Blackrock Summit is a short hike, easily accessible from the Skyline
Drive. I donít know of any other spot where you can see the Shenandoah
Valley so clearly, as it separates the Blue Ridge (on our side) from
the Allegheny mountains along the West Virginia border. Blackrock intersects
the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Maine to Georgia along the length
of the Appalachian mountain range.
From Charlottesville, the closest entrance to the Drive is Rockfish
Gap, at Afton. Just take Interstate 64 to Afton Mountain and follow
the signs (there are also entrances at Swift Run Gap, Thorton Gap and
Front Royal). Since Rockfish Gap is at the southern end of the Drive,
you will turn north--going south would put you on the Blue Ridge Parkway,
which has attractions of its own but thatís a different story.
At the entrance is a ranger station, where you must decide which pass
to purchase. For $10.00, you receive a pass that allows you into the
park for the next seven days. For $20.00, you receive a pass that allows
you into the park for the next year - make sure to ask for the free
map so you can plan your adventures. It provides good summaries of some
of the trails and overlooks, and it tells a little about the parkís
Once you are on the Drive, remember the low speed limit of 35 miles
per hour. There is a reason for slow speed and that reason is WILDLIFE.
Depending upon the time of day, weather, and season you are sure to
see wildlife. At dusk, just in one section of the park, we have counted
over 100 deer. Not even along the trails, but traveling along the Drive,
we have seen bobcats, bears, chipmunks, turkeys, and a wide variety
Notice the concrete mile markers that have been placed on the left-hand
side of the road as you head north. These markers (called mileposts)
make map reading much easier and help you estimate time. From Afton
Mountain, without stopping (much) at the overlooks, plan an hour to
reach Blackrock Summit. If youíre going north, you will see the parking
lot on the left just past Milepost 85. Make sure you are parking at
the Blackrock Summit parking area and not Blackrock Gap (which you will
pass right before Blackrock Summit).
Blackrock is one of our long time favorite trails in this section of
the park. According to the sign at the beginning of the trail, it is
"an easy hike with outstanding views and interesting geology. The trail
loops around the summit of Blackrock, an eroding mountain of talus comprised
of Hampton quartzite. To reach the top of Blackrock one must leave the
trail and scramble over broken rocks. The summit elevation is 3,092
feet. Blackrock owes itís appearance to rock tripe." It also warns you
to watch for rattlesnakes (we always plan the trip on cool days...fall
is great). We havenít seen a snake there yet but it adds to the excitement.
The panoramic view is breathtaking. In early November we went up to
see the leaves and scramble the rocks. On that day the Allegheny range
(which turns into West Virginia at the top) was visible, as was the
Massanutten--a 40 mile long mountain that is between the two larger
ranges. Massanutten Peak, which is the beginning of that shorter mountain,
is remarkable and usually visible.
This trail really is one of the easier ones. It is mostly level and
only a half mile each way. It isnít hard to carry a picnic to the top
of the rocks and so good when you get there - we have even celebrated
two birthdays at the top. At first you may be overwhelmed by the size
and amount of rocks. You have to scramble a lot. This is like a mountain
of boulders. There is danger involved, so wear good shoes and make sure
they are tied. We avoid the rocks when they are wet. My kids are major
risk takers and they love the challenge these rocks provide.
Even though this is a short trail, allow lots of time. It is a good
place to spend the day relaxing and enjoying nature at its finest.
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