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: Good ol' boys Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, February 06, 2015
This is a very pleasant hike (unless you ate a greasy breakfast burrito from Sheetz beforehand), and the scenery is nice. Good views of the rivers (more like creeks) along the entire way, and the overlook is peaceful. We found a great primitive campsite at a confluence of two streams (38.459895, -78.391915) on trail-right that can accommodate 4-6 small tents. We made camp here because we couldn't resist. There was a very nice (and large) firepit with plenty of deadfall lying around for fire the pyromaniac in you. Water access for filtering is right there too! This left us with a simple 1.25-1.5mi hike to the overlook. Just make sure that you have plenty of daylight at this point, and don't drink too much moonshine at the overlook or the hike back to camp in the dark can be a little daunting, especially with the ice on the trail! Like the last post said, micro-spikes would be a big help along the trail during the winter months, but isn't entirely necessary. Giving this hike 3 stars overall. 2hr commute from NOVA, the trail is well marked and maintained, the scenery is good, the campsite was very nice, but the privacy was still left to be desired (lots of day hikers). We would do this hike again.

By: Ken D Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, January 25, 2015
I started this hike at around 8:45 and there was only one car in the parking lot, probably somebody staying at the cabin since there was frost on the windows. The trail was pretty good until about a mile into the Staunton River Trail where it started to turn icy. And it stayed icy with few exceptions. It is hikable, especially if you can stay out of other hikers' tracks, but be prepared for some slipping and sliding. Bear Church Rock always has amazing views, but it was windy and cold so I didn't stick around for long. I continued on the Jones Mountain trail for about 1.5 miles just to see what was there (not much). There were no other tracks and most of the trail was snow so much easier going. This section had a few elevation changes, including an immediate steep ascent just past Bear Church Rock, but it also had a lot of ridge walking that was pretty flat (and pretty welcome too). I used spikes during the return hike and I'd recommend bringing them if you have them and you expect to see snow along the trail.

By: Long Beard Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, December 26, 2014
My wife ,son and I decided to do a day after Christmas hike to get to spend some quality time together away from the busyness of the holidays, This was the ticket, beautiful peaceful scenery , decent weather and a good lunch at the summit. The hike is a steady ascent to the top once you reach mid point. Once at the summit it is a wonderful view of a uncivilized valley ,much the way it must have looked for the native Americans that sat on the same rock thousands of years ago. We hiked to the cabin which was very cool. If you have not done this hike, put it on your list, it's a great one!

By: DCgetaway Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 08, 2014
This is a great hike if you're looking for a day-trip type of excursion from the DC area. It was a quick and easy two hour drive from DC and we did not officially enter Shenandoah National Park, so did not have to pay an entrance fee. There's a small parking lot that fits maybe 6 cars and then everyone else has to park on the side of the road. We were there on a Saturday and were pleased to find few other hikers. We occasionally passed other groups, but 95% of the time we were completely alone on the trail, which was really nice for a weekend get away!

The trail starts off as a nice nature walk by a bubbling brook. You're in an expansive forest and it's quite lovely. We didn't see any animals--only a couple of small birds. As others have said in their reviews, the last 1.2 miles are really straight uphill. They don't involve any sort of bouldering or's just a steep and narrow path through the woods. My boyfriend and I are in good shape (regular long distance runners) and we were huffing and puffing, but it was doable--a good work out!

Once we got to the top we had a lovely 160 degree view of nearby mountains and treetops. There's flat rock on top, which is perfect for a picnic. It was quite chilly at the top, so we were glad to have an extra layer and hat/gloves in our backpack. On the way down we stopped by the cabin, which was very cool to see! I recommend going down there--it's not too far off the path.

To give you a sense of a schedule, we left DC at 8am, arrived at the trail at 10am, got to the peak just before noon, back at our car by 2:00, and then arrived back in DC by 4pm.

Definitely recommend it!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, November 02, 2014
I absolutely LOVED every.single.step. of this hike. It was beautiful from the bottom, to the top. I hiked it with my brother today, and we had a truly wonderful time. We got to the trailhead around 9 am, and were up at the top by 12 after a detour to the Jones Cabin for lunch. It only took about an hour and a half to get down. The trail was pretty quiet too, we maybe saw 10 people the entire time, which I appreciated. I highly recommend this hike, it's easily a favorite of mine now!

    View all 46 reviews for the Bear Church Rock hike
Mid March
Mid February - Photo courtesy of Karl H.
Staunton River Video
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