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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:
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4.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,210 ft
Shenandoah National Park
Topo Hike Trails Map (PDF)

Graves Mill Weather Forecast
Garmin (GDB), GPS eXchange (GPX) (What's this?)
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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.
Mid March
Mid February - Photo courtesy of Karl H.
pana
Staunton River Video
Bear Church Rock Hike Comments
Archived Comments


By: Ash Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, October 23, 2019
I also went mid-week and had the trail to myself expect for the last tenth of a mile coming back to the parking lot. I really enjoyed the variation in this hike. I've done this hike before and will do it again, probably in winter when the snow is covering everything.

By: Robert Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, October 2, 2019
What a great hike! Nothing hard about this except the elevation change. Had the trail entirely to myself for this mid-week hike. Much of the trail is dirt or gravelly a lot easier on the ankles than a lot of trails in the park. As many have pointed out, the first part of the hike follows streams with regular turnoffs and things to look at and great pools to dip your tired feet into on the way back. The water is chilly! Things get a bit steeper past the stream, but nothing like white oak canyon. No scrambling at all, and the trail is extremely well maintained.

The GPX file provided here stops short of the summit turnoff by at least a few hundred feet just keep going and look for the side trail turning off to the right. I started exploring the Graves Mountain trail a little further past Bear Church Rock but there was a large nest of ground bees swarming, in the middle of the trail just past the turn around the large rock outcropping, so I turned back.

By: Cathy Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 21, 2019
Beautiful hike- rocks and streams are spectacular. As challenging as Old Rag with little to no crowds. View at the top is gorgeous.

By: DC_jd Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 31, 2019
Great hike. We saw very few other people on a beautiful last day of August. We set out from the parking lot around 10:15 and had the entire top of the trail to ourselves for lunch around 1. The last mile or so was steep, but there wasn't any scrambling to speak which worked well as we had a dog with us. The hike down was easy and as others have said here, there are many lovely places to stop and soak your feet in the cold water. All in all, a beautiful day out!

By: Suzanne Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 24, 2019
Wonderful hike! Walking by the water most of the time . . . not crowded, but not by oneself either . . . beautiful and peaceful view at the top . . . had it to myself for several minutes until I was joined by 3 nice young men and one of their dogs . . . steep towards the end, but not overwhelming. I always find going down to be more difficult than going up, and while this hike is definitely down hill going back, again it's not overwhelming. Lush vegetation, the mountain laurel grove is fascinating. I even enjoyed the cabin! But the best part was the peaceful setting at the top of the rocks. Definitely worth the effort to get there.

By: Rick R Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 29, 2019
My best friend and hiking bud were looking for a hike away from the crowds and picked this one from reviews I read here. It was 74 degrees when we left Richmond but had dropped to 67 degrees when we arrived at the parking area around 7AM, there was only one other vehicle. It wasn't far into the hike that it was obvious that there had been a torrential downpour the night before because the trail had a lot of limbs & debris like it had been the path of a small river. We went down the small side trail to the swimming hole & small water fall and decided that it would be a good place to soak our feet on the way back down. The Staunton River Trail will spoil you because as soon as you turn onto the Jones Mountain Trail the hike gets significantly steeper! My friend said that it reminded her of Hawksbill, only prettier. We hiked down to the cabin first and the craftmanship that went into this cabin is amazing, I would loved to have seen inside. The hike up to the summit from the cabin was very steep, I was soaked with sweat when I reached the top! The summit has an amazing view and there was a very stiff breeze out of the NW, which felt very good. We had the summit all to ourselves, stayed up there for about 20-30 minutes and ate half of our lunch. On the way down we stopped at the swimming hole, took our shoes off & waded into the pool...it was wonderfully cold! We ate the rest of our lunch and enjoyed the water. Once again, we had it all to ourselves, we hadn't seen anyone else all day except for 3 Geo Cashers about a 1/2 mile back. On the way to the parking area we ran into some more Geo Cashers and some other hikers but for most of the day, we were all alone...perfect!

By: airstreamdog Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, May 14, 2018
Such a beautiful hike along an energetic river, through pretty woods, up up up to the gorgeous vistas at Bear Church Rock. My dog and I saw one other hiker, and had the rock to ourselves for a leisurely lunch. There are some really tough climbs, specifically between the Staunton River Trail and the McDaniel Hollow Trail, and then from the cabin spur intersection to the top. The mountain laurel tunnel wasn't blooming yet today, 5/14. The trip to the cabin isn't that exciting unless you have a thing for cabins. There are a few easy-to-reach fantastic swimming holes along Staunton River Trail.

By: Andrew S Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 1, 2017
Did this hike on a Sunday. Arrived at 1000 and parking lot was almost full (9-10 cars). However, saw almost no one on the trail. The views are not spectacular the ascent is mostly gradual. I agree with the other reviewers - skip the cabin (it's a cabin in the woods, no view, nothing to see). Wore trail runners, no problems. Enjoyed the workout but won't hike this again.

By: Claudia Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 9, 2017
Great hike! The trail head was easy to find, and the trails are well-marked. Saw maybe 10 people during the hike. The climb to the summit was definitely a workout, but not as difficult as say, Old Rag. The summit was beautiful and a great place to enjoy lunch and a view. We did do the out and back to the cabin and enjoyed it. It would be a beautiful hike in any season! Also- if one of your important metrics is "proximity to a post-hike celebratory drink"- there's a great winery (Early Mountain Winery) and excellent brewery (Bald Top Brewing) within a ten minute drive that are well worth a visit!

By: Zendog74 Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 6, 2017
Decent hike. The first .5 mile along the river is pretty crowded with people fishing and playing in the water. Once you turn up onto Staunton River Trail, the crowd disappears. The stretch from there to the turn off on Jones Mountain Trail is pretty pleasant. It is a gradual ascent and you follow the river. There are numerous little falls and pools to explore right off of the trail.

However, once you turn onto Jones Mountain Trail, it is super steep and fairly difficult. Just as you think you are getting close, you round another corner and find a set of switchbacks. The mountain laurel tunnel was the only highlight of this section. I did not go to the cabin as I've seen many cabins and was on a bit of a timeline.

Finally, you reach the view. While it is nice, there are many other nicer views in Shenandoah, and the surrounding valley area, that are much nicer and require less mileage and elevation gain to get to. You are on a point facing southeast and ALMOST get views of the valley to the west if you scramble along the rocks to the south a bit. If you did get 180 degree views looking east, south and west, my rating for this hike would definitely be higher.

    View all 79 archived reviews for the Bear Church Rock hike
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