IMPORTANT NOTE: Several parts of this hike, including the parking area, are located in a Virginia Wildlife Management Area, which requires a permit. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) requires an Access Permit for visitors to department-owned Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and public fishing lakes for anyone age 17 and older, unless they possess a valid Virginia hunting, freshwater fishing, or trapping license, or a current Virginia boat registration. All hikers who are age 17 and older who do not possess one of these permits will need an access permit for this hike. You can find information on obtaining a permit here.
This is one of the best but underused hike loops in Virginia. Perhaps it is due to the access permit, but this hike is well worth the current $4 daily fee. It could be because it is a tough trail and the directions are sometimes confusing – hopefully this description will help. Or maybe it is because the scariest part of the entire loop is at the beginning and end: crossing the appropriately named Swinging Bridge over the Maury River – can’t help you there! But this hike features three different vistas with wonderful views that would each be worth hiking to on their own, and each view is in a different direction. For these reasons, Jump Rock is one of the best day hikes in central Virginia.
Note: This trail description was revised, effective March 2018
Mile 0.0 – Park at a gravel lot on the north side of Virginia Route 39. This lot is unmarked from the road, but if you are coming from the east through Goshen Pass (highly recommended, as it is arguably the prettiest 5 miles of driving in the state) you can see the swinging bridge crossing the Maury River just before the gravel entrance to this lot. The river swings away from the road just before the lot entrance.
Mile 0.1 – What hike sports the scariest part right at the beginning? Some may claim this one does, as the Swinging Bridge over the Maury River– a steel suspension bridge that has quite a bit of movement to it. But it is improved over several years ago! Follow the instructions, though: no more than three on the bridge at a time. After the bridge, take a right onto the Maury River Trail, which parallels the river for its entire distance. The trail enters the Goshen Pass Natural Area Preserve, managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Mile 0.7 – Turn left onto the Chambers Ridge Trail, which ascends to the left. It should be marked by a sign, but keep an eye out for it in case the sign is gone.
Mile 1.0 – Check out the small waterfall to your right.
Mile 1.4 – The trail passes an apparent campsite, but camping is not allowed inside the boundaries of Goshen Pass Natural Area Preserve.
Mile 1.7 – The trail climbs onto Chambers Ridge and continues across the ridge. At the top of the ridge, you will be hiking along the border between the natural area and the wildlife preserve.
Mile 2.2 – After dropping off Chambers Ridge and turning east, the Chambers Ridge Trail ends where it meets the Little Peak Trail. Turn right here and climb. (Going left would loop you back to your vehicle, as long as you keep taking left turns at every intersection.) This portion of the trail is the steepest part of the hike.
Mile 2.6 – After climbing steeply, the trail levels off briefly, and it might be confusing which way to go. Head straight ahead.
Mile 3.0 - Once on top, to your right is a large rock. Do not pass by this! Take a right and go out onto the rock for a short distance to get a wonderful view to the southeast, including Route 39 as it weaves through Goshen Pass next to the Maury River. After enjoying this view, retrace your steps, and then follow the ridge north. At this point, you leave the Natural Preserve and re-enter the state hunting lands. The ridge elevation drops slightly, then climbs again through mountain laurel. It may sometimes be hard to follow the established trail, but head for the top of the ridge. After climbing over a high point on the ridge, Jump Rock is visible to the right during the winter, and it looks like a much tougher climb than you will actually experience.
Mile 3.5 – After you drop off from the ridge’s high point, look for a break in the rocks to your right. The trail is not marked here, but it drops off from the ridge, sometimes steeply and without a clear route, towards Jump Rock. What you need to know is that you will descend into a gap separating the ridge you just hiked from Jump Mountain. Keep heading in the generally northbound direction as you descend. There is a visible trail on the northern end of this gap, marked by white blazes, and you will likely find signs for Jump Rock along this trail placed by Boy Scout troops or Cub Scout packs that camp at the nearby Goshen Scout Reservation.
Mile 3.6 – Look for a campsite on the northeastern end of the gap between the ridge and Jump Mountain. There are likely to be several trees with yellow or gold paint on them in a line, as this marks the boundary of the hunting lands. If you see these, head to the right (east). A clear trail ascends Jump Mountain from that campsite. Follow the trail to the summit.
Mile 5.0 – Follow the trail back down into the gap, but stay on the trail as it rides the ridge to the right of where you came down. Follow the white blazed trees onto the next ridge, north of where you dropped off.
Mile 5.5 – When the ridge turns north, the trail continues on the ridge. This is the Tuscarora Trail and is regularly marked with white blazes.
Mile 5.8 – Continue on the Tuscarora Trail until you come across a double white blaze and possibly a sign facing the opposite direction. This is the intersection with the Viewing Rock Trail. Take a left here and descend for a short time.
Mile 5.9 – Take a right where the trail splits. There is probably a trail sign here, created by a Boy Scout troop or Cub Scout pack. This will take you to Viewing Rock, which looks west over Lake Merriweather and the Boy Scout summer campgrounds at Camp Goshen (hence the scout signs). Behind the lake is Knob Mountain and the gap that Virginia Route 39 uses to head west towards the town of Goshen and Warm Springs. This is the last of three wonderful views on this hike, so soak it in before descending the mountain. When you are ready to go, head back a few feet to the fork that brought you here, take a right, and continue descending on the Viewing Rock Trail.
Mile 7.5 – Shortly after crossing a stream the trail comes to an intersection with the Anderson Trail. Take a left on the Anderson Trail, paralleling a gravel road about 100 yards away. The Boy Scout camp is on the other side of the gravel road.
Mile 7.9 – Take a left on the Little Peak Trail. (Note: if you missed this intersection, take a left on the trail right after crossing the streambed, as it will take you to the same place.)
Mile 8.1 – The Hunters Trail reappears (remember it from earlier in the hike?) and is marked on a tree with several signs. Take a right onto the Hunters Trail. (The Little Peak Trail heads upslope to connect with an early portion of this loop.) The Hunters Trail takes you back to the Swinging Bridge.
Mile 9.0 – Exciting times at the end of the hike as you cross the Swinging Bridge to return to your vehicle.
Mile 9.1 – Return to the parking lot.
Goshen Pass/Jump Rock Hike Comments
Date of Hike: Wednesday, May 22, 2019
This is a fun hike with a good bit of adventure mixed in. Views are pretty and expansive, perhaps marred by road slinking through the canyon and power lines/missing strips of timber. Hiked on a Wednesday- not another sole/soul in sight, except a few people fishing by swinging bridge. Trail use hasn't been too frequent, judging by the number of spider webs spanning the trail (tried to avoid but inevitably walked through quite a few, only one new friend hitched a ride). Hiked this is late spring - lots of leaf litter from fall still covering the trail, plenty of new spring outgrowth creating a green tunnel to push through on the initial section paralleling the river, and again after Chambers ridge climbing up Little Rock trail. Bring a map, know how to use it (gps ruins the fun, at least in my book). There is some bushwhacking involved. For the section linking Little Rock to Jump Mountain, my advice is stay on the ridge longer than you'd think, almost to the end before it wraps around to Tuscarora trail. Temptation is to turn downhill once the ridge trail quickly vanishes. As another poster mentioned, keep heading toward Jump Mountain, eventually a clearing opens up, then the signage/trail reappear, obvious where to go. The Boy Scout camp has put up a bunch of new light blue signage (thanks, guys!). On the return trip around the ridge toward Viewing Rock, lots of big trees down (heaviest year of rainfall in VA's recorded history), trail heavily overgrown in places, sometimes a guessing game/more bushwhacking, but eventually trail reappears and is obvious where to go from there. All in all, a good adventure/fun hike/pretty views, but not a walk in the park.
Date of Hike: Sunday, December 30, 2018
Hike was one of my favorites I've done in Virginia! The views were gorgeous, especially in the winter. The uphill portions were tough but a good workout overall. Super fun going over the swinging bridge. The path was a bit difficult to follow at the top of the second ridge and towards Jump Rock, but if you have a sense of where you're headed, it will be fine. Going down, the path was pretty muddy/wet, as it had rained recently.
Date of Hike: Monday, June 4, 2018
3.5 stars... pretty rough going in spots with plants overtaking sections of the trail, and some steep ups and downs. The bushwhacking part was a bit of a wild goose chase for us--we couldn't find the trail based on the original trail description or the detailed description in Chris' 3/27/17 comment. Ended up opening AllTrails to find the trail way down the hill. Loved the solitude (saw zero others, and only two other cars were in the lot when we finished), loved the swinging bridge (dog wasn't quite sure, but it was safe for her to cross), and the woods were beautiful. Mountain laurels were blooming. Humans and dogs had a few ticks but overall it wasn't as ticky as we expected. Because of the jungle sections this hike is probably a better winter hike. Overall a really enjoyable day!
Date of Hike: Monday, May 29, 2017
We hiked this on Memorial Day 2017 and expected to see someone else on the trail, but never did. There were lots of people putting in kayaks and canoes into the Maury River, but still plenty of parking. The area must have experienced very heavy rains in recent weeks, as the first .8 miles had lots of downed trees, brush, and standing water. The Maury was flowing quickly and made us envious we didn't make it a kayaking day rather than a hiking day. At one point the trail was fully consumed by the Maury and we debated turning back. There was always a rock or bank to hop on and that made for slow-going. There were other places where the brush carried by water completely obscured the trail. Got in a good workout after an initially very slow start.
If you want clear trails, easily recognizable markers, and un-obscured views, this might not be the trail for you. We never felt lost, but there were several times on the way to Jump Rock that I looked around thinking, hmmmm.... We opted to just do an out and back to Jump Rock and retrace our steps back down. That was probably a mistake because of the steepness of the trail.
All in all, it was a decent hike and we had fun with the woods all to ourselves. The drive in was very pretty and we stopped to relax at the rest spot on 39. Bring lots of water. We had 4 liters each on a warm day (~83F at the base) and that was just enough.
Date of Hike: Monday, March 27, 2017
Thanks for the original post...it was very helpful as this is not the easiest trail to follow. I would like to update future hikers a bit with a few updates which might make it a bit easier for people to follow. As most of the reviewers have stated, it can be a challenge to follow as there are a lot of different colored blazes, signs and decision points. The hike took us 6 hours round trip including about an hour at the top and at a lunch spot. Spring time is a great time to complete this hike because you can still see through all the trees and have a view of Lake Merriwether and the surrounding mountains. We did this hike with our Rhodesian Ridgeback who had no problem with the hike. It is no fairly strenuous hike. We saw one deer and no other wildlife until we saw hawks from the top.
Following are a few notes to help stay on the trail to Jump Rock. The initial part of the hike starts along the Maury River going into Goshen pass from the Swinging Bridge. You make a left when you get to a sign marked "Chambers Ridge Trail". The single white blazes are easy to follow on this portion of the trail. Once you reach the top of the first ridge (Chambers Ridge) there is a nice level walk along the top of the ridge. You then descend a bit into a saddle between ridges and reach your first decision point....the trail splits left/right. There is a sign that has fallen off a tree there so you are not sure which way to go and there are white blazes on both trails. Take the trail to the right. You then start to climb quite a bit and eventually reach quite a barrier of large rock outcrops and the trail seems to disappear here. You can go straight over the rocks but for the less youthful there is an easier route just about ten or fifteen yards to the left so I suggest you bear left when you hit the steep rocks and you will see a much easier spot to go over the rocks and then hit the trail again.
on the other side.
You keep going up and pretty soon you will hit a set of big rocks where you can look over into the Shenandoah Valley for the first time on this hike. Someone has thoughtfully hung two gallon water bottles up in a white netting which can easily be lowered if you are out of water or forgot to bring any.This is a good spot to sit and eat. There is another one in about 20 minutes if you want to wait. From these rocks you leave to the left of them on a trail and follow it until it starts going down quite steeply to the right. you will see two or three white blazes and then there are none and the trail disappears. Do not despair. You can see a saddle between the ridges down bearing a bit to the left so just keep descending the direction you were going until you hit a trail which is coming in from the left. Follow this down to the saddle. There is a piece of debris from a previous structure in a small moss-covered clearing there to sit on and have lunch. At this point there is a sign saying you are 0.5 miles from Jump Rock.
Follow the trail up to Jump Rock...it is well-marked and you will know it when you have gotten to Jump Rock. You emerge from the trail on to some rocks overlooking the Shenandoah along Little North Mountain. It is a great place to sit and enjoy the view, look into the Valley below, have a lunch if you haven't already, watch the hawks flying beneath you and enjoying the peace and quiet.
You backtrack 0.5 miles down to the spot where the small clearing is and then continue up the trail where you met it after bushwhacking for a hundred yards or so coming down the steep part to the saddle. Keep going along the trail across a steep slope as you cross over a rocky debris field. If you look down slope you will see other trails and blazes but do not try to reach those...stay up on slope crossing across it (there is a trail with blazes across a lot of rocks) and you will eventually start dropping onto a clear well-marked trail. This is a the Tuscarora Trail, but it is not marked as such until you make a left turn off of it. When you see a sign called "Viewing Rock Trail" pointing off to the left, take this trail to the left. It starts to drop steeply and in about 150 yards you will see a small trail and a sign pointing to the left where in about 20 yards you will get to the Viewing Rock with a great view of Lake Merriwether and the valley to the West. Walk back out to Viewing Rock Trail and then immediately you hit a sign that points you to Camp PMI. DO NOT ignore this sign. Take this trail towards Camp PMI. (Note that the primary notes say not to follow it...you should definitely follow it, we believe it must have been in a different place previously). Keep going down (quite steeply) on this trail and you will hit an intersection with a sign pointing to the left saying "Hunter's Trail". Take a left here and soon you will hit an old logging road which goes down to the right on Round Knob Trail. From here it is easy sailing 2.7 miles back to the swinging bridge. Keep going on this and you will hit a small creek going through an old steel pipe under the trail and continue descending until you hit a gravel road. Take a left on the gravel road and you are now on the edge of Camp Bowman (on your right). You will see camp sites for the scouts in the woods. Keep going along the gravel road until you see Lake Merriwether in front of you a hundred yards ahead of you. We did not take the Anderson Trail sign on our left (and are not sure where this leads). We took a left soon after it before we hit the lake at a shooting range. There is a gravel/dirt road here that runs along the base of the mountain and eventually hooks up again with the trail (take a right on the trail) and it will take you back to the Swinging Bridge. We never saw any signs for the Swinging Bridge. Really enjoyed this hike but it was a bit stressful at times not knowing exactly where to go...hope this helps to make it easier for you.
Date of Hike: Saturday, March 26, 2016
The description is pretty spot on and navigating was not difficult. There were several fallen trees and trail signs. The bushwack had us nervous ahead of time, but we stayed on the ENE heading when the white blazes ceased and located the trail to take us up to Jump Mountain, which was clearly marked, but overgrown. Coming back down Jump Mountain towards Viewing Rock was marked by white blazes, but not very packed down in places. Just past Viewing Rock, there was a sign that said “To Camp PMI,” which had us second guessing whether or not to continue down Viewing Rock Trail. We continued down Viewing Rock Trail and made it down to the intersection where we were took the "hard left onto an un-named trail," which was now marked as Hunters Trail. One last note - the green sign indicating the return to Swinging Bridge was not there or we missed it, so be alert.
Overall a moderately strenuous but beautiful hike on an early spring day.
Date of Hike: Saturday, April 18, 2015
It was a decent hike and like the previous reviewer, a bit difficult to find the trial at point. As with the current instructions, it get a bit difficult with the downed leaves after the outlook onto the maury. If you know the general direction, you can navigate it. I had to refer to my garmin a couple of times to make sure. Furthermore, the gap leading up to Jump Rock can be confusing. There were yellow markers that represented the boundary of the reserve. Coming back from Jump rock is probably the most difficult and there are several trials that branch off (you'll have to take a left to get to view rock).
We had a hard time following the instructions and locating the route referenced after the view rock. We took the route to Camp PMI. I saw on my gps that it does get you down to the road that leads to the campsite at the end, which connects to the trial that leads back to the bridge. When you take the route to Camp PMI, you'll see a close route that branches to the left after some switchbacks. Keep right on the trial until the trial T intersects another trial. At the T intersect, we took a left and you'll reach a 2nd T intersect. At the 2nd T intersect, we too a right and eventually meeting the gravel road. From, there you can roughly follow the instruction to get back.
Date of Hike: Sunday, April 5, 2015
I've hiked a number of trails using this site, yet this is the only one I felt the need to write a review for. The warnings about poor markings and potentially difficult navigation should not be taken lightly. We completed this hike in early spring, with autumn leaves obscuring the trail in several places. In some sense, as moderately experienced hikers, it was fun for my friend and I to get lost and find our way. We finished the hike in under six hours, including lunch and the hour or so when we were lost. Aside from being poorly marked, this trail is well-rounded with views, water features, solitude, and moderate ascent.
Words to the wise:
This trail is poorly demarcated. We saw single/double white, single/double blue, and single/double/triple/quadruple yellow blazes along this trail. Single white blazes are the most consistent and frequent, but there were places where these blazes were faded and, as mentioned, missing.
The sign pointing to the green swinging bridge mentioned towards the end of the hike in the description was not to be found. There area seemed to have been recently logged (and was possibly removed?). If you hike within view of the dam, backtrack a few hundred paces to a logging road that will lead you to the trail to the swinging bridge.
Navigation-wise, it may be easier to hike this trail clockwise.
Date of Hike: Saturday, September 6, 2014
This was my second time on this hike, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first time. This is a great, fairly short hike to get a nice sweat going. This time, we headed up and back on the Little Peak trail. I would certainly recommend bringing plenty of water if it is a warm day out (2 adults and 2 labs went through a gallon of water before making our descent), as the trail becomes a pretty steep incline and the temperature will play a major factor in how difficult this hike is (the first time hiking this trail, temperatures were much milder and the overall hike difficulty was substantially less). I would not recommend bringing the pup(s) on this hike unless they are used to this sort of activity. The incline on this hike will be too much for an older/inexperienced dog. But if you think your dog can handle the incline, the only true obstacle on Little Peak is a rock formation the trail runs right through (although there is no discernible "trail") that can require some minor use of your hands. My two labs found some enjoyment in making it up, but their cautious mother was a bit more worried than I. For a much safer (and smarter!) route for the dogs, walk left along the base of these rocks and you will find a much easier path up and can re-connect with the trail. If you're looking for a hike that will give you a great workout, while only taking up about half of your day, this is a hike I would recommend. In my two trips up to Jump Rock, I have seen very little wildlife (a snake and 2 white-tailed deer in all), but even fewer hikers.
Date of Hike: Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Started the hike following breakfast from PMI with a group of webelos and dads total of 21 (14 boys webelos 1 and 2) day packed our lunch and what we thought was plenty of water. The hike to viewing rock was completed at a good pace with a short rest and some pics, weather was clear and warm to hot. The trail was slick at spots from viewing rock to jump rock and was completed at similiar pace. The group stopped several times to make head counts and toast to water. Following lunch and group and father son pics we desended to viewing rock once again for quick stop and view and made the remaining desent to PMI. All total the whole group make the entire trip with stops, lunch and pics w/ just enough water time on the trail was completed in less than 8 hours. Age range was 9 yrs to 50 yrs beginners to experienced hikers.