To access this trail, start at the Elizabeth Furnace campground and take the paved road across Passage Creek and look for red blazes on the Massanutten Trail on the left side through the picnic area. Hike gradually uphill past the old Iron Ore Furnace on narrow and rooty singletrack, before turning uphill more steeply.
The next few miles will be a little more challenging for your climbing legs and rock skills. The Massanutten Trail will intersect an old logging road that goes straight up the fall-line; keep left at the first intersection and stay on the singletrack.
The majority of the climb is manageable in and there are two rock-stair sections. Near the summit of Shawl Gap, the trail will take a hard right turn through an extended rock garden that is best walked, but then it levels out at the ridge.
At the ridge intersection, you can either turn left for the Buzzard Rocks Trail
, right to continue south on the Massanutten Trail, or go straight across to start down over the ridge on the Shawl Gap Trail.
The Shawl Gap Trail heads down the backside towards Panhandle Rd and is significantly less technical than the Fort Valley side as it starts in the trees and then opens toward the finish.