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Southern Traverse - IMBA EPIC

 4.1 (27)
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Map Key

36.4 Miles 58.5 Kilometers



3,946' 1,203 m


-3,970' -1,210 m



Avg Grade (2°)


Max Grade (15°)

3,487' 1,063 m


1,650' 503 m



Minor Issues 3 days ago
Dry - lots of downed trees. some sections extremely leaf covered and slippery. History

Getting forecast...

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

Leslie Kehmeier

Dogs Unknown

Features -none-


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.

Note that as of summer 2018, there is little maintenance evident on this trail. Riding the trail during the growing season, or at least the summer months is probably a mistake for most. Be prepared to encounter large swaths of nettles, thorns, and bull thistles...with heights exceeding 6 feet and completely obscuring the trail. Lots of nettles along the rock slides as well, and there are a lot of rock slides especially on the western sides. You also won't have cell phone coverage except up on the ridges and oddly T-Mobile had the best coverage.


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Your Check-Ins


Mar 17, 2019
Ryan Nicholson
lots of leaves and blowdown trees. 36.4mi — 7h 21m
May 26, 2018
Scott Christman
Sweet 15.8mi
Oct 28, 2017
Akdabi Ingram
Sep 10, 2017
Joseph Rowe III
Awesome ride Get the road pull out of the way first The country store in Deerfield is out of business and closed Found a few wells and nice people 36mi — 5h 00m
Jul 25, 2017
wil chung
Check w Shenandoah Bicycle Co for info. If a recent race here, trail will have been cleared. 4 wks after a race, getting overgrown & 4 downed trees. 36.4mi — 5h 20m
May 26, 2017
Durelle Scott
Apr 29, 2017
hugh hill
Jan 2, 2016
Alex B
36.4mi — 5h 09m

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Trail Ratings

  4.1 from 27 votes


  4.1 from 27 votes
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in Virginia


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15,396 Since Mar 9, 2013
Intermediate/Difficult Intermediate/Difficult

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
If there's been a recent race/event, then trail will have been cleared. I rode 4 weeks after, and nettle growth , especially at rock gardens was a hassle - hard to see line choices through the garden. Rode with long socks, which was a savior. Also the first couple miles of the Shen. Mt. Trail after the double track climb has no blazes. The yellow blazes start at the Nelson Draft intersection. Jul 25, 2017
Matt Jenkins
Cary, NC
Matt Jenkins   Cary, NC
10/20/2018: Somewhat overgrown in sunny areas, lots of downed trees which kill the flow in some sections. This trail has a nice backcountry feel to it and the narrow trail head, which is frequently off camber, makes sure you pay attention, but I wouldn't consider this trail a black diamond ride. The rock gardens are fun to test your skill on, but the fun on the final long downhill is somewhat restricted by the narrow tread which keeps you from letting off the brakes and really letting it roll. All and all, I'd say it is a nice ride, especially if you are looking for the back country feel. Oct 22, 2018

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