The first half of this circuit is a forest walk that passes 2 feeder streams for Rose River, and the second is vista after vista from both the Appalachian Trail and Hawksbill Summit. The views from Franklin Cliffs look out on the Massanutten range to the west, and there is a spectacular 270 degree panorama from the Hawksbill Summit with a view of Old Rag.
From the parking area start down the Cedar Run Trail for 50 yards to the intersection of the Big Meadows Horse Trail. Turn right on the yellow blazed Big Meadows Horse Trail and in 1.0 miles pass under the Old Rag overlook on Skyline Drive, then in 0.1 miles there is a campsite on the left. 0.2 miles after the campsite the trail will meet the intersection of a blue blazed connector trail that leads to parking on Skyline Drive.
Stay left on the yellow blazed Big Meadows Trail as it now heads downhill before turning back to the right and crossing the first of two streams in 1.7 miles. In another 0.4 miles cross the second and final stream. The Big Meadows Trail now continues for 0.7 miles to the intersection of the blue blazed Rose River Loop Trail. Turn right uphill remaining on the yellow blazed Big Meadows Trail for 0.5 miles to the intersection of a fire road.
Turn right on the fire road passing a chain gate and crossing Skyline Drive. Continue down the fire road for 100 yards to the intersection of the white blazed Appalachian Trail (A.T.).
Turn right on the A.T. and in 0.1 miles reach the first of several spectacular westerly vistas. Pass underneath Franklin Cliffs, then in 1.4 miles there is a side trail to a Skyline Drive parking area. From this point it's 1.0 miles to the Hawksbill Summit blue blazed trail.
Turn right on the blue blazed Hawksbill Mountain Summit Trail for 0.6 miles to a westerly vista. Shortly thereafter the trail turns left on a fire road on its way to the summit. Pass the shelter then in 50 yards reach Hawksbill Summit where there is 270 degree vista.
From the summit go back past the shelter for 25 yards, and turn left downhill on the continuation of the Hawksbill Summit Trail for the remaining 0.8 miles back to the Hawksbill Gap parking area.
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Reviews For The Hawksbill Franklin Cliffs Hike (5 Most Recent)
This is a "hike"...the horse trail is a good workout...even if it is a tad long and dull...ran into park maintenance a couple of times...logically it finishes upward and flows nicely onto the AT...
The second half is truly worthy of the 6 star rating for views!
As soon as you step out onto the white blazed trail you are in "vista heaven"...roughly three miles later you are at 4,000 feet and the incredible panorama that comes with it..."saving the best for last" is an understatement here as only the mile descent to the parking area is left...and passing most of your fellow "summiteers"...who use this quick but steep way up...rather than the more gratifying three miles of gradual climbing beginning at the foot of Franklin Cliffs...
Date of Hike: Sunday, May 05, 2013
My husband and I hiked this 9.2 mile loop for the first time on a perfect blue sky, 65 degree day. I would probably increase the level of difficulty to a 4 because of the elevation changes. I'm surprised not more hikers have reviewed this hike.
We've done plenty of hikes in the park and this happens to be one of our favorites. The first part is through a dense wooded trail, a couple of views and a couple of streams. We only passed one person along this trail. The second part is along the ridgeline, going around the mountain. Here is where we ran in to a few more people. We were very surprised by the final summit view which happens to be the highest point in the park (4,050 ft.). The trees are just turning green so it made for a very pleasant view! We'd definitely recommend this hike!
Date of Hike: Tuesday, April 09, 2013
We've done about 40 Hiking Upwards hikes, but this is my first comment. We started from the Upper Hawksbill Parking lot instead of the Hawksbill parking lot. It cut the first dull area off and allowed us to include the Rose River Falls part of the hike. It kept the hike at 9.2 miles. This may increase the difficulty to four when you consider the height elevation from the bottom of the falls, but it is overall a pretty gentle uphill once you get back to Skyline Drive. We saw only one other person on this hike. Spectacular Falls. Spectacular Views. Very nice. Thank you, Hiking Upward!
Date of Hike: Saturday, August 11, 2012
The trail on the eastern side of the parkway is rather dull, with no scenery. We didn't pass one person on the yellow horse trail, but almost stepped on a 4' Timber Rattlesnake. Next time I do this hike, I'd do it as an out and back, either from Hawksbill, or from the parking lot at the southern end of the listed trail. The western side hike would rate this as a five star hike if done by itself.
Date of Hike: Wednesday, February 22, 2012
I wish I'd taken the previous reviewer's hike and added in the Rose River loop, but I had limited time and had to omit what would probably have redeemed the first half of the hike for me. The horse trail was unexpectedly rocky and often slippery due to the few inches of snow covering the ground, especially the first mile or two out from the parking lot. I endured it rather than enjoyed it. The AT/Hawksbill Summit miles were, as expected, littered with nice views to reward me for my efforts, but by the point I got to the top I was ready to be done with the whole experience. Maybe it's better in the spring.