Humpback Mountain & Humpback Rocks

  • Highlights: Great views, Appalachian Trail
  • Distance: 10.2 miles out and back
  • Elevation Change 2,112 feet
  • Trail Surface: Dirt with rocky sections
  • Difficulty Level: Strenuous (distance, elevation gain, rocky sections)
  • Trailhead Parking: Humpback Rocks Picnic Area parking area, Blue Ridge Parkway MP 8.5
  • Website: National Park Service and AllTrails
  • Beer Pairings: Blue Mountain Brewery—Bumper Crop IPA and 13.Five Oktoberfest

The Hike:

Humpback Rocks is a Virginia favorite. Most people make the 2 mile round trip hike from the Humpback Rocks parking area (see AllTrails). Pete’s hiking buddy Pete and his hiking buddy Mike were looking for a longer hike. We all had the day off, so Kathy went to work while Pete went on a hike. We decided to add the loop around the rocks and include more time on the AT over Humpback Mountain.

This hike begins at the Humpback Picnic Area which is a few miles past the visitor center. The trailhead is located at the far end of the parking lot. For a quick warmup hike, a short (.4 mile out and back) on the yellow-blazed Catoctin Overlook has some nice views to the west. Just to the left of the Catoctin trail is the blue-blazed connector trail leading to the Appalachian Trail.

Follow the connect trail to the junction with the white-blazed AT at .3 miles. Turn left here and follow the AT heading north as the gradual climb begins. At 1.1 miles, the views open up to the east of Wintergreen and surrounding mountains. The trail continues along the ridge of Humpback Mountain with some partial views to the west.

Humpback Rocks: 

The trail begins to descend from the summit and reaches a trail junction at 2.9 miles. The Humpback Rocks Loop via the AT is a separate hike on AllTrails. Bear right here to stay on the AT as it winds downhill through a series of switchbacks. Reach another junction at 5.7 miles. Bear left here on a blue-blazed spur trail to the Humpback Rocks parking area. 

Continue left in the parking area past a trail kiosk and begin the steep climb up Humpback Rocks. The crowds increase and so does the elevation. Steps and switchbacks make the climb a bit easier but this is still a steep section. At 6.5 miles, reach a 3-way junction. Bear left here for a short connector trail to the amazing views from the rocks. The Shenandoah Valley lies below to the west and Rockfish Gap to the north. We were sad to see some graffiti some idiot painted on the rocks.

Take in the great views. This is a great (although crowded) spot for lunch or a snack. Climb back down from the summit and at the junction, continue straight on a short spur to connect with the AT. Rejoin the white-blazed AT heading south.

The AT begins the climb up Humpback Mountain. We always find the trail looks different when hiking in the opposite direction. A cold front was coming in and the change in cloud cover made the viewpoints look somewhat different as well. Follow the AT to the junction with the blue-blazed spur trail. Turn right here to return to your vehicle at the picnic area. 

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing: 

Mike and Pete (and this Pete) were all in agreement. We had a great hike on a picture-prefect October day. Now it was time to relax with a cold beer. Mike suggested Blue Mountain Brewery, which is a perennial favorite of the Hoppy Hikers.

Located about 20 minutes from the trailhead, Blue Mountain has indoor and outdoor seating and a variety of food items. They are dog friendly and have some great beers on tap. Hiking buddy Pete likes a nice cold lager and he gave a thumbs up to the Classic Lager. 

Mike and the other Pete both enjoyed the 13.Five Oktoberfest (20 IBU • 6.0 ABV). The name comes from a German law requiring beer to have an Original Gravity of 13.5° Plato to be served at Oktoberfest in Munich. We liked the blend of Munich, Vienna, and German Pilsener malts with a nice boost from noble Hallertau hops. Wunderbar!

“Classic Lager Pete” was driving so Mike and Pete tried South Street’s Bumper Crop IPA (n/a IBU • 7.2 ABV). This wet hop IPA is brewed with Virginia Cascade hops, locally grown in their hops field. Farm to glass is a great concept.

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