Browns Gap to Blackrock Summit

  • Highlights: Great views, Appalachian Trail
  • Distance: 5.4 miles out and back
  • Elevation Change 646 feet
  • Trail Surface: Dirt with rocky sections
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate (distance, rocky sections)
  • Trailhead Parking: Brown’s Gap parking area, Skyline Drive MP 83
  • Website: AllTrails and Shenandoah National Park
  • Beer Pairings: Champion Brewing Ice House—Hatchback Lyfe IPA & Festbier

The Hike:

For many hikers, Blackrock Summit is a quintessential Shenandoah hike with great views. Most people do this as a 2 mile out and back hike from the Blackrock parking area. We like longer hikes and more time on the AT, so we used Browns Gap as a start and endpoint.

From Browns Gap, cross Skyline Drive and follow the white-blazed Appalachian Trail south. The trail begins a gradual ascent over the next 2.6 miles. This section of the AT is a nice walk in the woods. The AT passes beside the Dundo Campground and then crosses Skyline Drive before reaching the Blackrock parking area. Continue on the AT as the trails begins a steeper climb to the summit.

The large granite boulders forming the summit of Blackrock appear on the left and great views of the Shenandoah Valley to the north open up to the right. Massanutten Mountain looms ahead with the mountains of Shenandoah National Park to the northeast. Follow the AT as it curves around the back of Blackrock passing the trail junction with the Blackrock Spur Trail to the right. The views now open up to Trayfoot Mountain to the west and the Shenandoah Valley to the southwest. 

The rock scramble to the summit beckons. It’s a fairly easy climb to panoramic views from the peak. For obvious reasons, the summit is often crowded. If you want some great views with fewer fellow hikers, climb down from the summit to rejoin the AT. Return to the cement post marking the junction with the Blackrock Spur Trail. 

Follow this short trail a few hundred yards. The crowds disappear, the views open up, the enormous boulders line the trail. The spur trail connects with the Trayfoot Mountain Trail. Enjoy the views, scramble on the boulders, and then climb back up the spur trail. Turn left on the AT heading north and retrace your steps to return to Browns Gap and your vehicle.

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing: 

Champion Brewery in Charlottesville is one of our favorites. They recently opened a location in Gordonsville in partnership with the BBQ Exchange. The Ice House has great beer and some amazing fried chicken. They have indoor and outdoor seating, a full bar, and six beers on tap. They also have some great food options. Did we mention the fried chicken?

We knew we would have chicken for lunch, our decision came down to which beer. Kathy loved Hatchback Lyfe (50 IBU • 6.3 ABV). This hazy IPA is brewed with Citra, Azacca, and Idaho Gem hops. It has notes of pineapple and melon. Pete loves the fall and Oktoberfest. Festbier (24 IBU • 5.5 ABV) had his name all over it. The German Pilsner and Munich malts and refreshing flavor make this one a winner.

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe, be responsible, and leave no trace.