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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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: AM+Michael Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, December 16, 2015
This hike was tough but fair.

Other hikers weren't kidding when they said the back stretch is all uphill. It was difficult, emotionally and physically but we ultimately made it to the top and it was TOTALLY WORTH IT. Great views! Great streams! So much nature it's literally EVERYWHERE. We'd recommend, but have a few other hikes under your belt before you attempt. We consider ourselves sedentarily-in-shape, IE: standing up from chairs, sometimes several times a day. The hike was much like sitting in a chair all day, if that chair was actually a mountain and you were forced to walk to the top of it.

Bring sandwiches IF YOU DARE* (*bear)

By: Tamara Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, December 06, 2015
Great hike! The hike follows the Staunton River for the majority of the distance and isn't very difficult until you turn onto the Jones Mountain Trail. The last 1.2-ish miles are pretty much straight up and don't give you too much of a break. But the view at the top is completely breathtaking and well worth the work. Also, don't pass up checking the cabin. There is also a spring there where you can fill up your water bottle. Passed about 10 people on the hike and had the top to myself the entire time, so there is decent solitude.

By: Elizabeth Stalcup Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, November 20, 2015
My husband and I chose this walk for its steep climb because we are training to climb the Grand Canyon in late December and it did not disappoint. The last half mile is quite steep making us glad we brought trekking poles. The sun was shining all day though we walked mostly in shade because the sun angle does not reach into the ravine this time of year. We thought one of the stream crossings was challenging we had to go quite a ways off trail to find a safe place to cross and even both of us got one foot wet. But it rained all day yesterday so I think the water is not normally this high. The water in Stauton River was thundering downhill with lots of cascades, small falls and swirling pools. Awesome!! We saw two other hikers on the trail and one couple near the trailhead near dusk.  Our Trails app said the hike was 8.7 miles.

By: Ray Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 31, 2015
Though we had missed the peak for the changing leaves, this was still a gorgeous hike and a very challenging one at that. This time of year affords for great flows for the Rapidan and Staunton Rivers. Even though the rating says a 3 for solitude, I saw more hikers on this trail than on any other, with at least 20 different parties traversing up and down. I'd like to think of myself as a fairly athletic person but that final climb to the peak had me take a moment to rest. Granted, I was also weighed with an overnight pack to prepare for another trip, but I still was more fatigued than I had been on hikes such as Old Rag and the Rose River Loop.

By: Paul Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, October 22, 2015
Such a great time of year in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The colors are close to peaking and the forest is magical. This hike is a feast for the senses in Autumn. The Rivers are flowing nicely and for three miles you here the sound of the water. The last mile is a workout. The one last gasp of breath and bam...the view is awe inspiring. Especially with the yellows, oranges, and dots of red on Fork Mountain straight ahead. Doubletop to the side and even a glimpse of Old Rag. You can see Old Raggedy Ann all over the Park and in so many places. I chose to visit the cabin on the way down because the .6 mile is somewhat steep down then back up. And definately worth the extra mileage. I stopped many times on the way back to appreciate what Mother Nature gives in Autumntime falling leaves, running water, and magnificent color. A must see hike. Only saw three people the entire 8.5 miles.

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Mid March
Mid February - Photo courtesy of Karl H.
Staunton River Video
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