The Hazel River circuit easily gets a difficulty rating of five. Starting on Skyline Drive the route descends almost to the bottom of the valley. On the return leg along the White Rocks Trail the grades are extremely steep. The payoff is a great waterfall at the top of Hazel River just off the White Rocks Trail.
Start out to the right through the closed gate on yellow blazed Hazel Mountain Trail (the blue blazed Buck Hollow Trail starts from the same point and descends on the left). In 0.5 miles come to the intersection of the Buck Ridge Trail.
Turn right remaining on the yellow blazed Hazel Mountain Trail. In 1.1 miles arrive at the intersection of the White Rocks Trail that you will be ascending at the end of the loop. Remain straight on the Hazel Mountain Trail and reach the intersection of the Catlett Spur Trail in another 0.7 miles.
Stay straight crossing Runyon's Run and passing the intersection of the Hazel River Trail on your left in 0.9 miles before arriving at the Sams Ridge Trail in another 0.1 miles.
Now turn left onto the blue blazed Sams Ridge Trail and in 0.1 miles pass the Broad Hollow Trail that intersects from the right. For the next 2.1 miles along the Sams Ridge Trail the grade of the descent increases as it winds towards the valley below making a sharp left turn before reaching Hazel River.
Turn left on the yellow blazed Hazel River Trail for 1.3 miles crossing the river several times before arriving at the intersection of the White Rocks Trail. Turn right onto the yellow blazed White Rocks Trail cross the Hazel River for the last time then begin an extremely steep ascent to the ridge.
At the ridge continue for 1.2 miles and reach the waterfall trail. Take the trail 0.2 miles steeply downward to Hazel River and one of the main highlights of the circuit. Return to the White Rocks Trail, turn left, and in 0.9 miles arrive back at the Hazel Mountain Trail that you descended earlier.
Turn right uphill on the Hazel Mountain Trail retracing you route, again passing the Buck Ridge Trail in 1.1 miles where you now turn left and in 0.5 miles further arrive back at the parking area.
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Reviews For The Hazel River Hike (5 Most Recent)
A most under appreciated hike. Started from Skyline about 10:15, saw less than 8 people the whole trip on a beautiful fall Saturday with leaves turning. Is the "strenuous" rating scaring folks away? It is a bit longer than others and descending, it felt like I was going all the way back down to DC (old knees alert: bring hiking poles). But you don't have a steep staircase to plunge down as with Buck Hollow/Mary's Rock. And while you only get 1 waterfall versus 4 or 5 on White Oak Canyon/Cedar Run, you also don't have the slippery rocks which can become treacherous during or after rainfall. Think it's because the trail is longer that the steepness evens out, making it actually easier to do than other SNP trails. Though "solitude" lovers may hate me, I'd highly recommend this hike.
Date of Hike: Sunday, March 20, 2011
I thought this was a great hike. The first half was fairly easy with many stream/river crossings. Some river crossings were too deep to hop over rocks, so I bushwacked to avoid getting wet. There weren't many views, but the waterfall toward the end of the hike was an awesome spot for lunch. The last 1/3 of the hike was mainly uphill and could be difficult for some. Not too bad if your in good shape. Great workout. I am looking for more challenging and extremly difficult terrain in the Shenandoah/GWNF, so if you have any suggestions please let me know (email@example.com). I am working my way toward a 7-10 day backpacking trip in Colorado/Utah later this summer, so I need comparable circuits in the area. Thanks and enjoy.
Date of Hike: Sunday, March 13, 2011
http://www.meetup.com/hiking-162/events/16809850/ I've probably hiked this trail 5 times this by far was the most fun. The water was high after the rains and the river crossings were challenging to say the least (check out our pictures). There were a couple times we ended up bushwhacking upstream instead of crossing because there was no way to get across and we knew we'd be crossing back again at some point. There were 13 of us and we needed all that brainpower to figure out how to make those crossings. I had added an option to head up Mary's Rock for the faster hikers (another 3 miles) but with bushwhacking and stream crossing challenges everyone was exhausted. Note to self: Go hiking around rivers after heavy rains. If you want an adventure, this is it!!
Date of Hike: Saturday, December 04, 2010
This hike really wore me out. I used it to try out a new pack and had about 50 lbs. of gear, mainly cold-weather clothing. Went clockwise which started off great with the side trip to the Hazel River falls. The views were a little underwhelming with all the bare trees and there appeared to be a good deal of storm damage in the woods. Once I hit the Hazel River crossings, I was thankful that I had packed my gore-tex socks and gaiters. The river was up and came about mid-calf on me (I'm 6'1"). Without the socks and gaiters, I'd have had soggy feet the rest of the way. Going up Sam's Ridge was no joke. The temperature dropped quickly, and combined with the steep ascent and heavy pack, caused my legs to start cramping. About three miles from the finish, I came across a black bear emptying its bowels onto the trail, so I back-tracked and waited about half an hour before continuing on. When I passed the spot where it had been I noticed numerous bear piles, so I recommend going with a group and personally will never take this trail alone ever again. It took approximately 6.5 hours for me to finish this trail. Next time I'll use a lighter pack and go with group.
Date of Hike: Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Thought this was a nice hike. I wasn't blown away, but it was a good afternoon leg stretch =) I did it in the clockwise direction, in 3.5 hours (kept up a pretty fast pace and didn't take many breaks, jogged a bit on the downhill). The side hike to Cave Falls was my favorite part. It was a cool little spot, I'd like to come back and camp in that cave, and maybe go swimming in some of the little pools. The Sam's Ridge trail was really steep! There are some cool house ruins along the way. The Sam's Ridge trail was getting a little overgrown. Doesn't look like it's been hiked a lot recently, and there is a lot of long grass, and ferns, and other plants along the trail. At least my legs weren't brushing any poison ivy though. I kept checking myself for ticks b/c of all the long grass, but I only pulled 2 off me so it wasn't bad. The views would probably be better in winter. There are some nice ones along the White Rocks trail, but they are over pretty quickly. Hazel Run is very scenic, lush, and green (this time of year), but there are no particularly outstanding features aside from the first waterfall.