AT: Pinnacle to Mary’s Rock

  • Highlights: Views, wildlife, Byrd’s Nest #3, Pinnacle summit, birdwatching, wildflowers
  • Distance: 7.1 miles out and back
  • Elevation change: 1,370 feet
  • Difficulty level: Moderate/strenuous
  • Trailhead Parking: Pinnacles Picnic area, Skyline Drive mile 36.7, park fee required 
  • Website: AllTrails
  • Beer Pairings: Old Trade Brewing—Mitch is Bitter ESB & Foggy Morning IPA

The Hike:

There are several ways to reach Mary’s Rock. This is our favorite route as it is a longer journey on the AT and has great views at numerous spots along the way. Begin the hike at the Pinnacles Picnic Area. The Appalachian Trail passes next to the parking area. The trail is well marked and well maintained. As with many of the trails in Shenandoah, the trail is often rocky. Pass through several trail junctions and stay straight on the AT to reach Marys Rock.

Join the AT from the parking area, to the right and follow the white-blazed AT north as it leaves the picnic area. The first overlook with views to the west appears at .3 miles at Jewell Hollow. Just ahead to the north looms The Pinnacle. The trail soon enters the forest and begins to climb. Pass through a tunnel of mountain laurel and several massive boulders appear beside the trail. At 1.2 miles reach the summit of The Pinnacle. More great mountain and valley views open up to the west. The rocky summit of Mary’s Rock appears to the north. 

The AT begins the descent from The Pinnacle as it continues to the north. Reach Byrd’s Nest #3 at 1.2 miles. This is one of four shelters in Shenandoah donated to the park by the late Virginia Senator Harry F. Byrd. Harry loved to hike and he was instrumental in the establishment of Shenandoah National Park. Pass by more gigantic boulders and another westward view at 2.6 miles. More views appear on your left as you continue north on the AT.

Reach a cement post marking a trail junction at 3.5 miles. Turn left here and follow a rocky blue-blazed spur trail .1 miles up to the summit of Mary’s Rock. This is a popular destination in SNP and you will likely have many new friends at the summit. The views are among the best in Shenandoah. Look for peregrine flacons soaring below.

Take in the views, scramble to the top of a small rock outcropping behind you. Thornton Gap, Luray, and the Shenandoah Valley lie before you. Retrace your steps back to the AT, turn right, and walk south to Pinnacles parking area and your vehicle.

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing: 

There are several great breweries near Shenandoah. Hawksbill in Luray, Hopkins Ordinary and Pen Druid in Sperryville, and Bald Top in Madison. We traveled a bit further to Old Trade Brewery in Brandy Station VA. Located northeast of Culpepper, Old Trade is a farm-based brewery producing hand-crafted, seasonal and traditional beers and wine, cider, and seltzer. The brewery has indoor and outdoor seating, they are kid and dog friendly, and they have a variety of food options. The cheeseburgers are really good.

Kathy really like Mitch is Bitter ESB, an English-style Pale Ale. In England, we learned to like ESB or extra special bitter. Mitch has just the right level of hop bitterness with the yeast strains create a fruity nose and flavor. Jolly good. Pete liked Foggy Morning IPA a hazy east coast style IPA with tropical fruit notes and a pine finish 

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe and be responsible.