One of the most secluded panoramic vista hikes in western Virginia. Church Rock has expansive views to the north and east from its main rock outcrop and to the southeast from the Church Mountain ridgeline. The hike climbs Church Mountain with ten switchbacks and it can be challenging if the weather is warm, however the effort is more than worth it as you're rewarded with spectacular views from one of the least visited pinnacles in the Old Dominion.
For most of the year you need to start the hike from the lower parking area as FR482 is closed and only opens from October 1 - January 10. If you do make the hike when it's open the total length will reduce to 5.6 miles. If you plan on doing this as a backpack there are two nice campsites along the route. The first is on the ridge just before the descent in to the saddle, and the second is in the saddle below the overlook from Church Rock. You will have to carry in water.
Mile 7.6 - Arrive back at the parking area on FR482
Church Rock Hike Comments
Date of Hike: Saturday, November 2, 2019
When you first pull in on FR482 there are two gates. Pass the one on the left and veer to the one on the right. On this date it was open so I proceeded to the upper parking area that was nearly full at 10 a.m., in part because it was the first day of the hunting season for hunters using muzzleloaders (that season runs through November 15). The gravel road had a few potholes and a large mudhole I made it around in my low-clearance two-wheel-drive sedan, but if it was much worse I could not have passed it. I would have appreciated a few more yellow blazes on the switchbacks. I had the aid of a GPS device but one can get off the trail in spots, especially now when the trail is newly leaf-covered -- it's not bad don't go too far if you aren't seeing yellow blazes. The views from Church Rock are great but not what I'd call "panoramic" due to foliage blocking the views to the south. It was hazy but to the north and east I could make out Signal Knob, Waonaze Peak, Mary's Rock, and Stoney Man. I had nice chats with two hunters sitting in wait not far from the trail. One joked that I looked like a bear. He was right -- a reminder to wear bright apparel when hiking in national forests during hunting seasons.
Date of Hike: Sunday, October 13, 2019
I enjoyed the varied terrain, the fact that it wasnít constantly rocky, and loved the views at the top. I started at the bottom parking lot and the road walk wasnít terribly interesting and you do have to watch for traffic. I started around 8:30am and I didnít see anyone else until my decent. I also didnít see any wildlife although I did see two pretty large mounds of bear scat. I probably wonít hike this trail again but thatís because Iíve already seen it not because I didnít enjoy it.
Date of Hike: Sunday, September 29, 2019
First hike ever in Virginia without a single other hiker on the trail or car at the trailhead. On a Sunday! Weirdly open woods for most of the hike, especially on top of the ridge. Spectacular view from the top and my wifeís favorite lunch spot so far. Descent from the top was a bit sketchy and the trail required some care to follow. We stopped at Swover Creek Farm brewery for beer and a pretzel on the way home. Their Rye IPA has the strongest rye flavor of any rye IPA Iíve had. I loved it, but they wouldnít let me buy it until Iíd tried it first.
Date of Hike: Saturday, September 7, 2019
I arrived at 11:00 AM. Had some difficulty finding the lower parking area, there is a left off Reunions Creek Rod that my GPS seemed to miss. 3 cars there but only ran into one group of 3 people the whole time. The rest of the hike I was entirely alone. The gate was open but I still chose to walk the first mile which was a nice warmup for the switchbacks.
It is ranked as 4 but overall Iíd say itís a 3. Itís mostly uphill but a slow and steady incline. I was definitely sweating when I got to the top but didnít find it overly difficult. As long as you follow the yellow markers until the white marker at the top youíll be fine. You can tell this trail doesnít get a lot of traffic. Hike took 4 hours total and that included 45 minutes at the top.
The view is divine. Getting it all to yourself even better. Would suggest this hike to anyone in search of a little Waldeinsamkeit. Take advantage before the secrets out.
Date of Hike: Saturday, April 27, 2019
Decided to try this hike after seeing a recent review on FB.† Really enjoyed this one.† It is well marked and a nice distance.† We did see a couple people and a few deer.† The views from Church Rock are amazing.† Highly recommend this one and will certainly return in the fall as I cannot imagine this one with the tree colors.† Directions to the parking spot and trail were spot on.† My garmin had it at 7.34 miles from the lower parking lot and return.†
Date of Hike: Saturday, April 20, 2019
My hiking partners and I were eager to check this hike out after HU added it this week. The description of this being a secluded vista is not an exaggeration. We had the trail to ourselves, which I'm pretty sure has never happened to us on a sunny Saturday. Our group agreed with the difficulty rating of a 4. We're experienced hikers and we felt it was a good workout, but not too extreme. We wouldn't recommend it to newer hikers. The directions were great. Overall, we found the trail easy to follow. Once you reach the ridge and are on the white blazed Talc Trail, you need to look closely for the blazes. Many of them are faded. The views from the summit made the climb well worth it. They were incredible! Plan to take a nice lunch break while there. Heading back down, it could be easy to pass the turn off of the Talc Trail and back on the yellow blazed Church Rock Trail. There is a cairn there to help you.
Some things we would recommend are:
1. Wear pants. There were quite a few thorns on and around the trail, and we also had a couple of ticks.
2. Do the hike on a cool day. There are portions of the trail that lack shade, so a hot day would make this a tough hike to complete.
3. Unless you want the 2 extra miles for the workout, wait and do this hike when the upper parking lot is open. We didn't mind the walk from the lower lot, but it's nothing exciting.
Date of Hike: Saturday, April 20, 2019
I took a chance doing this hike the week that it was posted and thought it was going to be crammed with people. I was completely wrong. I arrived at the trailhead at around 16:00, I hiked about 1.5 miles up that gated road before hitting the actual trailhead. The hike up the mountain was beautiful and easy to navigate. The good thing is that there are a few springs that I saw near the top of the ridge that you can refill your water with if you have the proper supplies. The views from church rock are amazing! I camped that night in the saddle just below church rock, the only thing is that the campsite needs to be cleaned up. There was an old tarp and bookbag that looks like its been there for a couple years ago. I got some amazing photos of the sunrise from church rock the following morning. As in the previous review I would wear pants for sure, and be prepared to do the rock scramble to get to the top of church rock, it could be difficult for some.
All in all this was an amazing, beautiful and peaceful hike.
The amount of people I encountered - 0, but I am sure this will become a popular spot in the future.