While shortest in distance, though not time, the Bearfence Mountain Rock Scramble was our favorite hike of the weekend. On this, our first weekday hike of the trip, ours was the first car in the Bearfence parking lot just before 10:00 AM. Finally, a bit of solitude!
The trailhead is across the street and can be hiked as a loop through the scramble to a viewpoint and then back via the Appalachian Trail. This had been our original plan.
The trail begins as a gradual uphill hike through the woods. The blue blazes on the trees eventually move to rocks. At this point, our pace slowed considerably as we pulled ourselves over boulders and were constantly making navigation decisions of where to next place our feet. The rock scramble can be quite dangerous, so I would definitely recommend a one-to-one child-to-adult ratio. I stayed ahead with Gavin while Jeff assisted short-legged Jasper when his legs simply weren’t long enough to climb over the larger rocks!
About halfway through the scramble, there is a complete 360-degree view at the top. I knew there was another viewpoint later on, so we paused to enjoy this view but didn’t stay long enough. The destination viewpoint is only a limited 180-degree view, which we didn’t realize at the time, so definitely take time to enjoy the mid-scramble view at the top.
After reaching that limited viewpoint, we had planned on taking the Appalachian Trail loop back to the trailhead, but we had so much fun on the rock scramble and wanted to properly savor that 360-degree view again, that we retraced our steps and took the scramble back. The return route seemed to be a completely different trail as we enjoyed all the views from a different angle, climbed up what we slid down earlier and vice versa.
The Bearfence Rock Scramble gains over 300 feet in elevation over slightly more than a mile round trip. With our slow rock climbing pace, this mile took us well over an hour and a half to complete.
All of us easily placed this hike at the top of our list of Shenandoah favorites for the weekend. The boys absolutely loved it and I was SO glad we saved this hike for a far less crowded Monday. I can’t imagine attempting it with weekend crowds, particularly with our slower children whom many experienced adult hikers would understandably want to pass. We passed some hikers along the way while several groups caught up to us and passed us, but it was manageable.
The trip ended with a picnic lunch at the nearby South River Picnic Area before driving home to Raleigh, completing our lovely extended weekend in the mountains.