Southern Traverse - IMBA Epic

 18 votes

36.4 Miles 58.5 Kilometers



3,946' 1,203 m


-3,970' -1,210 m


3,487' 1,063 m


1,650' 503 m



Avg Grade (2°)


Max Grade (15°)



Big mountain singletrack on the east coast - 3,000 feet of climbing for courage and endurance.

Leslie Kehmeier


If you're going to tackle the Southern Traverse, the rigors of boot camp may be the best preparation. With 3,000 feet of climbing over 36 epic miles, this ride promises to test your courage and endurance. The backbone of the Southern Traverse is the south end of the Shenandoah Mountain Trail, an 11 mile singletrack ridge ride. Riding north to south is the best way to enjoy the sweetest of singletrack descents.

The Traverse is the southern most section of the Shenandoah Mountain Trail located in the George Washington National Forests Dry River and Deerfield Ranger Districts. The trail runs along the spine of the massive Shenandoah Mountain, a massive 90+ miles long. It serves as the border of Virginia and West Virginia for the northern most 60 miles of its ridge.

Need to Know

The ride is one that requires commitment once you get to the ridge of the Shenandoah Mountain Trail. The bailout option is at Jerkemtight Rd, about 14 miles into the ride. Jerkemtight is a USFS road that is steep and rough, a 5 mile connection to Route 629. This bailout is really only suitable for emergencies since you'll be missing 5 miles of sweet singletrack descent.

Local Services:
Shenandoah Mountain Touring offers tours and shuttle service for the trail.

The general store in Deerfield is a welcome stop for a refreshing beverage near the end of the ride.


This Epic route starts with a 4 mile climb on Benson Run Rd (aka USFS Rd 173) out of Deerfield Valley. The fire road climb is a nice and steady grade that climbs 1,300 ft to a saddle where you'll pick up the Shenandoah Mountain Trail heading south (left). Continue climbing on the trail towards the summit of The Bump at 3634 feet. This section of singletrack has long straights that are tight, twisty and smooth with some super technical rock gardens scattered throughout.

The only intersection to worry about along the route is the Jerkemtight juncture. There are 2 different singletrack trails heading off the west side of the ridge and 3 jeep trails heading in different directions. Look for the 2 singletrack trails. The Shenandoah Mountain Trail is the one that heads more southerly. Marshall Draft trail is the one that drops straight down the western slope towards sugar tree road.

Continue on the Shenandoah Mountain Trail as it drops a bit to meet up with the ridge again. The route then skirts around North Sister Knob at an elevation of 3,292 feet and then coils up onto South Sister Knob at 3088. From here you'll begin a screaming 1,100 foot descent, some of the sweetest you've ever experienced. The trail ends at Scotchtown Draft - Route 627.

At this point you should take a break and try to stop smiling to keep your face from cramping.

Take a left on Route 627 and another left on Route 629 and enjoy about 10 miles of beautiful rolling country roads back to the trailhead.


Rate Featured Ride


4.0 from 18 votes

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May 26, 2017
Durelle Scott
Apr 29, 2017
hugh hill
Jan 2, 2016
Alex Bernard
36.4mi — 5h 09m
Aug 3, 2014
tom hilbert
May 18, 2014
Jonathan Yates
Major mechanical on buddies — 5h 05m
Apr 17, 2014
Chase Smythe
36.4mi — 6h 00m
Mar 15, 2014
Marc Genberg
Mar 15, 2014
Karen Talley Mead
36mi — 4h 55m

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  4.0 from 18 votes


  4.0 from 18 votes
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Great ride! A friend and I rode it today and we are cooked. It delivered exactly as the description above, and just what we wanted--a long climb to warm us up, some pretty fast singletrack (with a sprinkle of rock gardens) high on the ridge and the reward of a fast and mostly smoothe downhill (narrow in a few spots) for miles to wrap up the off road half. Here's a few bonus observations and caveats too. We arrived at the parking area (just past the cattle gate you close on the fire road) after a pretty heavy rain that had just stopped, yet the fire road and the single track was not too muddy to climb. It drains well. That said, much of the single track, when not on the very top of the ridge (most of it) runs cross slope, and the rain made it slightly slippery on some rocks, making paying close attention more important. A slip off the trail would not end the day but it could require a rapid dismount. But the most notable hangup for the otherwise flawless route was some sections especially on sunny saddles (of the mountain) that were choked by healthy growths of prickly flora (at any given time: stinging nettles, blackberries, locust trees, greenbriar, thistle, and I'm sure a few others). These prickly passages are few and far between, but when you find them you may curse once or thrice (at least in early August this year). Next time I might bring a little machete to help open the thickets. Enjoy this IMBA Epic! I did! Aug 10, 2013

FS Road 173 could be easily missed as you are driving into this trail, so keep a sharp eye out. Once you find it, you drive up and there are two gates, the TH is through the gate on the left. Park just inside, you aren't going to want to climb the road all the way to the TH at the end of the ride. For those wondering about camping, there is dispersed camping (aka no toilets, running water, or any other amenities) available near the trail head. We camped just inside the right hand gate (aka the gate that does NOT go to the TH). There were at least two sites there. We didn't see or hear anyone else. If you camp, please remember to carry out your trash and bury any human waste you leave behind. Nobody wants to find that stuff or have their dog roll in it. Finally, don't miss the view from the knob about half way down the final descent. Its a short hike on a side trail right as you come around a left hander. Jun 9, 2014

As of 9/17/2015, Trail is still there but very overgrown + some downed trees. Lower half of downhill section fairly clear, fast and fun. Sep 17, 2015

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