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Trayfoot Mountain-Paine Run Loop – South District - Shenandoah National Park, VA

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
9.2 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
5.0 hours including 30 minutes for breaks
2,200 ft
Shenandoah National Park
Printable Topo Hike Map (PDF)
Grottoes VA, Weather Forecast
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Park Blackrock Gap on Skyline Drive. 38.206842, -78.749466
Note: Avoid starting the hike in the valley at the Paine Run Trail trailhead on VA340. This area is used as a school bus turn around and should not be used for parking.

By Trail Contributors: Christine and Adam Anderson

This challenging loop in the southern district of Shenandoah National Park isn’t as well-known as some of its neighboring hikes, but it offers a wonderful variety of scenery.  There are two magnificent viewpoints, a beautiful mountain stream to explore, fascinating rock formations, and solitude on some of the park’s less traveled trails.  The loop makes a great day-hike, but it’s also an excellent one-night backpacking trip with camping options at two different locations.  We suggest hiking the loop counter-clockwise, starting at Blackrock Gap.

Note: Avoid starting the hike in the valley at the Paine Run Trail trailhead on VA340. This area is used as a school bus turn around and should not be used for parking.

  • Mile - 0.0 - Park at Blackrock Gap on the western side of Skyline Drive. Immediately cross the drive and pick up the AT headed north.  The trail is blazed white and will track parallel to the drive, ascending gently for .2 miles.
  • Mile - 0.2 - Cross Skyline again. Remain headed northbound on the AT, ascending for about half a mile.
  • Mile - 0.7 -  Reach the junction (trayfootpaine_4.jpg) of the AT and a spur trail to Black Rock Hut. If you choose to explore the hut it will add .4 miles to the total hike distance. This is one of the two camping options along the loop.  The site consists of a shelter with a fire pit, several tent sites, a privy, and a spring-fed water source. If you skip the hut, continue ascending north on the AT.
  • Mile - 1.2 - Reach the junction of the AT, the Trayfoot Mountain Trail, and the Blackrock Trail. Continue straight on AT headed toward Blackrock Summit. Note: Do not take this first turn onto the Trayfoot Mountain trail, or you will miss the best view on the loop.  There will be another spur leading to the Trayfoot Mountain trail just ahead.
  • Mile - 1.25 Reach Blackrock summit and the junction of the Blackrock Spur Trail down to the Trayfoot Mountain Trail. Explore the amazing view and the rock pile at the summit, then descend via the blue-blazed Blackrock Spur.  There are more great views and fun boulder jumbles along the spur trail.
  • Mile - 1.45 - Reach the junction of the Blackrock Spur and the Trayfoot Mountain Trail.  Take a right, continuing on the blue-blazed Trayfoot Mountain Trail. The trail will climb steadily uphill following what appears to be an old road bed.
  • Mile - 1.95 - Reach the junction of the Trayfoot Mountain Trail and the Furnace Mountain Trail. The Furnace Mountain Trail bears to the right. You will continue uphill, remaining on the Trayfoot Mountain Trail in the direction of Paine Run. This is a short but steep climb.
  • Mile - 2.15 - Reach the viewless summit of Trayfoot Mountain. Follow the rolling terrain along the ridge. You'll get nice views of Skyline Drive to the left and tree-obstructed glimpses of Furnace Mountain to the right. There will be some off-trail viewpoints along this ridge, but they are largely obstructed. The best viewpoint from Trayfoot Mountain lies several miles ahead. This section of trail has typically been lightly maintained.  You may encounter blowdowns and overgrowth.
  • Mile - 4.3 - The trail descends steadily via a couple switchbacks. Look for double blue blazes marking the bends. The trail passes some interesting cliffs and boulder jumbles here.
  • Mile - 5.25 – Reach the viewpoint of pointy, rugged Buzzard Rock and the valley below. The trail veers to the left and heads downhill.
  • Mile - 5.8 - Reach junction of Trayfoot Mountain Trail and Paine Run Trail. Turn left on yellow blazed Paine Run trail. Cross a small stream in a couple hundred feet. This stream may be seasonally dry.
  • Mile - 6.0 - Cross Paine Run. This crossing is wide and depending on the time of year, it may be easier to ford it than to try and rock hop across.  About 50 feet after crossing there is a great campsite with space for several tents. If you camp here, remember that campfires in this part of Shenandoah are illegal. If you see a fire pit, don’t use it! 
  • Mile - 6.3 Pass a beautiful series of small waterfalls and swimming holes.  As you hike along the wide, yellow-blazed Paine Run Trail , you’ll ascend gently and move away from the stream. The trail will continue to cross many small feeder streams over the next two miles. Many may be seasonally dry.  During wetter times, the trail may be muddy in spots
  • Mile - 8.3 – The trail takes a wide turn to the right and heads more steeply uphill. The last mile is a steady uphill.
  • Mile - 9.2 - Return to vehicle  at Blackrock Gap.
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Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the Trayfoot Mountain/Paine Run hike:

Hiker Reviews For The Trayfoot Mountain/Paine Run Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Trayfoot Mountain/Paine Run hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, May 19, 2017
Great hike with some great views. The Trayfoot mountain ridge line is a bit wild and is obviously not as hiked of a trail as the rest of the hike as it is very grown up with grasses and whatnot but there were not too many blow downs across the trail. I did see 3 different bears on this hike all along the ridge line. The view from Blackrock Summit was amazing. The hike up from Paine Run is not bad and the trail is very well maintained. All in all a beautiful hike that I will be doing again soon.

By: Barry Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 30, 2017
Great day for a hike in SNP - park was packed but saw only a handful of folks around Blackrock Summit, and none at all on the Trayfoot or Paine Run trails, so a nice quiet day in the woods. Foliage is starting to obscure views from Trayfoot Ridge Trail, in another week or so visibility will probably be totally gone. Also, the trail along Trayfoot Ridge is starting to get a little overgrown. Paine Run was running strong, not so high that getting soaked was inevitable, but we had to pick our spots at a few crossings.

By: Joey B Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 02, 2017
I prefer to start hikes at the bottom when possible so I'm not hiking up at the end to return to my car. I parked at the cul de sac at the southern end of Horsehead Road (rte 661) and followed the continuation of the road on foot to a park entrance. I completed this hike counter clockwise. There are several stream crossing along this hike and most have rocks that allow you to cross without getting wet. At the start of Paine Run Trail, however, there's a wide stream crossing with no rocks or fallen trees to allow for easy crossing. Instead of getting wet at the very beginning of my hike, I went upstream ~200 yards and found a more narrow portion of the stream I was able to cross while staying dry. The views from Blackrock Summit were amazing. The mountains had the very first signs of spring but the trees were still leafless so the views were still largely unobstructed.

By: moondrunk Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, March 19, 2017
We hiked this as mapped. With the trees not yet leafed out this was a very nice hike, with Blackrock Summmit being a highlight. The solitude quotient was very good (although we started at 7:30 am on a cold, blustery day--on a nice day Blackrock will be filled with people so starting early is always a good idea). The ridge walk is very nice, good views and we had beautiful light this morning. Agree with the previous reviewer that this is a pretty easy hike--more like a 3 than a 4.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, February 25, 2017
After reading about this hike (or bits of this hike) on several other sources, we cobbled together enough trail description and maps to do the hike. It's a shame we didn't have this topo map when we hiked it.

We live in Winchester in the Valley and for us, it is much easier to approach hikes in SNP from the edge of the park rather than make the slow drive down Skyline Drive. We started at the trailhead for the Paine's Run Trail. From Grottoes, VA, follow Horsetail Road until it dead ends in a cul-de-sac. The trail head is the continuation of the road very trivial to find. If you live in the Valley, I suggest you take this approach to the hike.

This hike is rated a 4 in difficulty, but it was actually one of the very easiest hikes we have made in the last year. I would rate it no more than a three. There is one steep section of about a tenth of a mile climbing to the Trayfoot summit from the Furnace Mountain junction. Other than this, the slopes are very gentle. I would not call this trail challenging.

This is a hike that is best done in winter: this is the only time you will get any views from the Trayfoot ridgeline. We enjoyed the climb along Paine's Run, the rock scramble on Blackrock summit, and the southern end of the ridgewalk on Trayfoot where the trail weaves in and out of the rocks.

Our trip report:

Late February
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