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)
We hiked this starting from Brown's Gap road at the park perimeter, hiking up the Furnace Mountain trail first, then coming down the Austin Mountain trail. Beautiful day, and perfect timing for the the mountain laurel bloom on the Furnace Mountain trail, which was amazing. Few people on the way up, even at Blackrock Summit, but we saw several groups of hikers heading up the Austin Mountain trail as we descended. The multiple rock slides on this trail are no joke, especially at the end of a long hike when you may be feeling tired. You will want to stay alert! We saw one bear (and heard what was likely another) toward the end of the Austin Mountain trail just before getting back on the fire road. Great workout on a beautiful day (we have also done it on a hot day in high summer, which I don't particularly recommend).
Date of Hike: Saturday, May 03, 2014
After eagerly anticipating some great Springtime weather, conditions finally got nice after a week of rain and some friends and I set out for another expedition to SNP, this time driving from the DMV area to the Austin/Furnace Mountain parking area. We left early in the morning and arrived at the trailhead at around 9 AM. With a beautiful, cloudless sky and fresh mountain air in the mid-60s surrounding us, our group of 4 friends embarked with heavier loaded backpacks (two of us going GoRuck style with 40lbs of bricks in addition to water, food, etc.). The first 5 miles of this trail are very straightforward and simple. Almost completely downhill and comparatively easy compared to the rest. Good idea to take your lunch break either at the bottom of the long ascent or at the top (recommend the top because it's beautiful up there). The climb lasts a while and is a great workout, the trail up was well maintained and not very rocky/hard to traverse (there are some rock slides but they don't pose much trouble). The Black Rock summit at the end is well worth the effort and offers some great views and a nice place to soak in the horizon. It's also large enough that even on a crowded day you or your group can find a space to call their own - We didn't see many other people on this hike, however, so good rating on solitude this time. If you're looking for something a little more challenging but without the expense of good views and scenery, this is a good hike to go through. All in all it was a great hike. * * * *
Date of Hike: Friday, December 13, 2013
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.