FATMAP by Strava

Appalachian Trail: Swift Run Gap to Thorton Gap

The central district of Shenandoah National Park, known for the picturesque Hawksbill Overlook.

Hiking Difficult

55 km
2.2 km
2.2 km
1 day +
Low Point
681 m
High Point
1.2 km
Appalachian Trail: Swift Run Gap to Thorton Gap Map

Located in the central district of Shenandoah National Park, this stretch of the Appalachian Trail leads to the famous Hawksbill Overlook.


Paralleling Skyline Drive, the trail quickly passes the South River Picnic Grounds. A short spur leads from the AT to the picnic area, which serves as a good water resupply point.

Further north on the trail, you'll pass Lewis Mountain Campground and a spur trail leading to its summit. Bearfence Mountain Hut lies shortly north, and Bearfence Mountain Trail can form a loop with the AT to make for a shorter day hike from Skyline Drive.

Passing Big Meadows Campground, the trail makes its way towards Hawksbill Summit. The official AT route takes hikers around the peak, and roughly 500' below. To reach the summit, take the Salamander Trail to the overlook, then Lower Hawksbill Trail back to the AT.

According to Wikipedia: "The north face of Hawksbill Peak is a 2,500-foot (760 m) drop into Timber Hollow, which is the largest elevation change in the park. The summit is one of the few places in Shenandoah National Park where one can find balsam fir, a tree more typical of northern New England and southeast Canada".

Several other trails in this vicinity make this a popular hub for both day hikers, backpackers, and drivers.

Heading north you'll reach Skyland, originally named Stony Man Camp, and begun in 1888. It now serves as a hub with countless, more luxurious lodging options. The trail passes the panoramic views of Stony Man, The Pinnacle, and Mary's Rock before reaching Thorton Gap Visitor Center.

For the latest warnings and for information on entrance fees and hours, visit this link: https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/driving-skyline-drive.htm

Sources: https://www.virginia.org/listings/PlacesToStay/SkylandShenandoahNationalPark/ wikitrail.org https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HawksbillMountain



Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.


2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

all year round


  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Summit Hike
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area