“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.
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.