Bear Church Rock - Central SNP
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Bear Church Rock - Central SNP, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
8.5 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
4.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,210 ft
Shenandoah National Park
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Graves Mill Weather Forecast
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Parking is at the end of VA662 in the Graves Mill parking area. 38.43695, -78.36710

Unlike many of the other picturesque hikes in the Shenandoah National Park, the Bear Church Rock circuit is not nearly as well known. This hike starts along the beautiful Rapidan River, then heads up alongside Staunton River with small falls and pools, before making a steep climb to the panoramic outcropping of views at Bear Church Rock.

The hike posted here also does a short 0.6 mile out and back detour to the magnificent Jones Mountain Cabin. The cabin sits next to a stream that runs most times of the year, and is maintained and available for rent from the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.

From the Graves Mill parking area on VA662 start up the yellow blazed Graves Mill Trail as is stays on the left of the Rapidan River for 0.5 miles to the intersection of the Staunton River Trail.

Turn left on the blue blazed Staunton River Trail, and in 0.5 miles look for a small side trail to a set of falls and pool. Continue along the Staunton River Trail another 1.7 miles to the intersection of the Jones Mountain Trail. Turn left on the steeper Jones Mountain Trail for 0.5 miles to the next junction, where the Jones Mountain Trail turns left, and the McDaniel Hollow Trail turns right.

Turn left staying on the Jones Mountain Trail as it winds around the mountain and passes through a canopy of Mountain Laurel before reaching an intersection where a side trail leads down to the Jones Mountain Cabin. The side trip to the cabin is 0.6 miles out and back, and well worth the extra distance.

After returning from the side hike to the cabin turn left uphill on the Jones Mountain Trail as it heads around the eastern side of the ridge for another 0.5 miles to the Bear Church Rock rock overlook. The Jones Mountain Trail continues past Bear Church Rock, so make sure not to miss the unmarked short side trail to Bear Church Rock on the right.

From high point of the hike retrace your steps back down Jones Mountain to the starting point and parking area.
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Hiker Reviews For The Bear Church Rock Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Jackie Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 29, 2017
I was the 5th car in the parking lot when I arrived at 9:15 on Saturday, and when I left at 12:15, there was probably 12 cars on each side of the road. The first 2.6 miles (Garmin mileage) were really great, with a barely-noticeable incline and the sounds of the river the whole way. One you turn on to Jones Mountain Trail it starts to get tough and super steep with hardly any switchbacks. It levels out again after the next turn and you head through the mountain laurel tunnel! I didn't miss the turn off but it definitely could be really easy to do, so take a look at picture 9 below beforehand just in case! I had the top to myself and it was such a nice change from all the other crowded Shenandoah hikes! I followed another post and did the spur to the cabin on the way back down -- kinda cool, but I wouldn't do it again.

I made it to the top in just under 80 minutes, and made it back down (adding on the spur) a little bit quicker (yay downhills) right around 75 minutes. There were lots of (what appeared like) day hikers heading to fish or to numerous swimming holes along the river. I didn't see anyone on my way up, and only passed one pair of men on Jones Mountain Trail on the way back down, but it definitely got crowded the closer I got to the parking lot.

Still sore 2 days later!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 15, 2017
A great day for this trek. Well-marked trails, two different rivers to walk beside (most of the way), and flowering plants just about any time we looked down. In about a month to six weeks the mt. laurel should be incredible, and there's a nearly 100-yd tunnel of it 3/4 the way up (in one of the pix at the bottom of the page). It's a calorie burner, for sure, but not wretchedly steep. Highly recommend getting to the Graves Mill parking lot before's not that big and fills up fast! About six cars outside the boundary when we returned ~3:00. Thanks HU for the guidance you folks rock!

By: Charluji Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 08, 2017
Really tough but awesome and fun hike! Got a great workout and the views of the Staunton River were stunning. Definitely tired out the pooch! Definitely bring snacks and lots of water. The rock was a great spot to sit, eat a quick lunch and enjoy the view.

By: David Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, March 23, 2017
I have been up to Bear Church many times and love the area for all the reasons expressed already. I have one caution: snakes. The rocks at the top are home to nests, and I've never been up in hot weather without stumbling across a rattler basking in the sun (especially to the right as you look out). On the path to the overlook there are extended grassy areas. These are kept regularly trimmed, but the tall grasses can also be home to snakes, like copperheads. The rule of thumb is valid: you leave them alone, they'll leave you alone. But keep an eye on dogs and children.

By: David M. Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 26, 2016
Did this with my wife for her first backpacking trip this weekend. Graves Mill Trail was easy going. Staunton River Trail begins a very slow accent. Fantastic water views along this stretch, with some great pools to soak in in the summer. There are a couple of established campsites on this trail (I'll get back to this in a bit). Once you get to Jones Mountain Trail...I hope you are ready for a tough, but rewarding climb. All uphill from here. We got to the intersection where the side trail goes to the cabin, and kept heading towards Bear Church Rock. For us, this was the toughest part, a quite quick ascent, and with most of the leaves haven fallen, your steps must be strategical. We made it to the summit, and oh my, what a view. Well, well worth the journey. Unfortunately for us the winds were gusting out of the NW at close to 40mph, and with temps dropping dramatically, our time spent at the top was brief. I had planned on finding the camping spot mentioned by a commenter near the summit, but couldn't find anything. I also did see that the trail did wind up past Bear Church Rock, but with it being unmarked, didn't want to push too further . With daylight running out (we left the summit at 3:45), decided to maybe camp at the cabin mentioned. There are a few flat spots here, but I'd pass on tenting here (but there is a running spring!). We decided to head back down the mountain, pretty much double timing it, and made it all the way back to the Staunton River Trail, where we found an existing campsite on the left, possibly 25 feet from the trail, and 15 ft from the river. Great spot with large rocks to sit on and/or table things you might need to start setting up camp. At this point it was almost dark, so we set up, had dinner (no fire), and retired to our tent to read. The sound of the river was fantastic. I will say that we were woken up by a random group of older day-hikers yelling at us at 7:30am that our "site was too close to the water" and "thanks for ruining things for the rest of us". Ok well, thanks dad.

If you are doing this in a day, it's gotta be a burner. Well worth the trip though. I'll say the trails are all well blazed and there are monuments in place at major intersections. The view at the top is incredible.

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Mid March
Mid February - Photo courtesy of Karl H.
Staunton River Video
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