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:
Elev. Gain:
4.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,210 ft
Shenandoah National Park
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e.g. 12000 Government Center Parkway 22035 or Fairfax VA
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)
Review the Bear Church Rock hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, October 27, 2014
Took a day off in the hopes of avoiding weekend crowds and was deciding between two hikes that I've not done before. We met a few other hikers along the way and shared the vista with a couple of other folks but had some great conversation. The view from the top was amazing and well worth the effort to get there. That last 1.2 miles is pretty steep and one can feel the burn in the thighs but it was worth every step. It was an absolutely perfect day for hiking. It was about 38-40 degrees when we started out around 9am and it warmed up to a nice 72 by the time we were back at the car at 2:30. We spent about 45 minutes at the top and took a few other breaks along the way. Saw the cabin, unintentionally, as we took a wrong turn on the way back down. Note to self: always read the posts! I would highly recommend this hike for those that are in fairly decent shape.

By: Jess Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 18, 2014
I hiked Bear Church Rock a few weekends ago and I decided to go a second time to see the trail during the fall (I really loved this hike). Except this time I brought my boyfriend who loves fly fishing so we hiked as well as fished. Instead of breaking off and going up the Staunton River Trail, we hiked up the Rapidan River to try something new. It was so beautiful and well worth it. The hike is really mellow. We passed a few couples that had brought their little kids, an elderly couple enjoying the fall day, and a couple with their dog. If you decide to do the Rapidan River Trail only, I would give it a difficulty rating of 1. Definitely a hike you want to do if you're not trying to physically exert yourself. We saw two snakes (king snake and garter snake), and caught about 4 brook trout. This trail is absolutely one of my favorites and I highly recommend it to anyone because you can tailor your trip according to how difficult you want it to be/how far you want to go/etc. and still get a great experience no matter what you choose. To read more about our hike and see some pictures go here:

By: Amblin Man Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 04, 2014
I did this hike today with my sister and brother-in-law. This hike has a somewhat rare combination of nice water and a great vista payoff up top. The distance and difficulty are perfect for me and the weather was10 out of 10. Life is good.

By: Jess Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 14, 2014
This hike immediately became one of my favorite hikes only a few miles on the trail. The whole time you're walking along the Rapidan River and then the Staunton River until you break away to hike up to Bear Church Rock. The rivers are nonstop cascades and little falls and rapids... so beautiful. Along the river it's a gradual incline and then once you head up the trail to the summit it's much more steep and challenging. I didn't hike to see the cabin and instead headed straight for the outlook. Even though it wasnt a perfect panoramic view, it was still pretty spectacular and you can see Old Rag on a clear day. I HIGHLY recommend this hike, especially to those people who love the sound of running water and/or hikes with waterfalls/cascades/rapids. Check out my hike here:

By: Bruce Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 30, 2014
Hit the trail just before 7 AM and glad we did.  Parking lot was mostly empty then and completely alone all the way to Bear Church Rock where we saw the first person.  But on the way down we met nearly 20 other hikers and the parking lot was overflowing!  But definitely worth getting up early on a Saturday morning.  The entire hike is just full of nice surprises ... the water is amazing and I'm sure if you're so incline lots of good swimming.  The canopy of laurels are really cool, like going through a cave and the Bear Church Rock is great ... we had lunch (ok more like 2nd breakfast) and just enjoyed the view ... nothing but nature as far as you could see.  Did a bit of crawling around on the rocks which was nice.  Discovered that you can get below the rocks and tidied up a bit - if anyone's missing a camo ball cap let us know...and cup of Ramen...really?  The way up is really hard lots of long stretches of steep climbing - you will want to take some breaks to give your legs a rest.  We did the side trip to Jones Mountain Cabin - it's nice but I wouldn't say it's "well worth" it.  It's a long descent to the cabin, which is peaceful but not a lot to see but then an inevitable long climb back to the main trail.  There's a nice little outcrop of rocks to relax on just a short way down the path, but otherwise, I would probably skip this next time.  The way back from Bear Church Rock is literally all down hill and seems to go really fast.  We decided to take McDaniel Hollow trail to the Staunton River Trail rather than taking the hard right on Jones Mountain trail on the way back.  Looks like it adds about a half mile to the hike, but also gave us some extra variety on the way back (plus more water!).  I think it also softens the descent a bit which these old knees are grateful for.

    View all 40 reviews for the Bear Church Rock hike
Mid March
Mid February - Photo courtesy of Karl H.
Staunton River Video
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