This hike is the the sister hike of Raven Rocks. Starting at Bears Den it heads south on The Appalachian Trail for 4.5 miles to the top of Buzzard Hill. Although the length is only 9.0 miles the vertical ascents over the ridge spurs add up to over 3000 feet of vertical gain by the time you get back.
From the parking area head up the dirt road towards the house where you turn left on the blue blazed nature trail just before the stone gates. In 50 yards pass a small nature trail on your left and in another 50 yards turn left at the intersection where a 20 foot trail connects to the Appalachian Trail (AT).
Turn left onto the white blazed AT and start your descent where in 0.6 miles you cross a stream over a old wooden foot bridge. Continue on the AT and in 1.0 miles cross the first fork of Spout Run. Begin another ascent as you cross another spur before descending and arriving at the Sawmill Spring/Moore Shelter blue blazed trail that heads left uphill.
Stay straight on the AT and shortly cross the second fork of Spout Run and and intersection of the other end of the Moore Shelter trail. The trail connects with the trail you just passed and is a small loop to the shelter. You can see the shelter through the trees in the winter.
Turn right remaining on the AT for another 1.6 miles as it crosses another spur before passing a short flat area and beginning your final ascent up Buzzard Hill.
At the top of Buzzard Hill the AT heads slightly left, turn right on a short side trail that goes to a lookout area and great spot for lunch. To return just retrace your route.
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Reviews For The Buzzard Hill Hike (5 Most Recent)
I did this hike and went a little longer past Buzzard Hill and got in a total of 14 miles. The elevation wasn't easy especially on a hot humid afternoon and went through 4 liters of water over almost 5 hours with one 15 minute break. It ranks up there on difficulty but my hardest hike by far for the elevation has been Old Rag and Robertson in one day which is the same distant but tougher climb.
Date of Hike: Saturday, July 18, 2015
Had no idea it was called "the Roller Coaster" until after the fact! This should be a level 5 so people set the right expectations and MOST IMPORTANTLY, carry enough water if it's going to be a hot, humid day. Great hike to get a great workout or to simply find out your endurance level and try harder. Will be going back again in a couple of weeks.
Date of Hike: Saturday, June 06, 2015
With all respect to Roadie below (and I do respect her immensely, since she describes herself as "a fat chick who runs about a 12-minute mile" but managed to ace this challenging hike), this hike IS TOUGH. I also don't want to put off people afraid to try it, because it's definitely doable, but I would say it's harder than Old Rag. Know why? Because when you're halfway through hiking Old Rag, all the hard part's over. When you're halfway through this hike, you have exactly as much difficulty heading back.
The ascents and descents are simply no joke, I'd call them the toughest of the Roller Coaster (Google it with "AT").
Unfortunately, I did it on a day when my muscles were recovering from the original P90X Plyometrics workout, which I hadn't done for months before that, so that fact doubled the agony of the last few miles, coming back up to Bear's Den. I'm amazed Roadie extended this one. She's in much better shape than she thought she was. :)
I love this hike despite (or maybe because of) its difficulty, though. It's beautiful, interesting, challenging, and fun.
Mike and Raylan
Date of Hike: Sunday, March 15, 2015
Excellent hike that really challenges the casual day-hiker. If you're looking for a hike with breathtaking views, this one may not be for you (although the views aren't bad). However, you do get a few awesome looks at Spout run and other streams roaring down the mountainside. Most of the winter snow was melting during my hike which made for some great rushing mountain streams.
Certainly a good amount of elevation changes with this hike. One of the toughest aspects of this hike is the fact that most of the trail is rocky/uneven. It was hard to get in a "rhythm", but certainly made for a great challenge. I really enjoyed the fact that this pushed me physically and will be returning to do it again in the future.
I saw quite a few folks on this hike, especially in the first ~2-3 miles. I brought my dog and had him off leash most of the time--was a great hike for him to do despite the crowd of people at the beginning. If you're looking for a great day hike and excellent work out not too far away from DC this is a good hike for you.
Date of Hike: Friday, February 27, 2015
We ended first day of 3 Day backpacking trip from Ashby Gap to Harper's Ferry (Day 1 - 13.5 miles) in the dark on this section of the roller coaster (sun was setting when we arrived at Buzzard Hill). Planning to go back and do it again in the fall when there is not 6-18 inches of snow on the trail. You go up, you go down, cross an snow/ice covered stream and repeat. Reminded me of the Churchill quote "When you are going through hell, keep going." We eventually arrived at Bears Den Hiker Hostel a little after 9pm and had called ahead to let them know our pace was slowed by the trail conditions. Bears Den staff is AWESOME and after consuming 1/2 a pizza and part of a Ben and Jerry's pint (Hiker Special for $30), we retired for the evening in bunks. Next day we did 8.5 miles to Blackburn AT Center, but bailed out and did not complete the final 13 miles to Harpers Ferry do to change in weather forecast to freezing rain and snow which would have complicated the drive home. Will write another review after we do this trail in the fall. Considering we did not get lost in the dark in fresh snow, the AT is blazed well along this section. The stream crossings were easy, since they were snow covered. Hiking in the dark in 50 shades of white on the roller coaster is an experience I will never forget.
Good thing we had a nice cool day for this hike. The total elevation gain is over 3000 ft and by the time we were on the last ascent back to Bears Den our legs had just about had enough.
This was the first time we have hiked to Buzzard Hill and as we expected on this out and back hike the few people we did see were Appalachian Trail thru-hikers.
The one great vista is right at Bears Den, instead of turning south on the AT go north for just 100 yards and the view to the west is great. The hike itself had the streams full with melt water and Buzzard Peak itself has a nice south west view.