Bear Den Mountain is one of the southernmost summits accessible from the Skyline Drive. The short hike to its summit passes through some lovely old meadows which might provide for excellent wildlife viewing in addition to some fine blackberry picking in season. This hike is a fairly easy leg stretcher that provides rewarding views, possibly some of the best in this section of the park.
The summit itself is mostly clear and views in nearly every direction can be had by simply walking around a few steps. Oddly enough, someone has installed several old tractor seats very near the summit. The views from these seats are more obscured now than in the past due to forest reclaiming a portion of the open meadow, but it would make a fine place to snack on those blackberries. If you read a thru-hiker journals, almost all of them mention these seats, so they are "famous" in a way.
The downside to this summit is the large radio installation found there. Apparently it is used for state police communications. This radio tower makes the mountain easy to spot from Interstate 64 as your approach Rockfish Gap from the East.
The summit of Bear Den Mountain is traversed by the Appalachian Trail. The closest AT access to the summit is found at Beagle Gap. The Beagle Gap parking area is found at mile 99.5 of the Skyline Drive. The Skyline Drive can be accessed from US 250 to the South at Rockfish Gap (exit 99 off of I-64) or from US 33 to the North at Swift Run Gap.
Hiking from Beagle Gap
Once parked at Beagle gap, cross the Skyline Drive and procede through the gate with the white blaze on post.
Distance - 0.6 miles one way
Elevation Gained - 353 feet
Hiking from McCormick Gap
A slightly more challenging option to the summit is a hike along the AT north from McCormick Gap. There is limited parking at the gap on the east side of Skyline Drive at milepost 102.1.
Distance - 1.2 miles one way
Elevation Gained - 445 feet
There is a $15 entrance fee to access the Skyline Drive via automobile during the months of March through November (During other months the fee is $10). The pass is good for a week. An annual pass to the park is $30. The America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass is $80. There is no fee for hikers entering the park via the Appalachian Trail. Sections of the Skyline Drive may close if road condition so warrant. Check with the park at 540-999-3500.
I believe that the entire section of AT between McCormick Gap and Beagle Gap is on an easement through private propery and it is therefore a good idea to avoid camping in the area of Bear Den Mountain. If anyone has more information about the status of this land please let me know.
Backcountry camping is allowed in most of Shenandoah National Park though some areas are off-limits. See the Shenandoah National Park page
for more information.
For drive-in camping, the Loft Mountain Campground is the closest to this trailhead. It is found at milepost 79.5 of the Skyline Drive. There are 221 sites available on a first-come first-served basis.
For AT hikers and long distance backpackers the Calf Mountain Shelter provides a good place to end the day of hiking. It is found about 1.1 miles north of Beagle Gap.
External LinksShenandoah National Park Home Page
Good all around info about the park from the National Park Service's Shenandoah page.
Weather for Shenandoah National Park - South District
Current Weather for the area of Bear Den Mountain
Turk Mountain Overlook to Rockfish Gap
A great guide to hikes and sights in the area of Bear Den Mountain