Hiking Hawksbill Summit

The college kids sure do like their cairns.

If you’re looking for a fun, easy hike to see the sunset over spectacular views of the hills and valleys of Shenandoah National Park, this is the ticket. If you’re looking for privacy, seclusion, and solitude…search elsewhere. This hike is easy and short, with BIG pay-off. That means that lots of people do it, year-round.


hiked on 8 July 2017
Near Syria, VA
1.7 miles
difficulty rating, access information, terrain map & more:  Alltrails Link

Hunter-the-Gatherer leading the way at the start of the trail.

This is one of the easiest short hikes to access. We entered Shenandoah National Park at the Thornton Gap entrance and drove to the parking area at around MP 45.6 on Skyline Drive. The drive itself is very pretty!


It was a really moderate evening for July in Virginia, which is one of the reasons we headed out for a hike. Temp at the start of the hike was about 70° F. It was pretty darned windy at the summit, however, and it got much cooler as the sun went down.


Wind playing with Henri’s ponytail at the summit.



Our actual motive in choosing this short hike was to get to Sperryville to try the new Rappahannock Pizza Kitchen at Thornton River Grille. What a gem! We heartily recommend stopping there if you do any of the hikes that begin and end near Sperryville (there’s a cute little bar/pub attached to the store now, too…though we didn’t stop in there on this visit).


This was intended to be, and met the expectation of, a short and easy hike. We came with the goal of doing no more than 2 miles in search of a beautiful sunset…and Hawksbill delivers on both.

If you want a secluded summit experience, this is not the one for you. Lots of people head here to take in the views each evening because there is such huge pay-off for such little effort. We marveled at one young college woman who arrived in a sundress and sandals. So, you know, this isn’t exactly a difficult hike.

From the parking lot, it goes up at quite an incline immediately. There’s some climb to it. The trail is pretty and well marked. No fear of getting lost in the short distance from car to sunset. There’s a little shelter just before the summit with a place for a fire and no small amount of graffiti (thankfully, most of it is done with charcoal and not permanent).


There is a stone “observation deck” at the summit, but also some rocks to scramble around on or nestle into as you watch. Kind of a perfect place to take a date, actually. Expect lots of sunset photographers to show up, vying for the best spot. Perhaps you can see why:

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