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St Mary's Wilderness - BRP, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
10.1 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
6.0 hrs plus a half hour for lunch
2,190 ft
15.5 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
9.0 hrs plus a half hour for lunch
3,110 ft
George Washington National Forest
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The parking area will be receded on a gravel road 70 yards from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
37.91163, -79.08680

A reclaimed old iron ore mining area, St. Mary's Wilderness has an abundance of diverse scenery from waterfalls, fern forests, open meadows, valley vistas, and high mountain wetlands, in Virginia's largest designated wilderness area. No wonder it's one of the most popular circuit hikes in the northern section of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Note: The trails in St Mary's Wilderness are no longer blazed.

Both Hikes:
From the parking area, start down the narrow trail just to the left of the bulletin kiosk (not the wider road continuing past the closed gate), and walk 150 yards to the intersection of the Mine Bank Creek and Bald Mountain trails. Turn left downward on the Mine Bank Creek Trail as it descends into the valley, crossing Mine Creek several times, then passes through a rhododendron area before ending at the intersection for the St. Mary's River Trail in 1.9 miles.

For The Additional 5.5 Mile Out/Back To St. Mary's Falls:
Turn left downstream on the St. Mary's River Trail passing several campsites before reaching the intersection of the St. Mary's Falls Trail in 1.9 miles. Note: There is no camping permitted beyond this point. Turn right upstream fording St. Mary's River passing several swimming holes before there is a blowout on the trail in 0.4 miles. Follow the footpath to the left of the blowout that leads around the blockage back to the trail. At 0.6 miles from the last intersection the trail appears to end at a cliff about 15ft above the river. Climb down, re-ford the river, and climb up a steep bank. The falls are just ahead from this point. To continue, retrace your steps back to the intersection of the Mine Bank Creek and St. Mary's River Trails. (Thanks to MRHyker for the St. Mary's Falls trail notes.)

Both Hikes:
If you did the out/back to St. Mary's Falls continue straight on the St. Mary's River Trail. If you are doing the shorter hike, turn right onto the St. Mary's River Trail from the Mine Bank Trail.

Shortly cross a creek before passing a campsite on the left in 0.2 miles. Continue along the trail for another 0.2 miles, cross another creek, then directly ahead over a small mound is a large group camping area. Stay right climbing steeply for 50 yards and pass another campsite before reaching the main St. Mary's River Trail intersection in 0.1 miles.

Turn left (turning right would lead the 0.1 miles back to the stream crossing you just made), and follow the trail as it becomes considerably more overgrown with rhododendron before climbing out of the valley. The trail will level out in 2.0 miles from the last intersection and arrive at the Green Pond area. There is a bulletin board kiosk on the left, and following the small trail on the right leads to a multi-tent camping area. Look for a small trail that leads to Green Pond here.

Return to the bulletin kiosk and continue on the St. Mary's River Trail and pass another pond view on the right in 50 yards, then arrive at what looks like a trail intersection. Continue straight and in 100 yards the trail will veer right. Continue for the remaining 0.1 miles on the St. Mary's River Trail where it ends at Forestry Service (FS) Road 162.

Turn right. Note: FS162 is open to motorized traffic. Be prepared to see 4x4 vehicles and dirt bikes. Follow FS162 for 1.2 miles as it descends then climbs to the high point of Flint Mountain.

150 yards from the high point on FS162 there is a Forestry Service side grade used to clear debris. Look for an unmarked trail on the left that in 100 yards goes to the best vista of the hike. The view is of Kennedy Creek, with Kennedy Ridge on the left, and Kelly Mountain on the right. Return to FS162 and turn left continuing to descend the mountain. Follow the forestry road for another 1.9 miles, passing several campsites with views before arriving at a split in the road.

Stay right and in 0.4 miles, just before FS162 bears left, look for a single post and unmarked trail on the right. This is the Bald Mountain Trail, and is not marked at the junction. Turn right onto the Bald Mountain Trail as it descends the valley and arrives at a small campsite at its low point in 0.9 miles. Continue as it starts climbing back towards the ridge, then arrives at an unmarked trail intersection in 0.9 miles from the campsite.

Stay right for another 0.2 miles back to the intersection of the Mine Bank Creek Trail. Turn left uphill for the remaining 150 yards to the parking area.

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Hiker Reviews For The St Mary's Wilderness Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Mike Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 28, 2016
Great hike.  A little over an hour in and out.  Go to the end of St Mary's road and park there as others have mentioned if you want a shorter hike.  I think we took 1 to 1/2 hours in and then again coming out. Some parts of the trail are washed out so you will need to do a little climbing, but nothing a normal person couldn't do.  Falls is great and the water is clear and cold. 

There are trails on both sides of the creek you follow, but neither side goes all the way to the falls so you will have to cross the creek.  We crossed 3 times on the way out, but waiting too long to cross on the way in.  If you keep walking on the right hand side of the creek (after you cross once and as you walk to the falls) for a long time, you will eventually just run out of trail. You can cross at that point, but it's not as easy as crossing before the end.  We noticed there was a small pink ribbon marking the second crossing (from the right side back to the left as you walk to the falls).  Look for the ribbon and cross there.

By: Jim Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 20, 2016
A few thoughts. We hiked the 10+ mile loop, without the waterfall hike, starting with the Mine Creek leg.

1. When you reach the "large group camping area" after crossing the streams on the St. Mary's trail, the steep climb is immediately to your right before coming to a set of campfire rocks. At first, we followed what seemed like a steep climb on a trail after passing through the other side of the campsite.

2. I'm not sure the post that "marks" the Bald Mountain Trail is still there. We looked for it, passed on a trail that didn't have a post, and ended up on the Parkway.

3. At the split in the road before that, there's a Forest Service kiosk with a misleading map. The "You Are Here" point on the map appears to be where FS162 meets the parkway, which is a mile away.

By: Jeff Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, August 04, 2016
Wife, dog, and I went out this morning to take advantage of unseasonably cool weather intending to hike the ten mile loop, and had the entire trail to ourselves. The descent along Mine Bank Creek was rocky with a few off camber sections, and the junction with St Mary's Trail was well marked. While the tread of the trail was never poorly defined, dense mountain laurel along portions of this trail made us second guess the route a few times. Climbing up out of the valley presented a few stretches of lichen/moss and stunted pine trees, which I did not expect to see on this hike, and the pond/wetland near FS 162 was a nice surprise as well. While we had a good trip, the lack of blazes and signs made me thankful we brought a map.

By: Va hiker Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, April 07, 2016
overall great hike with beautiful streams. I posted a review with photos here:

By: City dweller who hikes Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, September 04, 2015
I have to thank "learn from us" for the tip. Parking at the end of St Mary's road provides a great half day hike or longer depending how long you want to stay at the falls. Park, literally walk 1 hour or so along the river, you criss cross the river a couple times (was low water so very easy) and then you come upon the falls. Do a little cliff diving into a deep pool, relax, hour hike back to lot. It's wilderness so pay attention and follow red and white tagged rocks and trees. Went during the week so I only came across 3 other groups so it felt very isolated. Great 4 hour journey.

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Late June
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