Hightop Mountain sits "high" above the southern part of the Shenandoah valley in Shenandoah National Park. It is the highest mountain in the park south of Swift Run Gap. To reach Hightop involves a short, but steep hike with some very nice views of the mountains to the West. Hightop Mountain is far less known than other popular hikes in the park such as Hawksbill, Stony Man, Old Rag, and Mary's Rock, but it provides a chance to see a more southern part of the park, and of the Appalachian Trail. The trail is especially rocky in the Hightop Mountain area, with lots of rocks to climb off the trail.
Hightop is easily viewed as a prominent feature above Skyline Drive, and takes an hour to an hour and a half to hike round trip. The main out and back hike from Swift Run Gap is 5.6 miles and 1,480ft of elevation gain. You can also shorten the hike by starting at the Hightop Mountain parking area on Skyline drive.
Mile 0.0 - Start the hike from the southern end of the bridgethat crosses VA33 on Skyline Drive. Cross Skyline Drive thenstart south uphill on the Appalachian Trail (AT). Shortly pass a stream on your right as the trail gradually passes over the first rise. The AT will then level out before passing over another rise, then descending to Skyline Drive and the Hightop Mountain parking area.
Mile 1.3 - Cross over Skyline Drive and and continue on the AT as the trail now more steeply ascends Hightop Mountain. Pass a section of large granite boulders, then as the trail nears the summit make several switchbacks.
Mile 2.75 - Arrive at the first of of the two vistas. The first vista is a more obscured view to the western Shenandoah Valley.
Mile 2.8 - Arrive at the main vista. There is a short trail that leads out to commanding views to the south and west. This is the turn around point. Retrace your route back down the AT.
Mile 5.6 - Arrive back at the parking area on on Skyline Drive at Swift Run Gap.