Want a rock playground in Shenandoah National Park? Want to avoid the crowds on the more popular peaks in the park? Look no further than the summit of Blackrock!
In the Southern portion of the park sits a number of peaks with large rock slides that one could say looks "Adirondakesk". While the hike up to the Blackrock summit isn't too exciting, the summit itself is quite an excellent destination! The summit is a large boulder field, rising 30 feet up from the woods. The boulder field is so extensive, one could likely explore it for 20 minutes, and still not cover the entire area!
You can reach the summit in 10 minutes if you want from a short trail starting on Skyline Drive, but I recommend a longer trail that provides a pleasant half-hour gradual incline to the top.
The longer trail is about 3 miles round trip, with about 800 feet in elevation gain.
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 about 20 miles.
There are two main trails to the summit. One is an hour hike, the other a quick 10 minute stroll to the top. For the short trail, park at Blackrock Summit Parking (milepost 84.8), which is very near the summit, and trek 1/2 mile and about 200 feet to the rocky summit.
For the longer trail, the trailhead is at milepost 87.4 at Blackrock Gap(Elevation 2,320 feet). Cross Skyline Drive and take the Appalachian Trail Northbound for about 1.3 miles. You will have to cross Skyline Drive again after the first 1/4 mile or so to remain on the AT. Near the top, you will see a sign for the Blackrock summit. Head to the rocky summit where tremendous, near 360 degree views await!
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.
Looking down the rock slide of Blackrock's summit
Check with the park at 540-999-3500.
Shenandoah National Park cost $30 for an annual pass. If you do not live in the DC area, you can pay the $10 fee to enter the park.
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.
For long distance backpackers, Blackrock Hut is available (backcountry permit required) about half a mile 'south' of the summit on a short but steep side trail from the AT. There are some undeveloped camping sites near the shelter. The shelter itself sleeps about 12 on a first-come, first-served basis. It is a little more than a mile from the Blackrock Gap trailhead, off of the AT Northbound, heading towards Blackrock's summit.