Park at Rapidan River (lower lection) Trailhead, VA (GPS: 38.43690, -78.36906)
Main attraction: 8 miles moderate hike, streams, views
When autumn arrives here we feel guilty if we don't go outdoors to see its colors in transformation. Every fall day has a different color set, a spectacle that one should not miss. Last Sunday, we didn't.
Last weekend, we did a 8-mile day hike in Shenandoah National Park called Bear Church Rock. We've been here during winter and spring, but every time is unique and now during fall it was a colorful walk until the summit.
The trail goes along the beautiful Rapidan River for 0.5 miles, and then it turns left heading alongside Staunton River for 1.7 miles with nice small falls and pools.
This lower part is more humid and less windy so the leaves were still mostly greenish. It was a good warm up for the upcoming steeper part.
After 2.2 miles the trail turns left onto the steeper Jones Mountain trail. The woods here were less dense and more yellowish-brown.
It was a very enjoyable experience to climb the mountain while admiring all those vibrant colors.
The sun was very low during this late fall day and as we were hiking upward it felt like an endless sunset lighting the forest with honey colors.
After 2 hours of steep hike we got to the overlook. It was windy but we managed to eat a snack and spend some time there admiring the mountains covered by different colors blurs. The valleys are usually greener and the tops were already brown, and in between an infinite set of colors.
That is what is inspiring about being outdoors, there is not a single point that is similar to each other.
On our descent we took the 0.3 miles side trail to check the Jones Mountain Cabin. This cozy cabin is managed by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. Maybe next time we will stay here.
On our way down the sun had already set behind the mountain. The moon light helped us to get to our car. We saw some deers crossing the trail - wild animals come near the creek to drink water during sunsets.
We drove back home delighted by all these colors.
"Autumn is this time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale."
What we did last weekend? Had fun in nature!
How to get there
Directions to Bear Church Rock, Virginia
1. Drive to the Rapidan River (lower lection) Trailhead, VA (GPS: 38.43690,-78.36906). Park here.
2. Hike the Graves Mill trail (yellow) along the river for 0.5 miles to the junction with the Staunton River trail (blue). Turn left and hike 2 miles until it intersects the Jones Mountain trail.
3. Turn left and hike the Jones Mountain trail (1.5 miles) to the overlook. In the junctions, just keep hiking upward to the overlook. At the last intersection there is a side trail to the left that leads down to the Jones Mountain Cabin. The side trip to the cabin is 0.6 miles out and back.
4. Enjoy the overlook, and then retrace your steps back to the parking lot. (4 miles)