt with some rocky sections
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Trailhead Parking: Skyline Drive mile 66.7, Hightop Mountain parking area. Park entry fee required.
  • Website: AllTrails and Shenandoah National Park
  • Beer Pairings: Elkton Brewing Old Spotswood & Mercky Runoff Pale Ale

The Hike:

Hightop Mountain (3,587’) is the highest peak in Shenandoah’s South District. The summit can be reached either from the south or the north via the Appalachian Trail. The most popular climb to Hightop Summit is a 3-mile out and back hike which scales the northern side of the mountain.

From the Hightop Parking area, cross Skyline drive and follow the white-blazed AT southbound. As you enter the forest, the hike begins a gradual climb. In spring, trillium and other wildflowers are common in this area. Several large boulders line the trail and the climb becomes steeper. 

The first outlook appears at 1.4 miles. Continue hiking and reach the next viewpoint with expansive views. Massanutten Peak and the Shenandoah Valley lie before you. Take in the views and you can either return to the parking area for a 3-mile hike or continue southbound on the AT. By continuing on the AT, you you get to climb both sides of Hightop.

Hike Extension to Smith Roach Gap:

For a longer hike, continue southbound on the AT. At 1.6 miles, an unmarked spur trail leads to the official summit of Hightop. This was the site of a former fire tower; however, there are no views here. 

Return to the AT and continue southbound. Pass a spring at 1.7 miles which some thru-hikers claim is the best tasting water on the entire AT. The trail begins a gradual descent as you come down the south side of the mountain. A short spur trail on the right at 2.2 miles leads to  the Hightop AT shelter.

Reach Smith Roach Gap and Skyline Drive at 3.2 miles. To return to Hightop Mountain Parking area and your vehicle, retrace your steps and head north on the AT. 

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing: 

Elkton Brewing Company is located about 10 minutes from the trailhead. They have indoor and outdoor seating, pets are welcome outside, and they host food trucks and live music on weekends. 

Pete really liked Old Spotswood (8.0% ABV • 33 IBU), an English old ale with tones of molasses and a rich malty flavor. The brewers claim it is made from George Washington’s recipe. Kathy enjoyed Mercky Runoff (5.8% ABV), a New England Pale Ale brewed with Citra and El Dorado hops.

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe, be responsible, and leave no trace.