Rocky Mount is an "Adirondakesque" mountain located in the Southern part of Shenandoah National Park. I say this because of the distinctive rock slides that identify Rocky Mount from the Rocky Mount Overlook, as well as other overlooks in the Southern Shenandoah Mountains.
Rocky Mount is separated from Skyline Drive by a long ridge line, and it takes 3.5 miles to reach the summit. The first 2 miles of the trail are nice, with some views through the trees, but the views get a lot better once on the lower reaches of Rocky Mount. The rocky trail goes up and down a couple times as you head across the ridge.
This is a fine day hike, especially if the rest of the park is crowded, because of its length and southernly location. If you hike it, you will likely be one of the few hikers on the mountain. You can take either the 7 mile route or the 10 mile route. It takes about 3 hours round trip for the 7 mile route, and 4 hours round trip for the 10 mile route.
From Washington DC follow I-66 West and exit onto US 29 at Gainesville, then take US 29 all the way down past Culpepper to route 230 West, until you hit Route 33, which you take West for 8 miles until you reach Skyline Drive at the Swift Run Gap Entrance. Take Skyline Drive south for 11 miles to milepost 76.2 and park at Two Mile Run Overlook (Elevation 2,770 feet). Take the brick wall North for about 0.1 miles, and get on the Rocky Mount Trail on the same side of Skyline Drive as the overlook.
The Rocky Mount Trail is 9.8 miles (10 miles even from Two Mile Run Overlook). You can also go out and back, and it will be about a 7 mile hike. Either route, you are gaining over 2000 feet on the ups and downs of the trail.
From Skyline Drive you will descend steeply for the first 0.4 miles, and continue to descend for another 0.2 miles. Then the trail gets flat, and you eventually ascend another mountain in between Skyline Drive and Rocky Mount. Descend again and after you have hiked 2.2 miles you reach the base of Rocky Mount where you will find a trail marker. From here, you can take the 9.8 mile loop and go up the North side of Rocky Mount, or you can continue for 1.2 miles (and 1000') up to the summit. There are nice views along this final stretch, and some excellent 180 degree views at the summit area. You can take the loop back around to make it a full 10 miles, or go back the way you came for a 7 mile round trip hike.
Shenandoah National Park cost $30 for an annual pass. If you do not live in the DC area, you can pay the $15 fee to enter Skyline Drive ($10 from December-February).
When To Climb
Climb all year. The park, or sections of the park, may be closed if road conditions are poor. Check with the park at 540-999-3500.
Campsites are not always open during the winter and spring. Backcountry Camping Permits are required and are available free from park headquarters, visitor centers, and entrance stations. Appalachian Trail hikers may self-register for permits on the AT near Rockfish Gap (south) and Chester Gap (north).
Campfires are not permitted (except at pre-constructed fireplaces at backcountry huts and day-use shelters). Groups may not exceed 10 people. For more info consult the park website.
Check with the park at 540-999-3500.