AT: Bear’s Den to Raven Rocks

  • Highlights: Great views, Appalachian Trail, wildflowers, rock outcroppings
  • Distance: 7 miles out and back
  • Elevation change: 1,468 feet
  • Difficulty level: Strenuous
  • Trailhead Parking: Bear’s Den Trail Center 18393 Blueridge Mountain Rd. Bluemont, VA; $3 daily parking fee
  • Website: Hiking Upward
  • Beer Pairings: Bear Chase Brewing—Evenin’ Sunset IPA & Kodiak Kolsch and Dirt Farm Brewing—Hey Z IPA & Boots Off IPA

The Hike:

This hike is part of the famous “Roller Coaster” section of the Appalachian Trail. The Roller Coaster is a 13.5 mile stretch with a series of ascents and descents through-hikers call PUDS (pointless ups and downs). This hike covers 3.5 miles of the roller coaster. We were joined on this hike by Pete’s sister Nan and this was her 2nd day hike on the AT.

Parts of the trail are very rocky. Sturdy hiking shoes are recommended. Because of all the rocks, this hike may not be suitable for some dogs. There are some nice views at Bear’s Den and also at Raven Rocks. In between it’s a rocky walk through the woods. The trail is well marked and very well maintained. You will encounter many other hikers, especially on weekends as this is a popular day hike.

The hike begins at the Bear’s Den Trail Center, a hiker hostel located 150 yards from the AT. Bear’s Den is a former mansion built in the 1930s and is owned by Appalachian Trail Conservancy and operated by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. Take some time and explore the grounds at Bear’s Den. Daily parking is only $3 and avoids the parking congestion on Route 7.

To reach the AT, walk around the front of the hostel and follow a short blue-blazed trail to the AT. The Bear’s Den Overlook is just to the left. After taking in the views at Bear’s Den, turn right on the white-blazed AT and begin your northbound ride on the roller coaster. 

Follow the AT downhill towards Route 7. You will hear the vehicle noise long before you reach the highway. Turn left and follow the highway downhill for a few hundred yards to the yellow “trail crossing” signs. Crossing Route 7 is the only tricky part of this hike. Carefully cross the highway and follow Pine Grove Road (route 679) for about 50 yards to a small parking area and trail kiosk on the right. The AT continues uphill to the left of the kiosk. This point of the AT marks 1,000 from the southern terminus at Springer Mountain. Northbound through-hikers only have 1,193 miles to go!

Much of this section of the AT is very rocky with some mini rock scrambles. Follow the AT up, and down, and up to again as the roller coaster ride continues. Look for a sign marking the Virginia/West Virginia border at about 3 miles. Reach the open expanse of Raven Rocks on the right at 3.5 miles. Views of the Shenandoah Valley spread out below to the southwest. The overlook is over 1,450′ feet above the valley below. Soaring birds circle below. Take in the views, enjoy a snack, and retrace you steps back on the roller coaster to Bear’s Den and your vehicle.

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing:

Two great breweries are located within a few miles of Bear’s Den. We really liked them both so this hike has two brewery pairings. Bear Chase Brewing Co. is located across the road from Bear’s Den and is a frequent destination for AT through-hikers (and day hikers). They have a nice selection of beers, hard seltzer, and cider. They serve great food (try the shrimp tacos), live music on weekends, and great views with an expansive lawn and deck. viewsPete liked the Kodiak Kolsch; it was crisp and refreshing on a hot and humid July afternoon. Kathy really liked Evenin’ Sunset, a west coast style IPA. Nan prefers cider and she was happy to see Bold Rock cider on draft.

Just a few miles away is Dirt Farm Brewing, a farm brewery growing hops and barley on-site. They have really good beer, great food, live music and fantastic mountain-top views. Kathy liked Hey Z, a New England-style hazy IPA. Pete really liked Boots Off, an American IPA, made with locally-sourced Amarillo hops.

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