Big Flat Mountain Redux

Big Flat Shelter

A long-term A.T. overseer recently wrote and suggested the location of the former Big Flat Shelter. Big Flat Shelter? What was that?

A Little Background

Many don’t know that there was an A.T. shelter that sat where the current Loft Mountain Campground now exists. I’ve blogged about this before—some of us in the A.T. Community wonder about these things on occasion.

The Trail is now 87 years old and its route has been modified and remodified often over time.

A Little Research, Please…

Googling “Big Flat Shelter” is a lost cause. Apparently, the records at Shenandoah National Park do not reveal much, if anything, about Big Flat Mountain and the A.T. shelter there. In fact, there isn’t even anecdotal evidence to suggest why the Big Flat Shelter was named a “shelter” rather than a “hut,” as is every other surviving trail shelter in the Park.

I began by searching for the route of the Appalachian Trail by or over Big Flat Mountain. That research led to some interesting facts:

1931 University Quadrangle

In the early 1930s, the Appalachian Trail did not cross over Big Flat Mountain—instead, it followed essentially the present route of Skyline Drive below Big Flat Mountain.

USGS University Quadrangle - 1931

1937 Elkton Quadrangle

The A.T. route by Big Flat Mountain had not changed—according to the USGS—by 1937.

USGS Elkton Quadrangle highlight - 1937

1947 Elkton Quadrangle

In 1947, the USGS shows the Appalachian Trail crossing over Big Flat Mountain—the Skyline Drive had “taken” the trail route below.

USGS Elkton Quadrangle highlight - 1947

1965 Browns Cove Quadrangle

The 1965 edition of the USGS Browns Cove quadrangle shows the route of the A.T. had not been changed despite the construction of the new Loft Mountain Campground.

USGS Browns Cove Quadrangle highlight - 1965

1965 McGaheysville Quadrangle

The 1965 edition of the USGS McGaheysville quadrangle shows—for the first time—a shelter on this section of the A.T.—this is the then-new Ivy Creek Shelter.

USGS McGaheysville Quadrangle highlight - 1965


  1. Al Gerber is quite correct: the former Big Flat Shelter was probably located above the former A.T. adjacent to the current Loft Mountain Amphitheater (which was developed after the Loft Mountain Campground was constructed).
  2. In the early 1930s, PATC members located the Appalachian Trail on a road or roadbed that came up to Black Rock Gap from the Moormans River. That road continued on approximately the same route and grade of what is now Skyline Drive at least to near the present Ivy Creek Overlook or, possibly, Pinefield Gap.

Why? Take a look at the highlight below from the 1931 edition of the USGS University quadrangle!

Moormans River area - 1931 University Quadrangle


Skyline Drive does not appear on the quadrangles cited here until the 1947 editions.


Your comments and suggestions are welcome!