We did this hike over the Memorial Day weekend with our two kids, 9 and 7. While planning the trip, I had doubts about whether my 7 year old is able to do it, but I am really glad that we did it. The rock scramble is her favorite part.
This is a long hike. The circuit trail is 8 miles, plus the roundtrip from parking lot to the trail head, it's 9+ miles. The elevation gain is 2200ft. We hiked on Sunday. When we arrived at the parking lot at 9:45am, the lot is 80% full. You do need to pay the entrance fee at the parking lot. The weather is warm, reaching 80 degrees. Most of the hike (except the rock scramble) is shaded. So, it's quite pleasant, not too hot. The ascend to the summit via the rock scramble is 3 miles and descend via fire road is 5 miles. The rock scramble is everything the previous reviews had described. There are narrow crevices that one needs to lower into; upper body strength is required to push oneself up; at one place, one needs to jump over a crevice. One definitely will need to be on all four from time to time. This is the hard part, but the fun part. One gains a lot of elevation at the rock scramble. Because of this, I find this trail to be less strenous than other trails of similar distance/elevation gain but made up mostly of switchbacks. If we reverse the direction and ascend from the fire road and descend via rock scramble, it would probably be harder. We did the hike in 7 hours.
Both of the kids needed some help along the way on the rock scramble. There is a place even myself needed a helping hand since I lack upper body strength. So, if you are hiking with fairly young kids, it would be nice to have 2 adults, one in the front, and one at the back. Even though it's 80 degrees, our family is dressed in long pants. I think this is a good idea, because there are places on the rock scramble you'll need to use your knees to help. The NPS webiste recommends 2 quarts of water per person. And that is true even for kids. We didn't have camelback, so we brought 16 bottles (2 gallons) of water, and finished 14.
All in all, it's a great hike. The scenary at and near the top is the typical of Shenandoah vista. And there are many of these vistas along the trail.
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