Don’t be deceived by the mileage: 8.4 miles is done as a day hike (which is where the second loop comes in). As reported on EveryTrail.com, this trip begins from the Browns Gap parking area, where the Appalachian Trail crosses Skyline Drive. In fact, you start on the AT, but after a half mile hang a left on the blue-blazed Big Run Loop Trail. In less than a mile, Big Run Loop goes right, you continue straight on Rocky Top Trail. At mile 7, after some great views to the west, you arrive at camp for the night. You also arrive at the start of an 8.4-mile day-hike loop, on the Brown Mountain and Rocky Top trails.
The hike out is about 7 miles. One thing to be aware of is the numerous creek crossings. On the day hike, notes EveryTrail.com, you’ll ford Big Run four times over two miles: “Be sure to bring sandals along,” advises the report, “because unless there’s a drought you won’t be able to rock-hop across any of these.” These and numerous other crossings, coupled with some good climbing — including two for a combined 4,500 feet — makes this trip an especially good candidate for hiking poles. Again, though, remember that of the 21.7 miles, less than two thirds is with a full pack.
More info here.
Type of hike: Lollipop double loop
Trailhead: Browns Gap parking area, Milepost 83. Skyline Drive
Distance from downtown Charlottesville: 46 miles (1 hour, 5 minutes)
To get there go here.
GPS: 38.14424, -78.42636
Camping: Free permit required, available at check-in station on Skyline Drive. $15 access fee to Skyline Drive (good for seven days)
Reservations? Backcountry permit required, by going here. http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/campbc_permit.htm
Cost? No, other than $15 access to Skyline Drive (good for seven days).
Seasonal? Access via Skyline Drive, which is often closed in winter