As the book describes it, this trail begins on a fire road just to the north of the parking area, so you walk along the drive for a couple of hundred yards. This is a good start, but actually there is a network of trails in this area, including the Frazier Discovery Trail, which the NPS map describes as a 1.3 mile circuit, moderately easy, with beautiful views. Also, as with the Stonyman Trail, a guide book is available.
After walking through this area, and appreciating that this is where trail volunteers are based from during extended maintenance work – all the better because of the proximity to supplies at the Wayside – continue on, now following the AT’s white blazes, to the Loft Mountain summit. It’s a nice trail through a forest of young trees, with rhododendron and berry bushes crowding in from both sides. Eventually, near the top of the climb, there is a spur trail to a rocky bluff with a view to the east.
I took this photo from the bluff, looking off to the south east, I believe towards Flaptop Mountain. The view below is of Rappahannock County, pastoral, with little clusters of farms and towns. Once again, I counted myself lucky for the weather as I enjoyed the views.
Continuing along the AT here, the hike skirts the Loft Mountain summit before making a 90 degree turn to the west, to an intersection with the Frazier Discovery Trail, marked by a concrete guidepost. A slight turn to the right takes you to another outcropping, this time with a view to the west. The overlook has a strategic view of the Frazier approach – since the trail is popular with young families, a pause here offers the entertainment of young children encountering their first views of the destination of their hike, consisting of summiting the ledge.
On the descent, I came to this overhang. It was deeper than any I’ve seen on these easy trails – you could easily get back in there 20 feet or more, so that the overhang provided shelter. After considering the rocks and the situation, I continued on down the easy slope of the trail to the Wayside, where I enjoyed a bowl of chili before heading back to Hawksbill Cabin.
Completing this hike meant that I have done all six of the trails listed in the South District: Powell Gap, Ivy Creek, Loft Mountain Loop, Blackrock Summit, Calvary and Chimney Rocks, and Calf Mountain. That also means I have completed 19 of the 26 hikes in this book. I definitely have my favorites at this point, and I think there are some – my “freelance” trails – that could replace a few that are included here; I’m thinking that maybe a book, “Hiking Adventures on Skyline Drive,” is in order based on my experiences.