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: Friday, July 03, 2015
Hiked a bunch in this area. This is one of our favorite places. The laurel tunnel, the walk along the river and the great view from up top. You will get your workout in with the last mile or so up and take the time to go see the cabin. Bring a set of extra shorts and sandals and soak in the river after the hike. Nice place. Please pack out some trash and enjoy.

By: vafinfan Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, June 15, 2015
This was our first time hiking this trail, and we picked an extremely hot day to do it! Even though the temps were in the 90s, we thoroughly enjoyed our day. The trail was well maintained and easy to follow. Since it was a weekday, (and so hot), we had no problem with crowds. Our only interactions on the entire trail were one other hiker and one bear! We're regular hikers, so we didn't find the trail to be difficult. Hiking along the rivers provided a peaceful setting, and the view from the top was spectacular! We'll definitely do this hike again in the fall when the colors are out and the temps are cooler. I was curious to know if anyone has ever made this a loop by continuing past the overlook back down to the Staunton River Trail. Not sure how long this would make the hike, or if it's possible.

By: aldikuma Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 07, 2015
With snow and ice on the ground, I thought this would be a great opportunity to try out my ice traction boot attachments. It was slow going to the top, but BEAUTIFUL scenery along the run with the snow everywhere. Wow. And then from the top, the view was gorgeous. We didn't make it to the cabin as we started late in the afternoon, so I can't tell you if it's worth it. As with every hike in SNP there were many hikers, despite the snow and ice covered trails, but still nice. This would be a nice hike in any season.

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.

    View all 49 reviews for the Bear Church Rock hike
Mid March
Mid February - Photo courtesy of Karl H.
Staunton River Video
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