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)
First off: I think the difficulty of this hike has been oversold a bit. I don't say that to give the raspberry to others' experiences, but to try to keep anybody who might be on the fence about this one from being scared off. I'd give it a 3 on difficulty, and I'm a fat chick who runs about a twelve-minute mile. This is a good, solid workout, but it's far from Mt. Murder.
It's not really true that there's nowhere to catch your breath on this route. There are only a handful of sustained, steep ascents. I seem to remember two southbound, three northbound. (Not everything that looks nasty on an elevation map really is (though by the same token, not everything that looks soft on an elevation map is, either.)) In between there are stretches that are fairly level--the stretch including the Sam Moore shelter a good long one just at the bottom of the first hill out from Bears Den--and, of course, for every ascent, there's a descent. My knees used to hate that fact, too, but a few visits to the Roller Coaster actually seem to have tuned them up.
As others have already noted, there's little in the way of views here however, the shelter and the fact that the AT south of Route 7 is much more lightly traveled than the few miles north of it mean that this does make for a nice, contemplative, let-your-mind-go-blank-and-enjoy-the-quiet-time hike. (Especially nice for me because, as already mentioned, I'm not in great shape and it's nice to do my sweating and puffing away from prying eyes.) Still, the hike's capped with lovely views at either end, which is a nice feature. Today I extended to 605 for various reasons, but Buzzard Hill is a great place to turn around--go out on a high note.
Shelter information: Sam Moore is looking pretty good, no obvious rodent droppings, etc. nice picnic shelter, plenty of tenting areas, privy about as good as you can expect when people keep peeing in there. Spring flowing well as of this date.
A nice hike all around, a great hike for moderate exercise. As the capstone to a much longer day of hiking, these miles can really get your attention, but if you just want the out-and-back, don't be afraid! Dig in!
Date of Hike: Sunday, August 10, 2014
I sought out Buzzard Hill for the challenge and it surely delivered! I had done both hikes at Peaks of Otter in previous weeks, and Buzzard Hill makes them look like childs play. Bring a map or GPS with you, as nobody I talked to knew where exactly Buzzard Hill was and many never even heard of it. I ended up going right past the summit and eventually realized I had gone too far, so I decided to get my moneys worth and kept going all the way to Rte 605, which turned my 9+ mile trek into one around 12-13 miles. Unfortunately, I only brought enough water and conditioning to do 9, not more. After running and fast walking the majority of the course with zero breaks, I eventually ran out of water and the final miles to my vehicle were absolute torture. I had to take numerous breaks, and my clothes began to dry out (not a good sign). The streams provided some nice cold water to splash on myself to cool down, but I couldn't bring myself to drink it lest I be doomed to writing this review from the seat of my toilet. The thought of some coconut water I had sitting on ice in a cooler in my car kept me going. Total time, 5:15. Don't expect much in terms of views, though there is a small one at the summit of Buzzard Hill, as well as a nice rock outcropping right above Bears Den. You can also access this trail at Rte 605, or from the parking area along the major highway if you want to save $3. Bears Den parking lot is also small and could fill up. Stopped at 7-11 and bar none that Super Big Gulp full of Mountain Dew was the best drink I've ever had in my life! If you choose to do this, be prepared. Bring plenty of hydration and know what you're getting into. It was misery, but I'm stronger today because of it. Would I do it again, absolutely!
Date of Hike: Sunday, August 03, 2014
My wife and I completed this hike in about 5 hours 20 minutes (including 20 mins rest for lunch) on a partly cloudy, somewhat breezy day in the mid 70s. We saw a total of 10 other people on the trail, but were mostly alone for the duration. Anyone considering this hike should note the following:
1. This is very challenging, much more so than Old Rag. Why? You make 6 steep ascents by the end of the hike, making this roller coaster route both physically and mentally challenging. The final ascent felt like a kick to the face. (For context, my wife and I are in our late 20s, both in great physical condition with lots of hiking experience.)
2. It's rocky and steep the whole way. Bring trekking poles if you can. I have a knee that acts up from time to time, and my poles were really helpful on the second half. Don't do this if you routinely have knee or ankle problems. If you've had a recent injury or a nagging injury, this hike is guaranteed to reactivate it.
3. If it starts to rain hard, I recommend heading back to your car immediately. There are several streams on this trail that would be tough to cross if water levels rose rapidly. Slippery rocks and mud on the steep ascents/descents would also make the hike extremely difficult.
4. Bring $3 cash for the parking fee.
I can't say that we'll do this hike again, but it certainly has merit. If you are training for a hiking/mountaineering trip, this would be a good route to test yourself physically and mentally. Also, if you are sick of the theme park feel of routes like Old Rag or White Oak Canyon, this hike offers a lot of solitude and feels like you are deep in the wilderness. For those coming from DC, it's also much closer than Shenandoah.
(**NOTE** This hike may be longer than 9 miles. Another hiker with GPS on the same route said it was 11.5 miles.)
Date of Hike: Tuesday, July 29, 2014
This was an awesome hike. It was VERY challenging, but very rewarding. It is NON-STOP up and down over roots and rocks, so it is very tough on the knees. I did it with my brother as a conditioning hike to prepare for a trip to the Dolly Sods and to test out some leukotape I got to prevent blisters. Not too many overlooks on the hike, but the overlook at Buzzard Hill is very nice. On a clear day like we had, you can see all the way to Massanutten mountain. I would recommend this hike to people wanting a SERIOUS workout, not so much for views. Raven Rocks is shorter and has an amazing overlook. This hike is more if you like forest and streams.
Date of Hike: Friday, November 29, 2013
Great workout of a hike - probably a solid 5 in difficulty rather than the listed 4. It's nearly nonstop up and down, with only small flat sections of terrain for recovery. Trekking poles would be great for this hike, but it's doable without them. Not great for views, but the terrain and stream crossings makes this hike very interesting to do. The side trail on buzzard hill isn't blazed, but it's a very short walk up to the rock outcropping on the right (coming from the north) to stop and eat lunch. The challenge in this hike makes this one of our favorites.
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.