Bear Church Rock - Central SNP
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Bear Church Rock - Central SNP, Virginia


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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
8.5 mls
Hiking Time:
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4.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,210 ft
Shenandoah National Park
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Parking is at the end of VA662 in the Graves Mill parking area. 38.43695, -78.36710

Unlike many of the other picturesque hikes in the Shenandoah National Park, the Bear Church Rock circuit is not nearly as well known. This hike starts along the beautiful Rapidan River, then heads up alongside Staunton River with small falls and pools, before making a steep climb to the panoramic outcropping of views at Bear Church Rock.

The hike posted here also does a short 0.6 mile out and back detour to the magnificent Jones Mountain Cabin. The cabin sits next to a stream that runs most times of the year, and is maintained and available for rent from the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.

From the Graves Mill parking area on VA662 start up the yellow blazed Graves Mill Trail as is stays on the left of the Rapidan River for 0.5 miles to the intersection of the Staunton River Trail.

Turn left on the blue blazed Staunton River Trail, and in 0.5 miles look for a small side trail to a set of falls and pool. Continue along the Staunton River Trail another 1.7 miles to the intersection of the Jones Mountain Trail. Turn left on the steeper Jones Mountain Trail for 0.5 miles to the next junction, where the Jones Mountain Trail turns left, and the McDaniel Hollow Trail turns right.

Turn left staying on the Jones Mountain Trail as it winds around the mountain and passes through a canopy of Mountain Laurel before reaching an intersection where a side trail leads down to the Jones Mountain Cabin. The side trip to the cabin is 0.6 miles out and back, and well worth the extra distance.

After returning from the side hike to the cabin turn left uphill on the Jones Mountain Trail as it heads around the eastern side of the ridge for another 0.5 miles to the Bear Church Rock rock overlook. The Jones Mountain Trail continues past Bear Church Rock, so make sure not to miss the unmarked short side trail to Bear Church Rock on the right.

From high point of the hike retrace your steps back down Jones Mountain to the starting point and parking area.
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Hiker Reviews For The Bear Church Rock Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Beth Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 14, 2016
Really enjoyed this hike, more than I did White Oak Canyon/Cedar Run Loop. It had waterfalls, a river, some boulders that the path cut through (wee!), a stream to rockhop across, several creeks to skip across, an elevation gain, a cabin, and then a mountain top view. Oh, and I saw a rattlesnake on the way back out. It was also pretty secluded, so I enjoyed the peace and quiet. Like other hikers say, I had the top to myself, but getting up that last 0.5 was a pain in the butt!!! Talk about steep! Still, totally worth it. I saw about a dozen people on the trail total.

By: Joey B Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 14, 2016
My dog and I arrived around 6:30am and were surprised to see another car pull up right after us. It turned out to be a local taking his two dogs on an early morning walk. I ended up turning this hike into a loop I'll describe below. By the time we made it back down around 11:30am, the parking area was almost full.

As usual, the directions above are great. If you want to turn this hike into a slightly longer loop, continue along Jones Mountain Trail after the Bear Church Rock overlook. After a few more miles on Jones Mountain Trail, you'll come to a concrete trail marker. Turn right and descend towards "The Sag." At the Sag, turn right and follow the fire road (Fork Mountain Road) until the Staunton River Trail begins on the right. The Staunton River Trail leads all the way back to the 662 parking area. All the trails are well marked and junctions have concrete markers providing directions and distances. In total, the hike to Bear Church Rock and the loop back down as just described is about 14 miles (including the out and back detour to the cabin). Adding the loop doesn't add much more vertical.

I found this map helpful when turning this hike into a loop. It's the map from the Hiking Upward Jones Mountain Hike that starts on Skyline Drive: http://www.hikingupward.com/SNP/JonesMountain/images/Map.pdf


By: AM+Michael Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, December 16, 2015
This hike was tough but fair.

Other hikers weren't kidding when they said the back stretch is all uphill. It was difficult, emotionally and physically but we ultimately made it to the top and it was TOTALLY WORTH IT. Great views! Great streams! So much nature it's literally EVERYWHERE. We'd recommend, but have a few other hikes under your belt before you attempt. We consider ourselves sedentarily-in-shape, IE: standing up from chairs, sometimes several times a day. The hike was much like sitting in a chair all day, if that chair was actually a mountain and you were forced to walk to the top of it.

Bring sandwiches IF YOU DARE* (*bear)


By: Tamara Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, December 06, 2015
Great hike! The hike follows the Staunton River for the majority of the distance and isn't very difficult until you turn onto the Jones Mountain Trail. The last 1.2-ish miles are pretty much straight up and don't give you too much of a break. But the view at the top is completely breathtaking and well worth the work. Also, don't pass up checking the cabin. There is also a spring there where you can fill up your water bottle. Passed about 10 people on the hike and had the top to myself the entire time, so there is decent solitude.

By: Elizabeth Stalcup Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, November 20, 2015
My husband and I chose this walk for its steep climb because we are training to climb the Grand Canyon in late December and it did not disappoint. The last half mile is quite steep making us glad we brought trekking poles. The sun was shining all day though we walked mostly in shade because the sun angle does not reach into the ravine this time of year. We thought one of the stream crossings was challenging we had to go quite a ways off trail to find a safe place to cross and even both of us got one foot wet. But it rained all day yesterday so I think the water is not normally this high. The water in Stauton River was thundering downhill with lots of cascades, small falls and swirling pools. Awesome!! We saw two other hikers on the trail and one couple near the trailhead near dusk.  Our Trails app said the hike was 8.7 miles.

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Mid March
Mid February - Photo courtesy of Karl H.
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