Bluff Trail — Appalachian Trail — Mount Marshall Trail Loop

This is shorter, all-trail version of the annual Fourth of July Browntown Loop. Instead of descending into Browntown, this run stays on the crest of the Blue Ridge on the Appalachian Trail.

  • 18.5 miles
Running time
  • 3.5–6 hours
Total ascent/descent
  • 3,600 feet
    195 feet/mile


From the trailhead, take the Jordan River Trail 1.25 miles to Thoroughfare Gap. Take a right onto yellow-blazed Mount Marshall Trail and after 0.4 miles, take a sharp left onto the yellow-blazed Bluff Trail. In 2.3 miles, take the blue-blazed Big Devils Stairs Trail for a short out-and-back to a view of the Big Devils Stairs gorge. Return to the Bluff Trail to continue the climb, topping out on Skyline Drive at Gravel Springs (mile 7.0).

Cross the drive and take a right (heading north) on the white-blazed Appalachian Trail (AT). Follow the AT for 5.5 miles, climbing South Marshall and North Marshall mountains, to Jenkins Gap.

At Jenkins Gap, turn right and follow Skyline Drive uphill for 0.2 miles to the Mount Marshall trailhead. Turn left down the yellow-blazed Mount Marshall Trail as it winds around the mountain, crossing Waterfall Branch and Sprucepine Branch, before arriving at the intersection of the Bluff Trail in 3.5 miles. Continue straight on the Mount Marshall Trail for another 0.4 miles to Thoroughfare Gap and intersection with the Jordan River Trail. Take a left on the Jordan River Trail for 1.25 miles back to your car.

Last updated June 4, 2020

What you do is up to you, but you shouldn't rely on these directions alone; they are often not specific enough to navigate by, and may be incorrect or out of date. Review a map beforehand and carry it with you. Tell a friend where you are going and when you plan to return. Do not count on having cell phone service while on the run. The VHTRC is not responsible for your welfare on any of these runs. If you go on one of these runs and get lost, run out of water, get injured, mauled by a bear, or die, or if anything else goes wrong, it's your fault; not ours. You assume all risks here and the VHTRC assumes none at all. Legal issues aside, some of these runs are more remote than others and the VHTRC is not suggesting that you do any of these runs, unless you are prepared to accept full responsibility for yourself.