Just up the road from Bearfence Trail is Milam Gap just before you hit the Byrd Visitor Center in Shenandoah National Park. Milam Gap will be the trailhead you should leave from to hike down to Rapidan Camp. We did Bearfence and Rapidan in the same day.
We were still reveling from seeing a mamma bear and her two young cubs just up Skyline Drive a short ways when we parked at the trailhead sometime around 11am on a Sunday in July. We paired this hike with Bearfence earlier that morning.
The trail starts across Skyline Drive and you’ll want to head down Mill Prong Trail. We were not more than 500ft down the trail when we spotted a nice sized black bear not far off the trail about 50 feet. Our first time seeing a bear on the trail was both thrilling and scary at the same time. The bear gave our group a snort and wandered on its way.
Another group came down the trail a minute or two later and I’m not sure they believed us when we told them how close the bear was to the trail.
There are 3 stream crossing and the hike is all downhill to Rapidan Camp. Mushrooms and Millipedes line the trail and there are more people on it then I traditionally like to see but it is mid day. There are some nice stream spots and looks as though some good fly fishing to be had.
The trail ends at the retreat for President and Mrs. Hoover from 1929-1932. Unfortunately for me I had exhausted the kids by this time and did not get to take in all the history. We did take a short tour of the Prime Minister’s cabin and the grounds before heading back up to our lunch spot.
We enjoyed some lunch and a swim right off trail before heading back up. Overall the hike wasn’t difficult. We saw a bear, millipedes and a butterfly. It was a nice way to end the day. More like a walk through the woods.
Mill Prong-Rapidan Camp
Distance: 4-mile round trip
Duration: 2¾ hours
Elevation Gain: 870-feet
Go left on the Appalachian Trail south, and cross Skyline Drive. Go left on blue-blazed Mill Prong Trail. Turn right on Mill Prong Horse Trail. Explore the camp, and then retrace your steps to Milam Gap parking.
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