Humpback Rocks is a very popular hike due to its proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway and
I-64 near Afton Mountain. Most people do it as a 1.0 mile up and back. We decided to add a few miles for the return trip by following the Appalachian Trail North and a couple of un-named blue-blazed trails.
We parked at the Humpback Rocks parking area (MP6 on the Blue Ridge Parkway). The blue-blazed trail begins to the right of the kiosk . The trail wastes no time ascending with park benches scattered every so often if you need to take a break. Don't be fooled by the 1.0 mile to the top, if you are not used to hiking you will find muscles sore that you forgot you had!!
There will be an intersection on your left in 0.5 miles, ignore it and stay straight on the blue blazed trail. For the next 0.4 miles the trail is very rocky but there are both wooden steps and rock steps for some of the more difficult parts. If it has rained be prepared that the trail can be a little muddy and in some places becomes a temporary stream. At the next intersection bear left on the spur trail to the Rocks and some incredible views. There are multiple places to take photos, just be careful especially if wet. We were a little disappointed in the amount of graffiti at the Rocks but try to ignore it and concentrate on the views.
Return to the intersection with the 'Rocks' sign, ignore references to the A.T. as those are old signs when it ran close to the Rocks before it was re-routed years ago. At the 'Rocks' intersection, go straight on the blue blazed trail towards Humpback Picnic Area and reach the A.T. in less than 0.10 miles.
Turn left onto the white-blazed A.T. North (*for additional views see A.T. South Out and Back directions below). This begins a 2.7 mile gradual descent for most of the trail back to the Parking area. We saw lots of wildlife: eastern newt, deer and tons of chipmunks - they are too fast to get a decent photo. The mountain laurel and rhododendrons were blooming all over this section of the trail. Returning this way made for a very pleasant stroll and we ran in to only a couple of hikers. The next intersection is in 2.7 miles. Bear to the left, onto a blue-blazed trail to return to the Humpback Rocks Parking area.
*A.T. South Out and Back for Additional Views
If you prefer seeing more great views without the crowds take the A.T. South instead of North at the Intersection mentioned in the previous paragraph. If you take in all 3 additional views in this out and back you will add about 4 miles to your trip. In 0.4 miles from the intersection you will come to an unmarked spur trail to take you out to the first view. These rocks are very similar to Humpback Rocks but not as massive. You will see these rocks on your left as you are on the trail and at the top of the hill you will come to the spur trail. Continue south on the A.T. for 0.7 miles to reach the second view on your left looking out to Rockfish Valley on the east and Shenandoah Valley on the west. The last view will be 0.9 miles beyond the second view. About 30 yards before the last view you will pass a great campsite with room for about 6 tents. We actually did this as a short overnight backpack and spent the night at this campsite taking in one of the most beautiful sunsets we have ever seen in Virginia. You will have an almost 180 degree view of Rockfish Valley, Wintergreen Resort, and finally the Shenandoah Valley. This is your turn around point. Note: If you do camp here, bring plenty of water as there are no water sources on this section of the A.T.
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Reviews For The Humpback Rocks Hike (5 Most Recent)
I chose this for my first solo hike. Usually I'm with a buddy or group but I'm the only one who had Monday off. I took the AT North loop mentioned above, which is a great option. Even though it was a Monday I saw about 5 other groups on the way to the rocks, but after getting on the AT I didn't see a soul. It was too cloudy for a view, but it was still lovely out and I found it to be quite peaceful hiking alone. The whole thing took me exactly 2.5 hours, and I only stopped at the rocks for about ten minutes since there wasn't a view. I was trekking at a decent pace (I even ran part of the AT), so I started to get a little worried that I'd taken a wrong turn when it took longer than expected, but just when I started getting nervous I got to the intersection leading me back to the parking lot. I recommend this hike to anyone regardless of experience/skill, but it is definitely a good idea to do on a weekday if you can! Next time I plan on trying the AT South route.
Date of Hike: Sunday, September 30, 2012
It's fall so it's hiking time (ok I hike in the summer/winter/spring but I LOVE fall hiking).
First off- note that the parking lot you want is not the Humpback Rocks visitor center- but the parking lot immediately after (heading southbound) on the left side. However, it's just a short walk from the visitor center lot to the trail head- and is actually nice to get the legs a little loose before hitting the trail.
This is definitely a great hike under the condition that you get there early. We parked and started our hike around 815/830 in the morning and made it to the top in about 25/30 minutes. We were lucky when we got there- as it was my friend and I and only two others on the top- nice and quiet- you could hear the wind blowing, the occasional car on Blue Ridge Parkway below. That said- when we finished the hike, the parking lots were PACKED- this was around 1115/1130. I'd guess if you get there much later than 845/9- you're going to have plenty of company on the top- and if you're like my friend and I who enjoy it being quiet to let you think and really enjoy the peace- you're going to find that more on your hike down than at the top.
The hike down was equally great. While the first part going up was definitely strenuous since you hit the trail climbing steep- the down was relaxing. However- we noted that a sign on the trail indicated that from the intersection with the AT to the parking lot (via the AT)- it was only 1.2 miles- it is definitely longer (and we expected this since we had our sheet from HU- it was just a little confusing).
Date of Hike: Sunday, September 30, 2012
We arrived here around 11:15 perhaps, on a nice Sunday in late September. The lot was nearly full already we lucked out and got a spot(there was a ranger directing cars where to park) I knew it would be crowded, but the next 2 days weather forecast was not as good while I was in town so we had to do it on Sunday.
The hike up is a haul, I think it took us 45 minutes. We saw all kinds of people from college students to people in tennis shoes. The hike up was basically a hiking highway and lots of people. The top was pretty crowded and it was not the most enjoyable of lunches at a summit due to this. Lots of annoying people on cell phones and the like. One hot shot was heating up hot chocolate on a backpacking stove. The views are pretty good. After lunch we really wanted to get away from the gobs of people so we set out to the AT junction and headed South. What a relief, we didn't see another soul until halfway down to the parking lot 90 minutes later. Heading South we could not find the first lookout described in the hike. We did find the second, which was a nice view. Neither one was marked but the second one was pretty obvious, right on the trail essentially. Here we turned back and continued North on the AT the 2.7 miles or whatever from the junction, downhill. We saw a couple people towards the bottom. The spur trail to the parking lot was marked with a sign, you can't miss it.
Dressed in hiking boots and day packs we kind of stood out from everyone else, most people take this as a quick trip out of the car to the top then back down and that's it, and are in sneakers(or worse) and carry nothing. If you really wanted to avoid people you could go up the longer AT from the parking lot and only deal with the crowds up top.
Date of Hike: Saturday, September 15, 2012
Amazing hike. It isn't long but it does it get a little steep at times. It is a little bit of a work but mind you I'm a nearly 40 year old man who sits a lot. Regardless of how much of a work out it is for you, it is well worth the climb. The day I went the weather was perfect and the views were spectacular. The graffiti on the rocks is a bit disturbing (idiots) but the view is so great you almost miss the graffiti all together. The trail is very popular and you will most definitely not be alone. However, I was fortunate to have about a minute and a half at the top all alone and I enjoyed every second. The description of the trail mentions that at .5 miles there is a trail the goes off to the left. I had forgotten that and so did many others. There was much discussion on the trail if you stay to the right or go to the left. Always remember this, when in doubt follow the blazes! The Humpback trail is blue blazed. Just follow the blue blaze and you'll be fine. This is a great, short hike and if you have the chance do it. If you don't have the chance, make time to do it.
Date of Hike: Friday, August 24, 2012
3 of my girlfriends and I did this today and really enjoyed ourselves. As others have said, the mile climb is definitely strenuous. It's very steep. I'm just getting back into hiking and am in mediocre shape. I had to take a few breaks on the way up. The views made the climb so worthwhile. It was gorgeous up there! We started at 8:30am and passed 2 groups of hikers coming back down as we were going up. We had the top to ourselves and laid around, talked and took photos for about 20 minutes. Then we went down the way they recommend on this site -- we did the 2.7 mile AT (white blazes) for a gradual decent and then to the parking lot (the loop). One thing that wasn't mentioned below is the "gradual decline" on the AT turns back into a "gradual INCLINE" for about 0.3 - 0.4 miles-ish . Not too difficult but our legs were a bit tired at that point and we were wondering if we were on the right trail. We only passed one hiker on this part. When we got back to the parking lot, there were a lot of people there getting ready to go up. I plan to attack Old Rag in October and this was a good warm-up. :)