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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: Colin Kreling Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 13, 2014
Took the dog on this hike and enjoyed it a lot. There was plenty of water for her to swim in and the view at the top was awesome. Very quiet hike, only saw 3 or 4 people. The difficulty is fairly moderate at first but becomes very steep for the last mile or so.

By: Chuck Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, April 11, 2014
This is a great hike, backpacking, and camping location. My son and I hiked in 1.75 miles to find a flat area to set up camp on Friday. The Staunton River is right next to the trail providing spectacular views and if you like listening to rushing water to help you fall asleep, well this is the place. We hiked on Saturday up to Bear Church Rock summit. A very nice hike with more great views of the river along the way. Make sure you take the un-blazed, but highly traveled, side trail that's down from the Bear Church Rock summit to the overlook, the views are spectacular! We also hiked to the Jones Mt. Cabin to take a look, very nice, will look into staying here sometime. On the way down, take the extended section of the trail back to the Staunton River Tr. (another .5 miles) you'll be rewarded with a gentle decent and more time along the Staunton River and great views and water falls. This was a great hiking & camping weekend, one of our favorites. Highly recommended.

By: Dave Raber Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, March 16, 2014
Hike this in early spring/late winter cloudy weather yesterday. What a beautiful trail. Walking along the Rapidan is great, and I hope to come back with foliage on the trees. We hiked to the summit first, and then went to visit the cabin on the way back down, which I recommend. It's a pretty tough hump up to the summit, and then also from leaving the cabin, back up to the main trail. I'm a 45 year old, fairly fit guy, and hiked this with my 17, 15, 13, 8 year old sons, who had no trouble, and also my 5 year old and 3-1/2 year old boys. The 5 year old gets drug along on lots of hikes and activities, and he made it the whole way, but it was pretty hard. My 3-1/2 year old rode on my back all the way up, but walked himself all the way down with the help of older brothers. Don't skip the cabin! It's worth it. We fortunate to encounter the PATC overseer on the trail, and he opened it up for us to look around inside. I'm glad this hike isn't as well know, as we only encountered a handful of other hikers, and that's just because we weren't all that speedy. We headed up at 10:30, and were back at the van by 4:30, including a half hour lunch break on the rock, plus cabin visit for 20-30 minutes, plus short breaks.

By: Earl Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, February 22, 2014
Started the hike around noon. At this time of the day the parking area was completely full. As we made our way up the Staunton river trail we noticed that most of the trail as well as the surrounding wooded areas were covered with with snow. This made navigating the trail, which was a gradual incline, more of a feat than usual. It was beautiful! The trail followed the river and the sun was beaming off of the snow which made for a great start. As we made our way onto the blue blazed "Jones Mountain Trail" we began a much steeper incline on ice and snow. We began to see a lot of other hikers heading down from the top of the mountain saying "the top is great". We made it to the top of the mountain in roughly 3hrs. The hike was well worth the view. We pretty much ice skated the entire way down. This was a great hike and I highly recommend it. You will cross many streams while following a river for most of the hike.

By: Justin Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, January 25, 2014
Since Syline Drive was closed, I decided to try this not so well known SNP hike. Me and my hiking partner arrived at the trailhead at 9:45am and the parking lot was almost full. Their were probably a couple of more spaces for people to park, but it would have been a tight squeeze. It was 18 degrees when we started the hike with 2-3 inches of snow on the ground. Overall, the hike was wonderful. It was super quiet, and even though their were plenty of vehicles in the lot we met only one person on the hike. The snow was beautiful and the overlook was well worth the hike. The trudge up is slow, it took about three hours for us. But, after stopping for lunch at the overlook, it took us 1 hr and 15 minutes to make it back to our vehicle. I hope to return to hike this trail again in the spring or summer, but I have a feeling I will need to arrive around 6 or 7 in the morning to be able to park.

    View all 31 reviews for the Bear Church Rock hike
Mid March
Mid February - Photo courtesy of Karl H.
Staunton River Video
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