ApproachThe trailhead is off of Skyline Drive. To get to Skyline Drive you take 66 West from Washington DC, to exit 43A, Gainesville (US Route 29 south). Follow Route 29 to Warrenton where you take US Route 29 business. Once in town, make a right hand turn on Route 211 which intersects with Skyline Drive at the Thornton Gap Entrance. As you are driving up to Thornton Gap on 211, Mary's Rock is clearly visible in front of you.
On Skyline Drive, go South down Skyline Drive towards Big Meadows. Just past the entrance station is parking with access to the AT. Ask at the entrance station for a map or for the trailhead marker for the AT heading south towards Mary's Rock.
Route DescriptionFrom the Appalachian Trail marker on the road north of the mountain, the trail heads right up to the summit. The trail is very nice, mostly on the mountainside, with clear views of the Shenandoah Mountains. The trail is a little windy as it makes it way up. It is gradually steep, with over 1,200 feet in elevation gain, which makes it one of the steepest hikes in the park. You will reach an AT marker that says "No Fires". From here, you stay straight towards the summit area. You will reach a flat, sandy area, and a big rock. You are not yet at the summit. Climb over the big rock, and follow the boulders to the highest boulder, about 30 yards away, where you will find the USGS markers. This short trek can be tricky and involves some serious class 2 climbing. The view from the true summit is a lot better than the one you get at the sandy summit area below.
Elevation Gain: 1,210 feet
Round Trip Hiking distance: 3.7 miles
Essential GearBug Spray in summer and fall is recommended.
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