Caldwell, Switzer, and Price Mountains Loop

Basics: Length — 13.9 miles; Difficulty — Very Strenuous; Carpool — 15 miles, so a fee of $1.50 per rider; What to Bring — Basic hiking gear (10 essentials), lunch, money (or car) for the carpool; Highlights — modest views, rock slides, creek-side walking, adventure.

Details: Feeling guilty for past deeds? A glutton for punishment? Nothing better to do on a Wednesday? This hike may be for you. We will drive to the gap between Broad Run and Price Mountains, a dreaded place as many of my gut-wrenching (and wretching) hikes begin and end there. The hike starts mild enough with a steady climb along old forest roads to the saddle between Caldwell and Broad Run Mountains. We’ll then scale Caldwell Mountain, walk along its spine, then descend steeply to Catawba Creek passing an impressive rock slide. The hike continues by following Catawba Creek (a branch) to Va. 606. Expect wet feet as many of the crossings are wide.

The hike continues by following Kelly Hollow Road, and then we climb a ridge of rarely visited Switzer Mountain. There are some good viewpoints along the crest. We then dive off the ridge, pass through hollows, then climb Price Mountain. The final leg is a difficult section of the Price Mountain Trail. Ironcially, this will be the only trail on this hike as the rest is either off-trail or on forestry roads. I recommend long pants for the hike. And don’t be fooled — even though the hike is only about 14 miles, these are hard miles. We may stop for refreshments on the way back if everyone is willing and available.