Backpacking the Blue Ridge Parkway: Dobie & Humpback Mountain Plane Crash Sites
An overnight multi-trail loop backpack leading to two separate plane crash sites just south of Shenandoah National Park. Escape the crowds, enjoy sweeping views of Rockfish Valley, and take in one of the area's most iconic natural landmarks.
Trailhead elevation 2,357'
Don't miss Backcountry camping at Glass Hollow Overlook
Hiking Dobie & Humpback Mountain Loop
From the Humpback Rock Parking Area at MP 6 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, locate the signed Jack Albright Trailhead in the left corner of the lot.
Follow the blue-blazed trail roughly 1.3 miles before reaching an unmarked, but well-trodden spur trail on the right. It's located immediately after the boulder in the photo below and easy to spot. Sometimes there is a cairn marking it, but not always. The coordinates for the spur are 37.9818665, -78.8906668.
Head uphill on the spur trail for roughly 150' to reach the remains of a civilian Beechcraft Bonanza that crashed into the mountain in 1963, killing all three people aboard.
There are two small sets of debris and each is very easy to spot. They've been scavenged over quite a bit, so don't expect to see a ton.
After exploring the crash remains, head back to the Jack Albright Trail, hang a right, and continue another half mile to reach a junction with the Appalachian Trail. Take the AT and continue south for roughly 0.4 miles to reach the signed spur trail for Glass Hollow Overlook, which will be on the left.
Follow the spur to reach the overlook where you'll find impressive views of Rockfish Valley to the east. The overlook can accommodate several tents, but is rarely used for backcountry camping so you're likely to have it to yourself. There is also a pre-established stone fire ring set back about 50' from the edge of the overlook.
With an east facing overlook, sunsets aren't spectacular here, but the view is still pretty great and the chance for solitude is excellent. Total mileage for day one is 2.8 miles.
If you can swing getting up early the following morning, we highly recommend doing so. Sunrises are often drop dead gorgeous here. There's a small rock outcropping to the right of the overlook, which is a great spot to watch from.
If you were to look back and to the right from the same rock outcropping you'd see Humpback Mountain roughly 1,000' above Glass Hollow Overlook. When it's time to move on, head back to the the AT and hang a left. Follow the trail south for roughly one mile before reaching a marked trail junction where you'll veer left to stay on the AT.
Roughly a half mile later, the AT begins its ascent up Humpback Mountain through a series of switchbacks, picking up 1,000' over 2.8 miles before reaching the Humpback Rocks/AT junction. Hang a left at the junction and continue south on the AT for 1.25 miles to coordinates 37.9472920, -789027853. Here you'll find a fallen tree that spans the trail, pictured below.
From the above coordinates, plug in coordinates 37.9456803, -78.9011616 and begin hiking off-trail, descending the eastern slope of Humpback Mountain. The descent is fairly tame, dropping roughly 150' over 200 yards. Upon reaching those coordinates you'll find the second and far more impressive crash site of the hike, a single engine T-28 Trojan, a US Air Force plane that crashed into the mountain on May 1, 1964.
The aircraft, piloted by Colonels Robert Bryson and Joe Warren, was en route to Memphis from Andrews Air Force Base when it suddenly lost oil pressure and ultimately experienced total engine failure.
Without ejection seats to rely on, the men had no choice but to jump from the plane and parachute through a thick cloud deck into Rockfish Valley.
During the jump, Bryson's chute got hung up in a pine tree before letting loose, sending him crashing into a rock below. After regaining his composure, he walked to a house owned by a preacher and the two men then together walked another few miles to find a telephone and call the local sheriff.
Col. Warren had parachuted safely and later met up with Bryson in Lovingston, Virginia where the two were able to get in touch with friends and family to let them know that they were safe. A brief, but interesting article on the event, including testimony from Col. Bryson can be found in Issue 44 of the Nelson County Life (2008).
After exploring the crash remains, hike back up to the AT, hang a right, and return to the Humpback Rocks/AT junction. Follow the Humpback Rocks Trail for less than 0.2 miles to reach Humpback Rocks, one of the more iconic rock outcroppings along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The overlook is usually very overcrowded, but if it's your first time in the area it's worth checking out. The view is pretty solid, just know that you're unlikely to have any sort of solitude regardless of the day of the week or time of day.
When you're done taking in the views from Humpback Rocks, follow the Humpback Rocks Trail back to the junction with the AT, make a right, and follow the Humpback Rocks Trail 0.9 miles downhill back to the parking area to complete the backpack. Total mileage for day two is 7.2ish miles.
It's worth noting that there is no AllTrails map for this route, however the Humpback Rocks and Dobie Mountain Trail is close. The only difference is adding the second crash site to the route. All trail junctions on this route are marked by the NPS, so you should never have any concern about getting off track. There are no reliable water sources, so pack whatever you think you'll need. Also, we recommend downloading the area to offline Google Maps so you're able to plug in the coordinates for the T-28 Trojan crash site. Cell coverage is fairly spotty up on Humpback Mountain. Lastly, and most importantly, please remember that removing debris from crash sites is illegal. Take only photos, leave only footprints, and let others enjoy the history of Dobie and Humpback Mountain for as long as nature allows.
Day Hikes to Dobie & Humpback Mountain Crash Sites
If interested in visiting the crash sites, but backpacking isn't in the cards, both can be reached on day hikes. The Beechcraft Bonanza site on Dobie Mountain is the easier of the two and can be reached by following the Jack Albright Trail as described above. Roundtrip you're looking at 2.4 miles and 300' in elevation gain.
The best way to day hike the T-28 Trojan site is by parking at the Humpback Rocks Picnic Area, which is a few miles south on Skyline Drive. From the parking area, locate the AT Connector Trail which can be found near the southern end of the area. There's a boulder at the trailhead with "AT" spray painted on it. Follow the connector trail to the AT and then the AT to coordinates 37.9456803, -78.9011616. From the coordinates, follow the steps described above. Roundtrip you're looking at 4 miles and 800' in elevation gain.