Sunset Hike to Hawksbill Mountain
For a few weeks now Dee and I have been trying to coordinate a late afternoon hike up to Hawksbill Mountain to watch the sunset. Unfortunately we had to keep rescheduling because of all the rain we've been having, but thankfully we were finally able to nail down a beautiful afternoon to hike up and watch the sun sink below the horizon. It was about 58 degrees when I reached the Hawksbill Gap parking area but the temperature was slowly dropping. We opted for the short one mile hike up the Lower Hawksbill Trail to the outlook and when we got to the top we were greeted with whipping wind and even colder temperatures. However, the whipping wind and cold temperatures were worth it because we had the entire outlook to ourselves for the whole time we were enjoying the sunset. We stayed for about half an hour, just long enough to watch the sun dip below the horizon before we grabbed our stuff and scurried back down the mountain and out of the cold wind. Dee brought her headlamp and I brought a lantern (side note: I can't find my headlamp ANYWHERE and it's driving me insane! I use that think all the time) and we walked back down to the parking lot in the dark.
Hawksbill Mountain is a prime location in Shenandoah National Park to watch the sunset. Hawksbill is the tallest peak in Shenandoah National Park at 4,049 feet. There are tons of spots along the cliff edge to set up a tripod and enjoy the expansive views. The only thing I regret is not bringing up a warm thermos of tea with me but I had no idea it was going to be so dang cold.
Further directions: Park at the Hawksbill Gap Park Area at MP 45.6. From the parking area there are two trails; one is the Appalachian Trail that heads north (trail to your right) the other is the Lower Hawksbill Trail that goes up to the summit (trail straight ahead behind two boulders). For our sunset hike we went straight up the Lower Hawksbill Trail but if you're not pressed for time there is a hike that's 9.2 miles long that takes you to the Hawksbill Mountain Outlooks, Franklin Cliffs and then through Big Meadow. From the link provided above you can also plan a little bit of a shorter hike instead.
If you're looking for a good hike in Shenandoah to catch a sunset I definitely recommend Hawksbill Mountain! Just remember to bring a headlamp or flashlight for the hike back down ;)