“A masterclass in Appalachian ridgetop hiking with excellent views of WV and VA.”
— Ryan Delaney
This hike is on National Forest land which has many uses, but be careful in the fall with hunting season.
County Line Trail is a ridgetop trail straddling the West Virginia/Virginia state line, between Hardy County West Virginia and Shenandoah County Virginia. It traverses North Mountain north to south between Virginia Route 55 and Wilson's Cove.
The trail is best from north to south, and begins as a doubletrack access road maintained by the power line maintenance crews. Don't be lulled into complacency! Within the first two miles of the trail, you'll encounter the first steep pitches, climbing to the power line cut that offers excellent views of Paddy Mountain and the Shenandoah Valley to the East.
The trail narrows to true singletrack and traverses steep rocky pitches and wide open exposed ridge tops similar to the Northern Traverse. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club maintains the Gerhard Shelter, a backpacking shelter that sits in a low flat of the ridge. It makes a great place for a lunch stop, and a trail descending east (Trail 902, Gerhard Shelter Trail on the USFS map), offers a quick bailout to Forest Road 93 for those looking for a shorter hike.
Several steep pitches littered with rocks await as you climb back up the ridge, but the reward is a long, gradual, rocky descent that dumps you into the first in a series of switchbacks that will require you to dismount in spots. The trail ultimately connects with Waite's Run Road on the West Virginia side of the mountain.
Overall, this trail is an incredible challenge that combines the rock moves of Fort Valley and Elizabeth Furnace Figure 8 with the elevation and steeps of the Northern Traverse truly expert level terrain surprisingly close to the DC Metro area.