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.
Interactive Hike Map BelowPrintable
Topo Hike Map (PDF)
Hike route in Drag the map with your mouse using the icon Zoom with the controls on the left
Click the icons in the map below for location shots
Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the Austin/Furnace Mountains hike:
Reviews For The Austin/Furnace Mountains Hike (5 Most Recent)
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).
Date of Hike: Friday, October 19, 2012
I thoroughly enjoyed this hike. We started about noon, only intending to hike to the top of Austin Mountain and back, but opted to do the whole loop, getting back about 6, just before dark. We parked at Big Run overlook, hiked the AT down to the Austin Mountain Trail. The changing of the leaves was at its peak so the views were spectacular. On the last leg of the loop, on the AT, we spotted a large black bear, which was really cool.
Date of Hike: Saturday, September 22, 2012
This was the best hike my wife and I have ever done. The rock slide areas on Austin mountain had incredible views and many of them were rose quartz, which was beautiful. This hike had many spectacular views the whole hike even with dense tree cover in the beginning of fall. We liked that the views continued the whole trip instead of endlessly climbing up a mountain for a brief view at the top. On our way to the trail we saw a bear crossing skyline drive of all places. We followed the directions on hiking upward and would suggest this for others. After 10 miles having to hike up Austin mountain would have been very painful if you did the hike in reverse. The trayfoot mountain trail was not blazed, but there was one of the SNP sign posts pointing you in the right direction towards the blackrock connector trail. Also a hat for furnace mountain is a good suggestion, its a very exposed. My wife and I are in good shape and this hike kicked our butts. This definitely earns its 5 for difficulty. Looking forward to hiking this one again!
Date of Hike: Saturday, June 09, 2012
Great hike. Our crew followed the HikingUpward map route counterclockwise. The Austin Mt trail was pretty leisurely, mostly shaded and well blazed. Some spots on the footbed of the trail on side hills were worn over but easily passible. Water was available only after the trail intercepted the Madison Run fire road and then 75 yards or so west of the intersection. The stream was running but as summer wears on it could be spotty. There's a good place to have lunch just across the stream before you start up the Furnace Mt trail. This was the last place to get water before Blackrock Hut. Ticks were plentiful so when we stopped we were picking them off. The Furnace Mt trail was in good shape but was a lot more exposed so it got kind of warm on the way up. And the way up is constant for about 3.5mi until you get to Trayfoot Mt. While it's not steep it's a workout. The spring at Blackrock Hut was running pretty well. We found a lot of good company with thruhikers at the shelter. The only downside were the numerous whipoorwills that called all night. After a short uphill on the AT to Blackrock summit, it was all downhill to the Brown's Gap lot.
Date of Hike: Sunday, February 26, 2012
My wife and I have hiked this a dozen or more times over the years and it's a favorite. We have found it's better, however, to park down at the bottom of the trail. There's a parking area just down the fire road from the park boundary. Many people park there and we have never had an issue (we don't park there to beat park admission -- we have an annual pass -- but so the last leg of the hike is downhill!). This is a great hike just after a heavy snow. There are thousands of animal tracks from large to small, few, if any hikers, and the drive will be closed so no traffic.