Shenandoah National Park – Nicholson Hollow Trail

Hiking Nicholson Hollow Trail

This weekend we went on a shuttle hike along Nicholson Hollow Trail from the Old Rag parking lot up to Corbin Cabin and back. In total, the hike was 11 miles. To get to the trail, you start by walking 0.8 miles down a road.

Wildflowers on the Roadside

There were many wildflowers growing on the roadside. Along the way I stopped to take photos so many times that my husband took a look at our hiking tracking app Gaia GPS and laughed that we had only walked half a mile in 30 minutes…

Chicory

Chicory

Chicory, or Chicorium intybus, is a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae) and blooms July to October. Native to Europe, it now grows throughout North America. Most often you can see it in pastures and on roadsides.

Only a few flower heads open at a time, and each lasts only a day. The leaves are edible and the root can be dried and ground and used as a coffee substitute.

 

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Asiatic Dayflower

Asiatic Dayflower, Mouse Flower, or Commelina communis, is a member of the Spiderwort family (Commelinaceae) and blooms June to October. It grows along roadsides and woodland borders throughout eastern North America. Originally from Asia, its flowers also open only for one day.

I’ve noticed that they close later in the day. Last time, when we went to Tuscarora-Overall Run Trail, I meant to take pictures of these flowers on our way back, but got increasingly flummoxed, as we couldn’t find any. Knowing exactly where we had found one before, I checked. It had closed! Look for these little beauties earlier in the day.

White Campion

White Campion

White Campion, or Silene latifolia, is a member of the Carnation family (Caryophyllaceae) and blooms July to October. It grows throughout North America, except in the southern most areas. This flower favors fields and roadsides.

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Garden Phlox

Garden Phlox, Fall Phlox, or Phlox paniculata, is a member of the Phlox family (Polemoniaceae) and blooms July to October. It can be found in the eastern and central United States in open woods and thickets.

These flowers are also popular to use in gardens. I saw them before near the entrance to Buck Hollow Trail. They seem to be more prevalent in fall.

Spearmint

Spearmint

Spearmint, or Mentha spicata, is a member of the Mint family (Lamiaceae) and blooms June to August. Originally from Europe, it now grows throughout North America. It is usually found growing along roadsides and in waste spaces, often in sunny areas with damp soil. Spearmint has many medicinal properties similar to Peppermint, including aiding digestion and relieving cold symptoms.

Horse Nettle

Horse Nettle

Horse Nettle, or Solanum carolinense, is a member of the Nightshade family (Solanaceae) and blooms May to October. A native plant, it grows throughout North America. Although it is considered a weed by some, its white or pale lavender flowers are pretty.

Mimosa Tree

Mimosa Tree

The Mimosa Tree, Persian Silk Tree, or Albizia julibrissin, has such pretty flowers. The Persian name means “night sleeper,” and in Japan it is known as the “sleeping tree,” because the leaves fold up at night and during rainstorms. Native to Asia, it now grows throughout the U.S. Hummingbirds, butterflies, deer, birds and bees, all love Mimosa Trees.

Nicholson Hollow Trail

Finally, we got to the cement post marking the turn. Nicholson Hollow Trail must have existed in some form for over a hundred years, as there are a couple ruined stone houses along the path.

Nicholson Hollow Trail

At the start, we crossed Hughes River and Brokenback Run along some big rocks that were a bit slippery.

Nicholson Hollow Trail

The trail continued on through the forest, skirting Hughes River and sometimes crossing it. The entire time we were either next to the river or could hear the river rushing just out of sight. Along the way up to Corbin Cabin we saw a total of 5 camping spots.

The hike was a steady uphill, with an ascent of 4,600ft (measuring how much we climbed up and down), and the total climb starting at 800ft at the bottom, reaching 2,000ft at Corbin Cabin.

White Mushroom

 

We saw a wide variety of mushrooms and fungi along the trail – almost every color of the rainbow! Red, pink, orange, yellow, green, purple, brown, and white.

Wildflowers on Nicholson Hollow Trail

There were several wildflowers along the way as well.

Rattlesnake Weed

Rattlesnake Weed

Rattlesnake Weed, or Hieracium venosum, is a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae) and blooms May to September. Native to North America, they grow throughout eastern North America in dry open woods and clearings, but are most common in areas where rattlesnakes live.

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain, Downy Rattlesnake Orchid, or Goodyera bubescens, is a member of the Orchid family (Orchidaceae) and blooms May to September. It is one of the most widely-distributed orchids in North America, reaching 31 states, mostly in the eastern and central U.S., but also stretching up to Canada. The name comes from how the mottled leave resemble a snake’s skin.

Indian Tobacco

Indian Tobacco

Indian Tobacco, or Lobelia inflata, is a member of the Bellflower family (Campanulaceae) and blooms June to October. It grows in open woods and along roadsides throughout eastern North America. Native Americans smoked the dried leaves like tobacco to treat asthma. However, be warned! It’s root is poisonous and Lobelia is considered a potentially toxic herb, depending on the dosage. If you are ever interested in using it for medicinal purposes, please consult a doctor.

Finally, we reached Corbin Cabin. In front of the sturdy wooden structure is a small meadow filled with Wild Basil and Gallant Soldier wildflowers.

Wild Basil

Wild Basil

Wild Basil, or Clinopodium vulgare, is a member of the Mint family (Lamiaceae) and blooms June to September. You can find it along roadsides, and in pastures and thickets. Likely native to North America (there is a chance it was introduced from Europe, where it is prevalent in southern regions), it grows mostly in the northeastern and central U.S.

Wild Basil

The dried leaves can be used as a seasoning, although they are milder than the basil you find in stores.

The butterflies in the meadow loved these flowers.

They are quite common throughout Shenandoah National Park – you can find Wild Basil by most trails.

Gallant Soldier

Gallant Soldiers

Gallant Soldiers, Quickweed, or Galinsoga parviflora, is a member of the Aster family (Asterceae) and blooms May to October. It differs from the similar Shaggy Soldier in that it is paler green and is less hairy. Introduced from South America, it now grows throughout North America as well. It is considered a weed and grows fast.

Gallant Soldiers

This is what they look like from a distance. There were a lot of them.

***

This all sounds so idyllic and pretty, but we had a bit of a surprise at the meadow. We found a venomous snake!

Northern Copperhead

Northern Copperhead

The Northern Copperhead snake, or Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen, is a venomous snake that can be found throughout Virginia. It is a type of pit-viper.

This one was curled up by some rocks and almost completely camouflaged with the leafy dirt ground. As you can imagine, we were surprised to find it. In all our wanderings around Shenandoah National Park, we had only come across a snake once before, and that one was not venomous. Actually, a group of hikers asked me to take a picture of them, and I did so, standing right near these rocks. However, we only discovered the snake later as we were leaving the clearing. The lesson…make sure you are aware of your surroundings, including on the forest floor!

The Return Trail

The way back was almost completely downhill and went much faster. Before long, we were back at the Old Rag parking lot. Old Rag is a very popular trail for hikers in Shenandoah National Park, but this trail, Nicholson Hollow, is also worth visiting.

Recommended as a Moderate Hike

Although there are no mountain views, walking by the river for several hours is pleasant. It also seems to be a good place to go if you want to camp in the area.

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