Kennedy Peak

  • Highlights: Great views, Massanutten Mountain Trail
  • Distance: 5.2 miles out and back
  • Elevation Change 791 feet
  • Trail Surface: Dirt with rocky sections
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate (distance, elevation gain, rocky sections)
  • Trailhead Parking: Edith’s Gap, state route 675; search Google maps for “Edith’s Gap launch area”
  • Website: AllTrails
  • Beer Pairings: Swover Creek Farm Brewery—Nut Brown Ale & Rye IPA

The Hike:

On a gorgeous weekend in October, we knew Shenandoah National Park would be very crowded. We planned a hiking weekend using Strasburg VA as our home base. As we drove by SNP early on a Friday morning, there were already over 20 cars waiting to enter at Thornton Gap. We were amazed at the lack of crowds on three great hikes in the George Washington National Forest.

First up was Kennedy Peak on the Massanutten Mountain Trail. The parking area has space for 5-6 cars so arrive early. Edith’s Gap is a popular spot for hang gliding and the views from the parking area are pretty amazing.

Facing the road, the trailhead is about 20 yards to the right. The trail is well marked and well maintained. The trail surface is rocky—very rocky in some sections. Follow the orange-blazed Massanutten Mountain Trail over the rocks. 

The initial climb is gradual until you reach the sharp switchback to the left. The trail narrows and the rocks and grade both increase. At 2.3 miles, reach a trail junction. Bear right on the white-blazed trail to the summit. The rocks really become intense and this is the steep section. There are several partial views to the east as you climb—the best is yet to come.

At the summit is an observation tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Climb the tower for some incredible panoramic views. To the east is Shenandoah National Park. In the Shenandoah Valley below, three bends of the South Fork Shenandoah River are visible. To the south and west, the mountains of the George Washington National Forest were a blaze of colorful fall foliage.

We enjoyed 30 minutes of solitude on the summit of Kennedy Peak. It’s hard to leave this spot. Return down the white-blazed spur trail and turn left on the orange-blaze trail to return to your vehicle. 

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing: 

Hawksbill Brewing Co. in Luray is the shortest distance to a cold beer. However, we were heading in the opposite direction and visited Swover Creek Farm Brewery. Located about 30 minutes from the trailhead, they have indoor and outdoor seating, really good pizzas, disc golf, and they grown their own hops.

Pete really liked the Nut Brown Ale (5.9 ABV). The toffee and caramel notes and a smooth finish made for a refreshing ale on a cool autumn day. Kathy liked the Rye IPA (7.2% ABV). This is a smooth IPA and she likes a little bite of bitterness with her IPA. Relaxing on the front porch of the brewery with a cold beer was a great place to end our day.

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