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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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)
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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 climbing...it'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!

By: Johnson Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Everything about this hike was great - even the drive to the trailhead on Graves Mill was gorgeous. I hit the trail a little later in the day than I wanted (1 PM), so I made a workout of it to get back before dark. Total hike time ended up being only 3 hours, plus a 30 minute break at the summit. I encountered a total of six people all day, and everyone was very friendly. This is one of the only hikes I've been on that combines streams and summit, which was really nice as well! The Staunton River trail makes up the bulk of this hike, and it's pretty much a walk in the woods along the river. It gets a little steeper as you approach the Jones Mountain trail, but it's nothing too strenuous. After you make the turn onto that trail for the last 1.2 miles, it gets much more intense in a hurry. The scenery changes pretty quickly, too. This last section of the hike was pretty strenuous - I'd compare it to the Humpback Rock hike, but harder. In the interest of saving time, I didn't check out the cabin. The view at the top is so worth it, and you really don't get a sense of how high up you are until you reach it. The colors are beautiful right now, and there's not a speck of civilization to be seen.

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: http://appalachianhikinglove.blogspot.com/2014/10/fly-fishing-at-bear-church-rock.html

    View all 43 reviews for the Bear Church Rock hike
Mid March
Mid February - Photo courtesy of Karl H.
pana
Staunton River Video
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