Rocky Row on the AT

  • Highlights: Great views, Appalachian Trail, stream crossings, wildflowers, wildlife
  • Distance: 10.1 miles out and back
  • Elevation change: 2,461 feet
  • Difficulty level: Very strenuous
  • Trailhead Parking: James River Footbridge/AT trail parking, route 501 near Snowden VA
  • Website: Hiking Upward
  • Beer Pairings: Camp Trapezium—New Day Lager & Lucky 46 IPA

The Hike:

This was a great hike. It was a tough hike, but the James River views and the experience of 10 miles out-and-back on the Appalachian Trail made it great. This hike has some serious elevation gain, so bring plenty of water. The trail is well marked and well maintained.

We started this hike at the James River Footbridge, the longest footbridge on the entire AT. We began our hike early in the morning and the James River was like glass and the reflections were incredible. Of course we had to cross the footbridge. From the southern end of the bridge we had an excellent view of our final destination as the cliffs of Rocky Row loom high above to the north. 

There is a plaque on the southern end dedicating the bridge to William T. Foot, a longtime member of the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club. This makes the official name of this bridge the “Foot Footbridge”. Seriously. The Foot Footbridge is 775 miles from Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the AT.

The white-blazed AT crosses over route 501 and winds beside Rocky Row Run for 1.2 miles. This is a pleasant section of the AT with two footbridges and several stream crossings. There is a slight elevation gain in this section, but the hiking is easy.

The AT crosses over Hercules Rd (Route 812) and there is a small parking area here if you want to begin the hike at this point. At 1.8 miles, a short spur trail leads to the Johns Hollow Shelter. At 2.9 miles reach the first of 21 switchbacks. We lost count, but many people do count them. The grade now becomes steep and difficult. 

At 4.0 miles reach Fuller Rocks with great views of the James River. Just ahead is a trail junction for Little Rock Row Trail. Stay to the right and remain on the AT. At 4.1 miles is the first of several overlooks with great views of the James River in the valley below. The Little Rocky Row overlooks are all within several hundred yards.

This is a great place to stop for lunch or a snack. The best views of the James River are at Little Rocky Row. You may want to turn back here and return to the parking area, saving 2+ miles of hiking. However, if you want to hike all the way to Big Rocky Row, continue on the AT for another mile. 

The views from Big Rocky Row are somewhat blocked by the trees. We liked the views best from Little Rocky Row. Retrace your steps back down through the 21 switchbacks to the parking area and your vehicle.

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing:

Trapezium Brewing in Petersburg has been one of our favorite breweries for several years. We were excited to hear they had a new location in Amherst. Camp Trapezium is a farm brewery located in an 1890s mill. They specialize in mixed fermentation beers made with Virginia-grown ingredients, including some grown right on location.

Kathy enjoyed one of her favorites, Lucky 46. This New England-style hazy IPA is made from Citra, Amarillo, and El Dorado hops. It is hoppy and delicious. Pete tried something new: New Day Lager which is fermented cold and slow resulting in a clean, crisp, lightly hoppy lager. It was just what we needed after a long, hot hike.

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