Austin and Furnace Mountains loop is one of the most strenuous
day hikes in the Shenandoah National Park. Not only is the hike long, at over 13 miles, but the steep descent down the Austin Mountain ridge, and long climb up the exposed Furnace Mountain trail, make the 3000+ vertical feet of gain seem even that much harder.
From the Browns Gap parking area pass the closed gate, and start down the yellow blazed Madison Run Fire Road (FR). In 0.8 miles look for the yellow blazed Big Run Spur Trail where the FR makes a right bend. Turn right and follow the Big Run Spur Trail uphill for 0.3 miles to the ridge, and intersection of the blue blazed Rockytop Trail.
Turn left on the Rockytop Trail for 0.4 miles to the intersection of the blue blazed Austin Mountain Trail. Stay left on the Austin Mountain Trail as it follows the ridge, then gradually begins to descend. Pass several vistas of the Furnace Mountain summit, before passing through four rock slide areas. In three miles from the Rockytop Trail, the Austin Mountain Trail will make a sharp left turn, and descend the mountain very steeply for the remaining 0.3 miles to the valley, and ending at the Madison Run FR.
Return the 0.5 miles to the Furnace Mountain Trail, and turn left uphill. In 2.1 miles the Furnace Mountain Trail ends at the intersection of the blue blazed Trayfoot Mountain Trail. Stay left, on the Trayfoot Mountain Trail as it descends, then climbs to the intersection of the AT/Blackrock Connector Trail in 0.6 miles. Stay left towards the Blackrock Summit, and in 0.2 miles pass through the lower section if the Blackrock area, before arriving at the intersection of the white blazed Appalachian Trail AT and Blackrock Summit.
Turn left on the white blazed AT. In 0.3 miles pass the Blackrock parking area, before crossing Skyline Drive on the AT in another 0.6 miles. After crossing Skyline Drive, pass the Jones Run parking area in 0.2 miles, and stay on the AT for the remaining 1.2 miles back to the Browns Gap parking area.
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Reviews For The Austin/Furnace Mountains Hike (5 Most Recent)
I hiked this one again, starting at the Fire Road since Skyline Drive was closed for the day. Cold day with no other hikers. The trail was snow covered in spots, icy in a few others, and poles were a great help. There was quite a bit of tree debris on the AT portion of the hike probably from the recent freezing rain, and one or two fresh trees down on the Austin Mountain portion. Nothing that couldn't be stepped over but the branches lying on the trail can trip you if you're not careful. Overall the hike was awesome...much better this time around because no leaves made for better views. I skipped the leg to the Furnace Mountain summit but walked up to Trayfoot summit just to do it. No vista on top but views were okay through the trees. Almost all of the rocks at Blackrock were snow covered to some degree and that made for a couple of nice pictures. There was a pretty large bear track at the Furnace/Trayfoot/Blackrock trails intersection so there's at least one in the area.
Date of Hike: Friday, November 22, 2013
We started at the fire road and proceeded counter clockwise. It took us about 6.5 hours, breaks and Furnace overlook included.The Furnace Mountain-Blackrock Summit stretch is indeed strenuous, but the views were lovely: you can see the skeleton of the mountains clearly, as the trees are now completely bare. The heavy leaves over rocks made for some slippery footing, especially on those tricky rock slides coming down Austin. Even if you're a seasoned hiker, be careful on those: it's ridiculously easy to twist your ankle. Poles would have been useful. We saw no bears, though we'd seen one the week before off the fire road, and only one deer. And met only one other hiker heading up Furnace... didn't even see anyone on the A.T. Temps in the 50s and 60s. I believe we went through only a liter of water each. Great, challenging hike.
Date of Hike: Monday, September 23, 2013
This hike was the most challenging I've taken to date. I gave it a 3 because it was a nice hike, but not great. The trail down to the Furnace Mountain trailhead is pretty easy with a couple of ascents that will start to get the blood flowing. The descent back down to the fire road was as steep as promised, impressively so. The 0.8 miles along the fire road was a great opportunity to start mentally gearing up for the ascent up Furnace Mountain that you know is coming. It was 47 degrees when I started the hike so even though the Furnace Mountain trail is exposed, it wasn't bad. Still, by the time I got to the summit I was pouring sweat. I had a long lunch on the rocks of Furnace Mountain (at about 7.9 miles in). The rocks face the route you just came in on and you can really gain an appreciation for what you walked to get there. The view was perfect. Once lunch was done I turned back uphill and was surprised at how much elevation gain was left. I knew it was significant before I headed uphill, but after the initial climb I thought it would be easier than it turned out to be. Once you get to the Trayfoot Mountain trail you know the hardest part of the hike is over and except for the last stretch up to Blackrock Summit, the trail is almost all flat or downhill. Blackrock Summit was very impressive and has a vista that included just about everything that you had hiked up to that point. I saw nobody the 11+ miles to Blackrock, and only two hikers on the AT after I passed the Blackrock Summit parking area. If solitude is your thing, then this hike was a 5 at least for the weekday that I hiked it on.
Date of Hike: Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Took two days to do this one. I was in no rush. I camped by the summit of Furnace mt. and continued on to Blackrock. It was pretty awesome. Tons of great views. I saw five bears during the hike which was pretty gnnnarrrrrlllyyy.... lots of blackberries and blueberries which was also tuuuubular. Solitude was good... only saw three other hikers during my trip (until I reached the AT of course). Saw some pretty sweet lizards too and camped under a bright full moon. It was pretty killer. Definitely recommend it with the precautionary it's-pretty-tough-elevation-wise. LOH.
Date of Hike: Sunday, December 02, 2012
This was a fun hike! I did the hike counterclockwise and, as you might expect from the elevation profile, the most challenging parts were the steep descent down the Austin Mountain Trail to Madison Run, and then the long climb up the Furnace Mountain Trail. My not-as-young-as-they-used-to-be knees protested while going down the end of the Austin Mountain Trail. Next time I hike this loop, I'll go in the other direction to see if it is any easier on the knees. The Austin and Furnace Mountain Trails were both pretty rocky. In contrast, the Trayfoot Mountain and Appalachian Trails were nice and had very few rocks. I even wondered who had the unfortunate task of taking the rocks off the Trayfoot/Appalachian Trails and moving them to the Furnace Mountain Trail.
The entire hike took me about 5 hours, which included a 15 minute stop at the Furnace Mountain Summit for lunch. Very nice views from the summit and I would have lingered longer except the summit was mostly in the shade and the cold rocks were sucking the heat from my backside. Also, I was worried about the "Be out by 5 pm or you might get locked in the park" warning that was posted at the Rockfish Gap entrance station. I had the trail mostly to myself. Only saw a group of 2 on the Austin Mountain Trail, and then just one mountain biker at the base of the Furnace Mountain Trail. The Appalachian Trail was more crowded (maybe 10 people over the 2 miles of the AT I hiked). Wildlife: scared up three white-tailed deer while going up the Furnace Mountain Trail and saw lots of piles of bear scat (but no actual bears).