Humpback Rocks is a very popular hike due to its proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway and
I-64 near Afton Mountain. Most people do it as a 1.0 mile up and back. We decided to add a few miles for the return trip by following the Appalachian Trail North and a couple of un-named blue-blazed trails.
We parked at the Humpback Rocks parking area (MP6 on the Blue Ridge Parkway). The blue-blazed trail begins to the right of the kiosk . The trail wastes no time ascending with park benches scattered every so often if you need to take a break. Don't be fooled by the 1.0 mile to the top, if you are not used to hiking you will find muscles sore that you forgot you had!!
There will be an intersection on your left in 0.5 miles, ignore it and stay straight on the blue blazed trail. For the next 0.4 miles the trail is very rocky but there are both wooden steps and rock steps for some of the more difficult parts. If it has rained be prepared that the trail can be a little muddy and in some places becomes a temporary stream. At the next intersection bear left on the spur trail to the Rocks and some incredible views. There are multiple places to take photos, just be careful especially if wet. We were a little disappointed in the amount of graffiti at the Rocks but try to ignore it and concentrate on the views.
Return to the intersection with the 'Rocks' sign, ignore references to the A.T. as those are old signs when it ran close to the Rocks before it was re-routed years ago. At the 'Rocks' intersection, go straight on the blue blazed trail towards Humpback Picnic Area and reach the A.T. in less than 0.10 miles.
Turn left onto the white-blazed A.T. North (*for additional views see A.T. South Out and Back directions below). This begins a 2.7 mile gradual descent for most of the trail back to the Parking area. We saw lots of wildlife: eastern newt, deer and tons of chipmunks - they are too fast to get a decent photo. The mountain laurel and rhododendrons were blooming all over this section of the trail. Returning this way made for a very pleasant stroll and we ran in to only a couple of hikers. The next intersection is in 2.7 miles. Bear to the left, onto a blue-blazed trail to return to the Humpback Rocks Parking area.
*A.T. South Out and Back for Additional Views
If you prefer seeing more great views without the crowds take the A.T. South instead of North at the Intersection mentioned in the previous paragraph. If you take in all 3 additional views in this out and back you will add about 4 miles to your trip. In 0.4 miles from the intersection you will come to an unmarked spur trail to take you out to the first view. These rocks are very similar to Humpback Rocks but not as massive. You will see these rocks on your left as you are on the trail and at the top of the hill you will come to the spur trail. Continue south on the A.T. for 0.7 miles to reach the second view on your left looking out to Rockfish Valley on the east and Shenandoah Valley on the west. The last view will be 0.9 miles beyond the second view. About 30 yards before the last view you will pass a great campsite with room for about 6 tents. We actually did this as a short overnight backpack and spent the night at this campsite taking in one of the most beautiful sunsets we have ever seen in Virginia. You will have an almost 180 degree view of Rockfish Valley, Wintergreen Resort, and finally the Shenandoah Valley. This is your turn around point. Note: If you do camp here, bring plenty of water as there are no water sources on this section of the A.T.
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Reviews For The Humpback Rocks Hike (5 Most Recent)
Nice hike, a bit more challenging than might at first appear so bring sturdy shoes and grab a walking stick along the way. The elevation gain comes all at once at the beginning so drink water before you head up and don't rush it or your legs and lungs will feel it. The rocks can be a bit tricky and the fall would not be fun, so try to keep three points of contact at all times. Taking a loop down the AT North is the way to go if you want to make the time getting there worth it. Catch the trail at the intersection of the Humpback Picnic Area trail and the AT North trail (there is a wooden marker that will make it easy). Follow the white rectangles on the trees, and stop from time to time to enjoy the sounds of the forest (too many people just march through and don't enjoy the solitude, its not a race, its nature). The trail is fairly well traveled but loose rocks and tree roots can catch you by surprise (another reason to bring sturdy shoes). I only gave it three stars because other than the view from the rocks there is not much else to see, but it is a nice, doable hike (2-2.5 hours).
Date of Hike: Saturday, April 26, 2014
Two of my friends and I did the AT south and back extension, which brought the total to around 8 miles. Probably more like 9 for us, since we took a couple of side trails along the way.
This hike has some good challenges, starting with the relentless climb to the top of Humpback. No time to warm up - get out of the car and start walking uphill. The rocky portion of the trail to the summit had several spots that were muddy and watery due to rain the day before. Views were awesome! It was crowded on the rocks, but once you get onto the AT the crowds go away quickly. We enjoyed all three overlooks on the extended portion and stopped for lunch on the third. There were several people there, but we had some nice conversation and then had the spot to ourselves for a bit after they left. We then hiked north back to the Rocks trail intersection, where the sign told us it was 2.7 miles back to the parking area. That 2.7 seemed like 7.2! There are lots of switchbacks and downhills. My feet and legs were burning and over it.
This hike took us about 6.5 hours, including time spent at overlooks and for lunch. We saw three deer, many birds, and one footlong garter snake.
Date of Hike: Saturday, April 19, 2014
What an amazing hike. We drove up from Richmond for the day after hearing about this hike from some friends. We parked at the Humpback rocks visitor center/farm as both parking lots were very crowded. It was a good warm up before hitting the trail. The first .5 miles were basically a steep gravel path. Lots of benches to stop and rest along the way. After that, it gets fun. Lots of rocks and rock steps for the way to the top. It was a bit wet/muddy, but not bad at all. Once you get to the top, it is a bit intimidating at first, but totally breathtaking. We ate lunch at the lower part of the rock with the best view I think I have ever had. After that, we took the 2.7 mile section of the AT back to the parking lot, and it was a breeze. Met some Thru hikers, saw some deer, and got tons of great pictures. We enjoyed the hike back as much as the rocks. Definitely put this hike on your list and bring plenty of water. The only thing that detracted was the amount of people there, but after seeing the view, I can understand why.
Date of Hike: Sunday, April 13, 2014
We came in south of a Humpback Mt and parked at the campground MP 8.5. Plenty of parking and made the hike 5-6 miles to the a Rocks and back. Great views of Wintergreen Resort and the valley. Blue spur trail out of campground, left NB on AT and out to rocks. Warning. No bathrooms until May! Even the Visitor Center closed. Stop at rest area on 64 or drop into Waynesboro OR women beware. We hiked this with 5 kids but they exited out to the Visitor Center and I went back to grab a car. Lovely day. No solitude up here during prime times but one on the neat hikes in this area of the state.
Date of Hike: Monday, October 14, 2013
I hiked this today with my daughter. We started in fog and mist and that's the way we found the views...but in this case there was a sort of "cool" about standing on top of the rocks in the clouds. We could see enough to note that the trees at the top of the hill were beginning to turn and the splashes of yellow coming through the fog was kind of neat. We had lunch on the rocks and turned south on the AT to see if we could get lucky with some views. We didn't, but it was a nice walk with a couple of uphills that had us breathing hard. We turned around about 1.5 miles after resting for a few minutes on a set of rocks that overlooked Rockfish gap. The sun was beginning to break through and we could see several trees with bright red berries just off the rocks. We came down the AT the whole way and from the Humpback Rocks trail split it was gentle until a slight, unwelcome, uphill section that ended at the parking lot. There was a huge tree that had dropped across the trail along this stretch but it was suspended over the trail and you can easily walk underneath it. Great picture moment.