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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
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e.g.. 12000 Government Center Parkway 22035 or Fairfax VA
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: Branden Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 16, 2013
I have hiked St. Mary's about 5 times now and have tried a few different routes. For this hike we were looking for a nice backcountry camping site so we headed down from the parking lot to St. Mary's Trail. We hung a right on St. Mary's and went about a half mile to the big group camping site. The next morning we hiked back towards the junction of mine bank run and St. Mary's we stashed our packs and then hiked to the falls. About 2/3 of the way from this junction until St. Mary's Gorge trail there is a side trail that some people have used to cut the distance to the falls. We took it, I do not recommend it for anybody who is not in GREAT shape. If you have children with you this trail could be treacherous for them. It is really only a trail for about 100 ft and then you are scaling down cliffs with very thick brush. Once we reached the river it was a relatively short hike to the falls. They were b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l with a lot of water running over. As a side not if you are a rock climber this would be a great place to come as there are some great rock cliffs to climb right next to the falls. There are also a ton of camping spots between St Mary's Trail and St. Marys Gorge trail.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 05, 2013
This hike was a lot of fun, however it is not an intermediate hike! The trail has not be maintained and is over grown in many places. The elevation change alone is difficult for an inexperienced hiker, I consider myself to be an intermediate hiker and have had experience camping and hiking on variety of trails. Myself and three friends began the hike on 10/05/2013 at about 8 am we reached the summit at about 5pm and made camp off one of the jeep trails. The original plan was to continue the loop the next day, however we were unable to find the trail that brought us into the second half of the loop so we opted to hike back the way we came. Again the hike was a blast, it was beautiful and we couldn’t have picked a better time to do it. Our packs weighed between 28-52lbs, in the end we hiked 14.87 miles, 1922 ft. of ascent, 1719 ft. of descent. There were several water crossings within the first few miles because the trail has been washed away, so if you are not a fan of getting wet this is not the trail for you. The trail is also very narrow in many parts, being able to hold your footing and navigate on small ledges is very important. Unless your children and pets are experienced climbers I would not call this a family hike. One other portion of the trail that is worth mentioning is that in several parts you will find yourself on your hands and knees climbing up hills because of how steep they are. Again, we had a blast- two of the people we went with had hiked this part of St. Mary’s Wilderness several times and were very familiar with the area. Going with people who had been before was a huge advantage and I feel it would have been difficult to have done it without that experience. The tail is beautiful and the views are breath taking, I highly recommend this trail to those that are will to work a little!

By: Andrew Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, August 23, 2013
I spent the weekend here with the Mid-Atlantic Backpackers meetup group.  We camped at the group camping site described in the hike notes above and did the out and back to the falls.  The Mine Creek trail from the BRP is clear of blowdowns and all overgrowth looks like it was very recently cut back.  Other trails have moderate bushyness but are still passable.

The best swimming holes are just upstream from the lower falls, but you have to be willing to do a little rock scrambling because the trail becomes a little more vague.


By: Ducky Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, July 22, 2013
UNPASSABLE hiking path starting from the Blue Ridge Parkway miler marker 23. There are to many trees down and overgrown bushes in path. My friend from college and I were going to backpack from here to the falls and back. We made it about 1/4 mile in and turned around because of all the trees and brush blocking the path. Ended up taking COAL ROAD (gravel access road) by SHERANDO LAKE to get to the public parking access to the trail. WELL WORTH THE TRIP THE FALLS ARE ROLLING.

By: Leslie D. Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 15, 2013
I'm giving this hike a 3 instead of a 4 because of the false "trails" that make it very easy to get lost.  However, the scenery and waterfall are beautiful!  My husband and I did this as an out and back hike to the falls only, about 11 miles over the course of two days, we didn't do the entire loop.  The first day was nearly all downhill and very enjoyable, except for the first mile which was very rocky.  There were plenty of places to stop and get water along the way.  There were two or three river crossings to get to the waterfall, all of which were about a foot deep so we had to remove our shoes.  We got lost once the first day as the trail is not clearly marked.  A GPS is highly recommended.  There are pink flags on some of the trees, but not all of them mark the correct trail, so be careful.  We ended up camping right next to the falls as all the other campsites were taken just below the falls.  There aren't many campsites until you get within a mile of the falls as the description states, so allow plenty of time to get to your campsite before dark...we barely made it as we didn't start the hike until 2pm.  The falls were beautiful, but there isn't much firewood to collect in the area right next to the falls if you want to make a campfire.  The second day made for a long hike back to the car, it was nearly all uphill.  We were exhausted by the time we got to the car, but it was a great workout.  We also got turned around the second day and got off the trail, it was very easy to choose the wrong fork and we ended up adding an extra mile to our trip trying to find the correct trail.   This is definitely a good hike to do once, but be prepared for the uphill climb back to the car if you are just doing the down and back to St. Mary's Falls.

    View all 26 reviews for the St Mary's Wilderness hike
Late June
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