Compton Gap Trailhead is located in the North District at mile 10.4 on Skyline Drive. Here you will find the beginning of the Compton Peak, West and East hike and the Fort Windham Rocks hike.
Downloadable map with trail descriptions. PDF (0.92 MB)
Before You Go
Did You Know
Downloadable map with trail descriptions. PDF (0.74 MB)
Hike #1: Compton Peak, West and East
Distance: 2.4-mile T-hike
Duration: 1¾ hours
Elevation Gain: 835-feet
Cross Skyline Drive and begin at the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) post. Take the A.T. south to the trail post at the T-intersection. Go right at the post. Continue on the trail to the west viewpoint. Return to the intersection, and continue straight to the east viewpoint. The columnar jointing is underneath the east viewpoint;to see it, follow the blue blazes. This part of the trail is rough and rocky, but very short. When you reach the base of the cliff, look up to see the columnar jointing. Return the way you came, crossing Skyline Drive to reach the parking area.
Hike #2: Fort Windham Rocks
Distance: 0.8-mile round trip hike
Duration: ½ hour
Elevation Gain: 130-feet
Follow the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) north to its intersection with the Dickey Ridge Trail. Turn left. In about 300 yards, explore Fort Windham Rocks on the right. Return the way you came.
Did You Know?
Millions of years ago plates on the earth's surface in this area began pulling apart, and lava—at first it was black-colored basalt, but eventually it metamorphosed into the greenstone you see today—oozed up out of the earth and through the cracks between the plates. As the lava cooled, it shrank into intriguing six-sided shapes down through its depths, forming columns. Geologists call this columnar jointing. Take the Compton East hike (detailed below) to see an example of columnar jointing, one of the finest in the park.
Fort Windham Rocks and all the greenstone in this area are part of the Catoctin Formation, a series of related lava flows in Virginia, Maryland, and southern Pennsylvania, which includes the Pedlar granodiorite—the oldest rocks in Shenandoah National Park. These rocks are being broken apart, little by little, by the power of ice and frost. Because the rocks at Fort Windham are covered with lichen and weathering rapidly, they feature some fascinating colors.
Before You Go!
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Last updated: March 3, 2015