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:
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4.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,210 ft
Shenandoah National Park
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Graves Mill Weather Forecast
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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: David M. Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 26, 2016
Did this with my wife for her first backpacking trip this weekend. Graves Mill Trail was easy going. Staunton River Trail begins a very slow accent. Fantastic water views along this stretch, with some great pools to soak in in the summer. There are a couple of established campsites on this trail (I'll get back to this in a bit). Once you get to Jones Mountain Trail...I hope you are ready for a tough, but rewarding climb. All uphill from here. We got to the intersection where the side trail goes to the cabin, and kept heading towards Bear Church Rock. For us, this was the toughest part, a quite quick ascent, and with most of the leaves haven fallen, your steps must be strategical. We made it to the summit, and oh my, what a view. Well, well worth the journey. Unfortunately for us the winds were gusting out of the NW at close to 40mph, and with temps dropping dramatically, our time spent at the top was brief. I had planned on finding the camping spot mentioned by a commenter near the summit, but couldn't find anything. I also did see that the trail did wind up past Bear Church Rock, but with it being unmarked, didn't want to push too further . With daylight running out (we left the summit at 3:45), decided to maybe camp at the cabin mentioned. There are a few flat spots here, but I'd pass on tenting here (but there is a running spring!). We decided to head back down the mountain, pretty much double timing it, and made it all the way back to the Staunton River Trail, where we found an existing campsite on the left, possibly 25 feet from the trail, and 15 ft from the river. Great spot with large rocks to sit on and/or table things you might need to start setting up camp. At this point it was almost dark, so we set up, had dinner (no fire), and retired to our tent to read. The sound of the river was fantastic. I will say that we were woken up by a random group of older day-hikers yelling at us at 7:30am that our "site was too close to the water" and "thanks for ruining things for the rest of us". Ok well, thanks dad.

If you are doing this in a day, it's gotta be a burner. Well worth the trip though. I'll say the trails are all well blazed and there are monuments in place at major intersections. The view at the top is incredible.


By: Eric H. Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, October 06, 2016
Definitely one of my favorite hikes at SNP. Great river/waterfall views, excellent trail quality, tough climb up the mountain, solitude, and of course beautiful views from the top. Saw only one other hiker less than a mile from the parking lot on my way down.

By: Katy W Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 10, 2016
We hiked this trail on an unusually hot September day. The first part of the hike was very warm, but lovely because it goes right along next to the river, and the sounds are very peaceful. Once we started to gain a little elevation, the breeze cooled us off and the temperature was more enjoyable. The hike is a good level of challenge - especially the last 3/4 mile, which is pretty consistently steep. The view at the end was beautiful and quiet - just us and a couple vultures riding the updrafts. There are some rocks you can scramble around on at the top, which was fun too. Overall, the solitude was as advertised - we only saw 3 other people the whole time. Time to hike was a good estimate as well - we left our car around 11 am and returned by 3:45 or so. We definitely recommend this hike!!

By: S Roberts Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, July 20, 2016
My daughter and I did this hike today (a Wednesday). Solitude would be a 5 to 6 since we only saw one person at the very end of our hike. We liked the first part of the hike to the cabin where there was a rock overlook about .1 miles down the path. The rest of the hike to the cabin was quite down hill which meant a good hike back up after seeing the cabin. Not much to see at the cabin since it is locked and there are no views. We would only hike to the rock overlook and skip the hike to the cabin if we did this hike again. We saw a 5-10 bear scat piles along the upper portion, but didn't see any large animals of any kind the entire hike. There was a lot of uphill sections that made us stop for a number of breaks. The view from Bear Church Rock is very nice. We relaxed on the rock and enjoyed the breeze, view, and solitude. A nice challenging hike.

By: Shawn R. Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, June 24, 2016
This was a phenomenal hike, but it definitely made you work hard. The incline seems almost relentless for the last mile or two up to the incredible view, but it is certainly worth the trek. We didn't have a chance to make it to the cabin, though. The first part of the hike is also really cool with the rivers alongside the trail for a majority of the way. It is easy to access the water at many points where there are some swimming holes and picturesque waterfalls. Overall, the hike took just over 4.5 hours and we saw around 10 other hikers on the trail so I believe the 3 stars for solitude is appropriate. The other ratings also seem appropriate, but I would say the difficulty is closer to a five (or at least a 4.5). Also, the drive to the hike is incredibly scenic with many rolling hills, farms, and mountain views. I highly recommend this hike but make sure you are ready for a workout! Check out my video from the hike: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqw7iS8swOA&feature=youtu.be

    View all 64 reviews for the Bear Church Rock hike
Mid March
Mid February - Photo courtesy of Karl H.
pana
Staunton River Video
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