Staunton River Trail to Bear Church Rock

  • Highlights: Great views, historic cabin, river views
  • Distance: 8.8 miles out and back
  • Elevation Change 2,290 feet
  • Trail Surface: Dirt with some rocky sections
  • Difficulty Level: Strenuous
  • Trailhead Parking: State route 622, Graves Mill VA; a small parking area here accommodates 10-12 vehicles 
  • Website: AllTrails
  • Beer Pairings: Bald Top Brewing Co.—Dueling Diplomats DIPA & Lazy Days IPA

Trail Map:

The Hike:

We first hiked to Bear Church Rock several years ago from Bootens Gap in Shenandoah National Park. This hike begins just outside the park in Graves Mill. The trail passes beside two rivers as it climbs to Bear Church Rock. This hike combines segments of several trails, so pay attention at trail junctions. On the climb to Bear Church Rock, turn left at every junction. The trails are well marked and well maintained.

Graves Mill is located on the National Park boundary. This area is popular destination for hiking and fishing. From the parking area, follow the yellow-blazed Graves Mill Trail into Shenandoah National Park as it passes beside the Rapidan River. Numerous pools and small cascades offer a cool respite on a hot day. Several short spur trails on the right lead to the river.

At .5 miles, bear left on the blue-blazed Staunton River Trail. There are several easy stream crossings and spur trails lead down to the river. Several small waterfalls, pools, and cascades call for a closer look—especially on a warm day. The trail climbs very gradually as you pass through the forest. Views of the river are frequent and even when you can’t see the river through the trees, you can hear the sound of cascading water.

At 2.6 miles, leave the river and bear left on the blue-blazed Jones Mountain Trail. The trail becomes steep from this point as you pass under a canopy of mountain laurel. Stay left at the next junction continuing on the Jones Mountain Trail. Bear left at 3.3 miles on the Jones Mountain Cabin Spur Trail for a .3 mile hike to visit a former moonshiner’s cabin.

Harvey Nichols built this cabin in 1918. A nearby spring provided water and Harvey grew corn and barley and made moonshine for the over 20 years. The cabin is now owned by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. Follow the spur trail back uphill to the junction at 3.9 miles and bear left to continue on the Jones Mountain Trail. 

The climb becomes steep and rocky as you climb to Bear Church Rock. At 4.4 miles, a short (unmarked but obvious) spur trail on the right leads to “the rock”. Mountain laurel were in bloom at the summit and the clear skies offered amazing views of unspoiled wilderness. Enjoy the views and then retrace your steps to return to your vehicle.

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing: 

Bald Top Brewing in Madison is about 20 minutes from the trailhead. It’s a great place to stop and enjoy a cold beer after a hike. The brewery has indoor and outdoor seating and dogs are welcome outside. Their beer garden with great views near the summit of Bald Mountain. They grow five varieties of hops on the farm. The on-site restaurant serves a nice variety of small plates, pizzas, paninis, and salads. 

Pete liked Dueling Diplomats (8% ABV • 76 IBU) a double IPA is brewed with Chinook, Simcoe, and Warrior hops. The hops shine through and give this IPA a nice finish without a heavy alcohol taste. Kathy enjoyed a cold pint of Lazy Days (7% ABV • 71 IBU) an IPA brewed with Amarillo, Azacca, Citra, Columbus, and Mosaic hops.

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