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: 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.

By: moondrunk Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 10, 2014
We started at 7:30 am and there were already two cars in the small parking lot. It was full when we finished at 11:45, so I recommend going early. The first couple miles are very easy and pleasant as the trail tracks alongside the river. There are multiple swimming holes for cooling off in on a hot day (today wasn't quite warm enough). Once you turn up the Jones Mountain trail the ascent becomes quite steep, but it's not too far to the overlook from that point. This would not be a good choice for a first hike though, or for someone who is not in good shape--the grade provides a serious workout. We were impressed with how well the trail was maintained. The view from the overlook is fantastic, particularly because you can't see any signs of civilization in any direction. The descent is quite easy. Very nice hike overall, would like to do it again in the fall.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, July 18, 2014
Great hike with a good mix of water and some pretty steep hills. Before you make the turn to head up the mountain, there are some pretty good swimming holes. The dog didn't want to jump in, surprisingly, but after feeling the water I know why - it's icy cold! Even in July. Felt great on the knees though after coming back down the steep part of the mountain. Going up is a workout for sure, but coming back down is no joke. The legs take a beating. My wife slipped once going down and landed on her duff. The rocks are loose, so paying attention on the way down is important. We only saw one other hiker who showed up at the summit just as we were getting ready to head back down. This is a great hike to take the pooches on and not really have to worry about running into dozens of people like you would on the AT this time of the year. Would definitely love to do this one again! I imagine October / November would be great up here.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 11, 2014
We did a different route: starting at Boteen Gap Parking we hiked north on the AT until we hit Laurel Prong Trail. Took that over Cat Knob to Jones Mountain trail. That intersection is where the directions for this route say to continue on Jones Mountain Trail. The Jones Mountain Trail is not too strenuous to Bear Church Rock but it does have a steep section right before the out cropping. I rate this hike 5+ for solitude- we saw two other small groups in 9 miles of hiking on a beautiful spring day. The view from Bear Church Rock was breath-taking! Might be a bit difficult for a novice hiker but the route we took included no stream crossings so that's a plus.

By: SMM Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, April 21, 2014
This was a great hike. Walked this trail in late April the day was perfect with full sun and mild temperature. The first portion of the hike (from the parking lot along the river) is fairly easy with a mild grade. The views of the river are wonderful and there are plenty of photo opportunities along the way. Once you start up the mountain the grade is not terribly challenging for an experienced hiker, but did get the heart rate up. There is a false summit that has incredible views (better than the summit really) but the true summit is a great place to stop for lunch. I went by the cabin on the way down from the summit, which was a good route. The cabin is interesting and offers more photo opportunities, along with a natural spring. Definitely recommend hitting the trail extension on the way down that extends your walk along the river. If the river is up there are some awesome rapids to view. Highly recommend this hike, novice hikers would probably be physically challenged, and I think it is great for those more experienced to get back into hiking after not being on the trails for awhile (as is through winter).

    View all 36 reviews for the Bear Church Rock hike
Mid March
Mid February - Photo courtesy of Karl H.
Staunton River Video
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