National Trails Day to feature guided hikes in the valley

For outdoors enthusiasts, American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day offers a chance to celebrate the many scenic hiking challenges in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

This Saturday will be the 22nd year of the society’s nationally recognized program, which began in 1993.

At the Byrd Visitor’s Center in Shenandoah National Park, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and park representatives will host an event called “Beyond the Trailhead.”

Starting at 9:15 a.m. Saturday, visitors can register for one of five different guided hikes of varying lengths and skill levels.

Sally Hulbert, interpretive ranger with the park, said, “Even if they don’t participate in one of the hikes, we’re going to have a tools demonstration by our trail crew.”

This demonstration, Hulbert added, will include showing visitors how to use a crosscut saw to saw a tree.

In addition, the club will have members on-hand along with local Boy Scouts to talk to park visitors about “Leave No Trace,” outdoors ethics and first aid.

While the hikes are free, the park will still be charging its regular $20-per-car fee for entrance to the Byrd Center.

Although pre-registration is complete, day-of the event registration will be accepted at the visitor’s center.

“We’re excited to be hosting it and hope that many people will come out to hike and see how beautiful this park is,” Hulbert said.

The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club will also be involved in another guided hike in Front Royal on Saturday.

Members of the Front Royal/Warren County Appalachian Trail Community, a local outlet for the club, will guide participants on a 4 1/4th-mile hike at Chester Gap near Front Royal.

Alyson Browett, a part-time volunteer for the Front Royal Community, said Saturday’s hike will also include a dedication ceremony for a new kiosk at the Appalachian Trail trailhead off of Route 522.

The kiosk, which was purchased by the town and installed by an Eagle Scout, contains information on the history of Front Royal and trail information for hikers, Browett said.

“Hopefully this weekend we’re going to have some artwork by some county elementary school students,” she said, explaining that students in the second grade class of Cathy Harron of Ressie Jefferies Elementary School participated in the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s “Trail to Every Classroom” program.

“We hope to have rotating information and billboards on mainly trails or outdoor activities coming up for hikers,” Browett added.

As for the hike itself, Browett said the mostly downhill Chester Gap trail is family friendly, dog-friendly and easy enough for hikers of all skill levels.

“It is a great hike … you have a little stream crossing and you get to walk past the trail that leads to the 4-H Educational Center,” Browett said, adding that at the end there is a view of the town as well as the surrounding mountains.

Also on Saturday at Shenandoah River State Park in Bentonville, hikers will have an opportunity to enjoy nature as well as help clean up the trail during Saturday’s “Clean the Bay Day.” That hike will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday.  More information:  http://1.usa.gov/1AOJyIx.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com