Kick Ass Pass

This figure-8 gets the serious climbing done early, followed by nice ridge running on the Appalachian Trail culminated by a visit to Elkwallow Wayside. The run ends with two buttery downhills, separated by a deceptively hard climb up the Hull School Trail.

Distance
  • 28.3 miles
Running time
  • 5–7.5 hours
Total ascent/descent
  • 6,600 feet
    235 feet/mile

Directions

Jill Quivey and Tracy Dahl
Jill Quivey, the brainchild of the run, and Tracy Dahl on a bluebird April day in 2016.

From the parking area on Route 211 run downhill for 1 mile to the Buck Hollow Trailhead. Take the Buck Hollow Trail 0.25 miles to the intersection with the Buck Ridge Trail. Take a left onto the blue-blazed Buck Ridge Trail and begin the steep ascent. At the top of the ridge, make a right onto the yellow-blazed Hazel Mountain Trail (mile 4.0). Stay on the Hazel Mountain Trail until you reach Hazel Mountain parking area on Skyline Drive.

Cross Skyline Drive, and find the Meadow Spring Trail about 50 yards to the left. Climb the Meadow Spring Trail for 0.6 miles, passing the ruins of an old homestead, before meeting the intersection of the white blazed Appalachian Trail (AT). Turn right (north) on the AT following it for 0.8 miles before arriving at the junction of the Mary’s Rock Lookout Trail at mile 5.75. Turn left uphill on the Mary’s Rock Lookout Trail for 0.1 miles and come to the Mary’s Rock vista.

Continue north on the AT, descending into Thornton Gap where restrooms and a snack bar are available in season. This is mile 7.6 of the run. Continue on the AT, crossing Route 211 at mile 7.8, and begin ascent up Pass Mountain. In 1.3 miles pass the trail to the right to Pass Mountain Shelter. (You will return on this trail at the end of the run. If you want to end the run early, take this trail 2.9 miles down to your car.)

Gary Knipling and Jill Quivey
Gary Knipling and Jill Quivey taking a break on the ridge on the Appalachian Trail. From late Fall to early Spring, with the leaves off the trees, the views are fantastic.

Stay on the AT for 1.8 miles, arriving at Beahms Gap (mile 10.9). Cross Skyline Drive and continue on the AT for 5.6 miles to a short side trail to Elkwallow Wayside, where there is a convenience store and snack bar in season.

From Elkwallow, cross Skyline Drive and go 0.75 miles to the Piney Ridge Trail. Take a right and descend on Piney Ridge for 2 miles to the Fork Mountain Trail. Go right on Fork Mountain and descend another 1.2 miles.

At mile 20.5, turn right onto the Hull School Trail and descend 0.7 miles down to the North Fork of the Thornton River followed by a 2.2 mile climb back up to Skyline Drive. At the parking area, take the Rocky Branch Trail for 0.4 miles to the AT in Beahms Gap. Take a left on the AT and go south for 1.8 miles.

At mile 25.6, take a left on the Pass Mountain Trail and descend for 2.2 miles. In the saddle, turn right continue for 0.7 miles to Route 211.

Pass Mountain Trail
Tracy Dahl enjoying the buttery smooth descent down the Pass Mountain Trail near the end of the run.

Last updated February 18, 2021

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.