From: September 29 to October 6, 2017

Destination: Shenandoah National Park, VA, Custom

  • Champs Appalachian Trail Lodge to Lodge Custom Trip

    Shenandoah National Park straddles the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains as they run north and south for over 100 miles. Embracing rolling hills, quiet hollows, abrupt hillsides, and verdant forests, the Park contains over 450 miles of hiking trails. The Appalachian Trail is the best known of these and this section of the trail is absolutely gorgeous in October. Because Skyline Drive follows this crest, the AT feels a little less remote here than in other sections. That is more than made up for by the presence of well-spaced lodges along the way, offering warm beds and hot food at the end of every day. The human history of the Park is also very interesting and we'll learn about the people who inhabited this area for years. Since this is a custom trip and extra days have been added, we will also have the opportunity of visiting Harpers Ferry and reveling in that history as well.   Maximum group size to be determined. 
  • Day 1, Friday, 9/29:   If you are flying in, plan to arrive Dulles Airport by 2 pm. We will pick you up there and make the hour and a half drive to the town of Luray. If you are driving, you can meet us at our lodging (Luray Caverns Hotel East) at 4 pm. We will gather to introduce ourselves and start getting to know each other and then begin our trip orientation. We will stop for dinner and then finish up any topics not yet covered.

    Day 2, Saturday, 9/30: After a hearty breakfast at Uncle Bucks (a local and awesome southern breakfast place in Luray) we'll pack up and head for the South River Falls Picnic Area. We will start our hike, appreciating the fact that the van carries our luggage to Big Meadows Lodge and we don't have to!  The hike today is a lovely 5.5 mile section with great overhead canopy. It is one of the easier parts of the trail, fairly level with just enough up and down to be interesting - a wonderful introduction to the Shenandoah ridge.  At the end of our hiking day, we'll walk into Lewis Mountain Campground and Cabins where we'll meet our van and head over to Big Meadows Lodge - our home for the next 3 nights.  Mileage today: 5.5 miles.  Lodging: Big Meadows Lodge

    Day 3, Sunday, 10/1:  We'll have our first breakfast at the lodge this morning before shuttling back to Lewis Mountain Campground where we left off the day before.  We head north on the Appalachian Trail, back to our lodging at Big Meadows.  Our destination today is Big Meadows.  Our trail is a bit more up and down as we start with a gentle ascent of Bearfence Mountain.  To reach the summit of Bearfence Mountain we will take the Bearfence Mountain Scramble Loop (weather permitting) which is an amazing hands and feet scramble up basalt rocks to a 360 degree view of the valley below. For those who don't enjoy scrambling, there is a very pleasant alternative trail that follows the base around and joins up on the other side.  After all meeting on the Appalachian Trail, we will continue to Booten Gap before starting up Hazeltop Mountain (about a 600 foot climb).  The next mile is along the ridge and is "green tunnel" walking that the AT is known for, before descending to Milam Gap where our van is waiting.  Again we have a choice: for those who feel finished for the day, we will shuttle to Big Meadows Lodge (the origin of the name quickly becomes apparent), check in, and optionally take the path behind our rooms up to Blackrock, for a beautiful last view of the surrounding countryside before sunset. Alternatively you can choose to continue on the AT and hike directly into Big Meadow from Milham Gap. The area around our rooms is open grasslands and gives us the opportunity to possibly see some wildlife tonight. Mileage today:  6.1 - 8.4 miles. Lodging: Big Meadows Lodge.

    Day 4, Monday, 10/2:  Another great breakfast at the lodge before shuttling to Milham Gap.  This morning, instead of heading north on the AT, we're taking a 'field trip'!  Yes, we're picking up the Rapidan Trail and hiking 1.8 miles down to the historic retreat of President Hoover in the 50's.  the hike down offers both cascades and waterfalls on the Rapidan Stream.  Once at the cabin, we'll be met by a National Park Ranger who will tell us all about this peaceful and historic spot.  After lunching along the stream we can hike the 1.8 miles back the way we came, shuttle back to Big Meadows and either enjoy a bit of down time around the lodge or explore the meadows that gave Big Meadows it's name.  Need more hiking and less 'down time'?  Instead of doing Rapidan as an 'out and back', we can hike a loop trail back to Milham Gap, an additional 5.8 miles.  Either choice, we'll all meet back for dinner at the lodge for 1 more night.  Mileage today:  3.6 - 7.6.  Lodging:  Big Meadows Lodge. 

    Day 5, Monday, 10/3:
    Before continuing our AT hiking today, we will pay a visit to the Visitor's Center at Big Meadows where we can tour the exhibits, watch the park movie, and buy those 'souvies'.  We will then continue on the AT to Skyland Lodge - but it would be a shame not to take a couple of the blue-blazed trails that detour to panoramic overlooks.  One in particular, the Salamander Trail,  leads to the top of Hawksbill Mountain, the highest peak and widely considered to have the best views in the park. We then descend to the Hawksbill parking area where we can either shuttle into Skyland Lodge or continue another 3.1 miles via the AT.  Tonight's dinner will be in the dining room at Skyland which has a lovely panoramic view overlooking the valley below.  This time of year there is often entertainment during the dinner hours as well.  Mileage today:  4.2 - 8.5 miles. Lodging:  Skyland Lodge.

    Day 6, Wednesday, 10/4:   A little change of pace awaits for today.  Yes, a  change of pace and a bit of history - we're going to Harper's Ferry!  The drive is approximately 1 1/2 hours and the rewards are many.  Harper's Ferry is home to much more history than we'll probably be able to cover in our 1 day visit but try we will!  Civil War, railroad and AT history dominate and are joined with historic buildings, memorial statues and history on every corner.   It's also home to the Appalachain Trail Conservancy - overseer of the beautiful AT trails you've been hiking all week.

    We'll spend the day exploring the parks, museums, buildings and shops - leisurely strolling the brick sidewalks and enjoying a different type of hiking!  Lunch is on your own and the most difficult task will be deciding where that might be.

    We'll spend as much time as possible in Harper's ferry and, depending on the group decision, dinner will be here or back at the Skyland Lodge dining room.  Mileage today will vary, depending on sights visited.  Lodging:  Skyland Lodge

    Day 7, Thursday, 10/5: This is our last hiking day today so we will go out in style, as we hike to as many beautiful vistas as possible in one day.  We will start with a detour off the AT on a blue-blazed trail, the Stony Man Nature Trail. This gentle trail leads to the top of Stony Man with a view over the valley to the Massanutten Mountains beyond.  We will then continue to Pinnacles Picnic area where a shelter and lunch await us. After lunch we will shuttle north to Meadow Spring Trail, and ascend to the AT again via the Meadow Spring Trail and continue to our last  amazing spot of the week - Mary's Rock, with its many varied folk tales.  Returning to our vans, we'll make the short trip back into Luray and head to our magnificent last evening in Luray - at the historic Mimslyn Inn.  relaxing on the porch with views of where we've been hiking, enjoying the luxury of our restored historic cottages and our final dinner  we will celebrate our week!  Mileage today:  7.4   Lodging:  Mimslyn Inn, Luray, Virginia. 

    Day 8, Friday, 10/6:  But wait, is there more?  Yes - of course!  We'll have one last southern breakfast back at uncle Bucks where we'll be welcomed with open arms and then how about a visit to Luray Caverns?!  Definitely worth a visit if you have the time.  This is an optional activity and the tour lasts approximately 1 hour.  If doing the tour, we'll have you back to the Dulles Airport by 1pm and you can plan on flying out anytime after 2:30pm, otherwise -- departure will be anytime after breakfast.
  • $1800 The trip deposit is $100 deposit and will be handled by the trip leader.

    Trip Includes

    • two experienced guides
    • six nights double occupancy accommodation and 1 night varied occupancy
    • all transportation during the trip, starting and ending at Dulles Airport (IAD)
    • all meals from dinner on Friday through breakfast on the following Friday with the exception of lunch in Harper's Ferry
    • entrance fees to Shenandoah
     
    Not included: travel to Dulles, 1 lunch in Harper's Ferry, alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities, and items of a personal nature
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  • Common Questions

    If you’ve never traveled with us before, you may have some questions about how we do things and what you can expect. We’ve answered the most common ones below and are always available by phone or email to answer any others.

    How do I pay for my trip?

    You can make the deposit by submitting a secure form with your credit card information after filling out the registration form or calling us with your card information. We will send you an invoice for the balance due with your Predeparture Information 4 months before an International trip and 3 months before a domestic trip. You can get a 3% discount for paying the balance by check.

    What if I’m coming alone?

    The majority of women who travel with us come by themselves. If you want to pay a single supplement to guarantee your own room, or if you want to share a room with someone with whom you are traveling, you can indicate that on the registration form. Otherwise we randomly assign roommates and rotate every time we change lodging – it’s a great way to get to know different women on the trip.

    Can you accommodate special diets?

    We can always accommodate vegetarian, gluten-free, and omnivore diets. On most trips we can also accommodate lactose-free, vegan, and other restricted diets, although in some locations the availability of special food may be limited. If in doubt about your specific dietary needs, please give us a call (877/439-4042) or send us an email.

    What if I have to cancel my trip?

    The amount of your refund depends on how close to the trip you cancel and whether it is a domestic or an international trip. You can read our cancellation policies here. We highly recommend travel insurance because cancellations are always unexpected; we will send you additional information about insurance when you register.

    Will my family be able to get in touch with me in case of an emergency?

    Yes, we always send out emergency contact information. On a few trips, because of limitations in communication, the best approach is to give them the office number and let us make the contact.

    What other information will you send me?

    When you register, we’ll send you a Trip Summary that includes the itinerary, travel information, and a packing list. Three to four months before your trip we’ll send you Pre-Departure information that includes detailed information on how to get to the trip starting point, pre- or post-trip lodging suggestions, suggested books and websites etc. Four to six weeks before the trip, we’ll send you a list of everyone who is registered along with their travel plans; and a Pre-Trip letter with the name of your guide(s) and how to contact them if your arrival is delayed as well as any other important updates.

    Do you help with pre-trip and/or post-trip hotel reservations?

    For international trips, if you want to stay at the hotel where we’re staying the first night before the trip, or at the hotel we’re staying the last night after the trip, we’re happy to make a reservation for you. Otherwise our PreDeparture Information will have hotel suggestions. Our travel agent is also happy to help you with this.

    How does the waitlist process work and how often do people cancel?

    If you are interested in a trip that is full, you should sign up here. If there is a cancellation, we send out an email to everyone who has expressed interest and ask them to respond within 24 hours. If more than one person is interested, we give the space to the person who has traveled with us before or in the order of being put on the waitlist. Frequently, even when we have a long wait list, it is the last person to sign up who is still available to go. Whether or not there will be a cancellation is completely unpredictable, although not uncommon.

    What is the role of the guide(s)?

    On every trip, the primary roles of the guide(s) are to ensure your safety and to make sure that, to the extent possible, you are having the trip you want. The guide(s) will also make sure that you know what is happening each day and what you need to bring to be prepared. On domestic trips the guide(s) will also likely be driving, preparing picnic lunches and sometimes other meals, providing skills instruction, and giving you information about the natural history of the area. On any trip where we partner with another company (which is most international trips and some trips that require special equipment), the AGC guide will work with the local guide to make sure that the trip is conducted in accordance with the AGC philosophy.

    What if I have more questions?

    Give us a call (877/439-4042) or send us an email. A Program Manager is assigned to each trip. Once you have registered, she will send you a registration confirmation letter that includes her name and email, and she will be your primary contact. Her job is to make sure that you get all your questions answered and that you feel completely prepared for your adventure.

    What if I'm the oldest/youngest/heaviest/least in shape/only single woman/only mom on the trip?

    You might be. Someone has to be the oldest/youngest/heaviest/least in shape person on the trip. And while the great majority of our trips have both single and non-single women, and moms and non-moms, sometimes they don't. But it doesn't matter if you're "different" in any of those ways - what you will share with everyone else is a desire to experience adventure in your life, and an appreciation of the joy and camaraderie of being in an all women's group.

Trip highlights

  • Hiking the Appalachian Trail through Shenandoah National Park without having to carry a backpack
  • Enjoying the fall foliage in this beautiful mountain forest
  • Staying at beautifully situated lodges every night
  • Having our luggage transported for us
  • Visiting historic Harpers Ferry

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