Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Bearfence Mountain Rock Scramble

Wednesday June 24, 2015
Big Meadows Campground
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia




Today we head out to do what was listed as a scramble on Bearfence Mountain.  The guide books say there were two ways up to the top.  One is a “moderate” scramble path and the other is mostly a section of ………..You guessed it…………..the AT.  The choice of the same trail with two difficulties seems made for us.

As you can see from the map, the parking is right on the Skyline Drive and the trail leads up, of course, and beyond where it crosses the AT. 

When we reach the crossing shown at the bottom of the map, I will go straight, David will turn right.  We’ll meet at the top.




The first leg to the crossing doesn’t seem too steep so we think it will be OK for David.  We hike up from the road to the tree line and into the woods to the crossing.



Of course there are trees to hug along the way.


David takes the low road, so to speak, and I take the high road. “See ya at the top”. 

I’m scouting it out to see if he can come back on the scramble given that his arm is still in the brace from his cardiac procedure.




At first on my trail I’m just climbing up but soon I come to the “scramble” part.




Follow the blue blazes right through these rocks.



And over this one and these.  Can you see the blue blazes?



Be careful not to get your ankle stuck in here.



Yes up here.  I’ve marked the blue blaze with a red arrow.   



Nice view, but now where?   To the left I guess.



A break from the scramble.



But not for long.


Up here?



Down there?  Where?



Good thing David didn’t come this way.  You really have to use your arms to pull yourself up and to help you get down. 



A bit of a break but check out the foot work to get through here.





Hmmm….through here

and around this ledge


and up there



I thought for sure that I had taken a picture of the family with a 4  or 5 year old and a baby in a back pack trying to do this and finally realizing it was just too dangerous.  I waited behind them at one of the more difficult climb ups while she went on ahead to scout it out.  When she returned, I told her there was another way to the top and they turned around. 

Some of the spots were just too difficult for pictures so remember that these pictures are only the ones I could take.




I’ve been hearing voices for some time and am not surprised since we didn’t get on the trail until “late”.  At this point, I catch up to a gang of over a dozen.    Some are dressed in the same color of blue as the trail blazes.  They are yelling back and forth at members of their party who have gone on.  There is one 7 or 8 year old boy having the time of his life just running and leaping all over the rocks like a mountain goat.  I hope I’m gone before he falls and breaks something.

There is only one benefit to sharing these fabulous 360 degree views and not being able to have a quiet pensive  time up here, someone volunteers to take my picture.   Yes the wind is blowing.





What a great place for sunrise or sunset. IF you are foolish enough to try to scramble up in low light. When David is able, we’ll come back at my time of the morning when there is just enough light and before this gang is even dressed.

I think he could have done it today if it weren’t for his arm. It’s very tricky and slow going but not terribly strenuous especially for someone bigger and taller than I am.

I suppose you could come up for sunset and go back the AT with a head lamp.






Here’s the picture I would rather have had but there were just too many of them clowning around and taking this picture and that one of each other.  I try to wait them out but they keep going on down the trail and coming back and shouting.   I give up.  I’m glad they are having a wonderful time together but they sure spoil what I’d hoped would be some spiritual time up here so high in the sky.





I don’t see any way David could  get up here without a scramble even from the other direction.  This is the way on toward where I hope I’ll meet him.  This is the way down.





Looking back at the gang.



I scramble on down until I finally do run into David at just after the scramble ends, or begins depending on which direction you are going.



Getting my short legs up and over this one was quite a feat.




I turn around and continue on with David as far as he thinks he can go with his arm.  He gets to within seeing distance of the top and the gang is still there.  He thinks this is far enough and after more pictures of the fantastic views from our current vantage point, we turn around to walk back the way he has come.








We have just passed this section which I’d seen before and I bring David back to look at this snag which is easily overlooked as it’s a bit off the path.  David suggests it might make a nice picture frame.  Thanks David for the picture.






The rest of the trail is easy although the elevation climb he did was a bit much I think.  He says it was fine.



He stops for me to get his picture hugging a big oak which he has taken a picture of on his way up to meet me.






For those who also might want to cut their scrambling down significantly when they do this trail, here are some of David’s pictures of his hike up to meet me.  It’s a lovely trail, it is the AT after all.  There really wasn’t a lot of scrambling in this direction and you would get to the top and the great views.







Here’s the spot where he turned off of the AT and onto the Bearfence Mountain Trail.  But looking back at the map,  I think he missed the cut over to follow the red trail and rather went along the path I’ve marked with blue arrows.   It wasn’t well marked and was easily missed since I didn’t see it on the way down either.

The map seems to imply that the rock scramble is only in one lower section and that is not the case.  The “easiest” of the 3 possible routes is the one David took which gives the smallest amount of scramble.





Anyway you choose to do this hike, it is well worth it and the scramble is a lot of fun even for little people.  I’d definitely do it again but either much earlier in the day or during some season other than summer or fall which are very busy in Shenandoah National park

We spend most of the morning on Bearfence Mountain but we still have the afternoon.  We do another truly easy hike and stop off to see the historic Skyland Area.  But that’s for another post.


  1. I love the more vigorous hikes! Great hike and hope to get to that area some time. Glad you each had options and good for David hiking with a "bum" arm!

  2. That was quite a hike. I'm surprised David was able to do so well. I'm not a big fan of climbing up rocks.....too afraid I will fall, but it looks like you enjoyed it quite a bit and the view was spectacular.

  3. Good to see David's out hiking - Looks like it was a fun hike.

  4. What a great hike, great scramble. Too bad your moment was disturbed by the gang..

  5. Great find for a hike! I like that you were able to get that picture of you starting out in differing directions and both got pictures on each trail. I have been a part of a large hiking group - they never can seem to be quiet and I always wonder about the hikers passing by and if we're annoying them - I have no doubt... Great views - I love that picture the 'volunteer' took of you and the 'picture frame' picture!

  6. What a fun hike -- it definitely looked like a scramble!! I was surprised that you said it wasn't strenuous, even with all of the rock climbing. It's so great to see David out on the trails. :-)

  7. That is a rugged trail, but my, the views are worth it!

  8. I would have loved the scramble route for sure but it was the right choice not to try it with just one good arm. :( You did a great job showing us the scramble. Anxious to do it now that my arm is good again.

  9. What a great find to have two different level trails to the same location! This was perfect for the two of you as you said, Sherry:) I would have loved the rock scramble. Too bad there was a group ahead of you. I imagine the view with quiet at the top would have been amazing. Like you said, next time when David can join you:) What a nice day!

  10. It seems to me that David and John could hike together while we do the harder trails. How nice it is to have two choices for activities.

  11. I still shudder when I see rocky trails. My knee still hasn't completely healed, nor has my cheekbone. I think I'm off hiking for a while.

  12. Dang, that is some scramble. Good thing it was marked. Love the forever views. But too bad about the noise crew.

  13. WOW Sherry...looks like a fun scramble!! Could easily challenge the scrambling trails here in Maine:o)) It looks like one we are redoing today called Razorback. So great to see you BOTH on the trails and finding hikes to enjoy. Just keep on hiking...

  14. I couldn't wait to read this because we did this last July 4th on the windiest day of the year. Don't know if you remember, but there had been a tropical storm (?) in NC and all of that wind had come our way. Walking in Big Meadows was like walking on an extremely windy beach. You had to struggle to walk into the wind. That said, it probably wasn't the best day to go on this hike. We never made it to the top. We had met an older couple coming down who said that it was extremely windy and I figured if they could do it, we could, but I realize now that they had come up the other way. That last climb up with the cliff on the right did me in. I was scared that I'd literally get blown off. My friend never even made it that far. She has shorter legs and had stopped about 15 yards below that last wall up. I've never been on any trail up there that I was afraid to do, but I had to admit when I was beaten.

    We do want to do it again on a less windy day -- and after your experience on a less crowded day, I suppose. I wonder if anyone was up there yesterday on wet rocks. Yikes. My son-in-law spent a couple months during college rappelling out west, so I think I'll take him next time to drag me along. :-) Glad you made it to the top!(We went to the Hoover Cabin yesterday, by the way. No children wandering without adult supervision. I love that place. I wish I could live there walking over those little bridges over the creeks . . ..) Thanks for sharing.

  15. Brilliant to find a location with two levels of trails so you could both enjoy getting out there. You're an inspiration to all of us "less tall" folks that you powered through the scramble :-) Love the views from the top and I try to imagine it without the chatter of all your new friends. The shaded trail on the return is lovely - great pic of the large rock and David to the side. Glad it's staying cool enough for another hike in the afternoon!

  16. How nice that David was able to join you in his own way. What beautiful vistas after a bit of a 'scramble' up to the top. Sometimes having other people there gives the pictures a bit of perspective. Nice!

  17. Scramble??? I probably would've fallen flat on my face or gotten part way up on a rock, panicked and gotten stuck!! Nice views!

  18. The picture of you on top of the mountain was so nice, just to see the joy on your face from doing what you love best was truly heartwarming. Nature sure does refresh the body and soul! :c)

  19. I remember doing this scramble ... we took the easy way down. Took some photos on the easier sections, but like you, put the camera away for some of the difficult segments. It was lots of fun though, and best of all, we had the place to ourselves.

  20. Im with you when it comes to getting some solitude up in a summit but difficult to achieve when noisy and insensitive hikers just could not keep their voices down.
    Im sure you got a good workout from the scrambling and would love to hike this trail one day.

  21. Rock scrambles are Wayne's favorite!


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