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What a Pile of Rocks-Blackrock Summit

Sunday August 2, 2015                                                                 Previous Post:
Loft Mountain Campground                                                          A Waterfall Lovers Loop: Doyles River and Jones Run Falls
Shenandoah National Park





Today we’re doing a short hike to an interesting summit.  It seems that Blackrock was once a huge cliff that cracked thousands of years ago.  It tumbled down the mountain’s slope to become the jumble of rocks that it is today.  The trail to the rocks is relatively easy and uses the AT.  But to actually reach the summit you have to do some boulder crawling.

We stop on the way to enjoy a beautiful view to the west since the skies are relatively clear.  You can always tell the views to the west of the mountains from the ones to the east even if you don’t label your pictures.  The ones to the west have the Shenandoah Valley development in them between the mountain ranges.  The ones to the east are just mountains.  The development at the bottom of the foothills is too far away to disturb the view.    Our farm is to the east but further south.  We could see Humpback Rocks on the Blue Ridge Parkway from our backyard. 


Today’s hike begins at Blackrock Summit Parking Mile Post 84.8 on the Skyline Drive.

From the parking lot we take the AT South and up the mountain to the Summit.  The AT actually goes right around Blackrock.  The total hike is just over a mile full circuit so how can it take us over two hours to do it? You’ll see in a minute.

We start out on the AT through a lovely woods.


The sight which greets us when we come out of the woods is quite commanding.  Where to look first?



Huge jumbles of rocks fall away to form a talus slope on the right of the trail while more boulders rise sharply to the summit on the left.  To reach the summit you must scramble over this maze of boulders.  No path provided.



It’s a gorgeous day for the views which is one of the reasons we took a chance on this hike on a Sunday morning in August.   Looking west down the talus slope.



What a western sky!



I ask David if he is going up to “the summit”.  He’s contemplating.  I’m not sure I want to go up there with those ‘could tumble some more any minute’ rocks.  Plus we’ve been told to take care, rattlesnakes like to sun themselves on the boulders.

I can’t get far enough away to show the entire summit from the trail since if I step back, I’ll be sliding down the talus slope.






I walk the trail around the base looking at how one might crawl up there.  David, in the meantime, is climbing up so I don’t get any pictures of him doing it.  DARN!  Those would have been good.   He forgot his camera today so there won’t be any from his viewpoint.

I spy him up there.  His red shirt is hard to miss.  So I guess I’ll have to go up too or there will be no pictures of what it looks like.



He certainly appears to be King of the Mountain from here.



When I make it up, I find fabulous views in both directions.




I also see that a 6 year old has done it.  Now that’s impressive.  It really was not easy and was a hands and feet climb.   He probably still has his crawl perfected.




Nearly sittin’ on top of the world.





The boulders look like they were just pitched from a great height.  The footing is tricky.  David is watching his step.  Notice the circular lichen designs decorating the rocks in the foreground.




You don’t want to fall off and go tumbling down there.





I find this stack of blocks amazing.  Perhaps there is a resident giant who plays with his blocks.  How could they have tumbled down the mountain and ended up in a stack like these?   Nature just is so incredible.






OK, my turn to be on top.



I’m thinking about heading down through this slot but after closer examination, change my mind.





Look at this stack. David says it tumbled down as one column but I can’t wrap my head around that. I suppose this could be the result of freezing and cracking of a column.  But really, those nearly straight lines and who put that one on the top?   This place is marvelous.



I pick a nice sitting spot up high to just enjoy the views and contemplate the beauty. 



Here’s what I can see from my perch.






More stacks-more head scratching.



Back on the ground, sorry no pictures of the descent either since we came down at the same time.  I do think the ascent and descent would have been pretty funny pictures.  We’ll have to come back and do it again.  It’s a short trail, it just takes a long time to get away from this rock pile.

But once down here we have to watch our step exiting as the trail is also covered with rocks.  A pair of north bound through hikers are coming toward me.  I snap their picture at too great a distance and then forget to take another when they stop to chat.




Walking out I watch my step for sure.




The rocks are of Hampton quartzite and some are covered with dark patches of rock tripe, a variety of lichen.   They are beautiful.



As we near the end of the rocks, the trail has more dirt  and almost seems to have an exit arch.



When we reach the intersection of the AT and the Trayfoot Mountain Trail, which we will take back to the parking lot, we find 2.2 backpackers hoping to go the other way on the Trayfoot.




But one of the hikers needs a rest.




We chat while the little hiker rests.  It seems they are on a 7 day backpack into the wilderness.  They did most of 7 miles yesterday and this little one hiked nearly all of it.  My guess is that his little pads are sore.  We talked about it and they said they tried to get him some boots but there weren’t any small enough.

Eventually they put their packs back on and give the leash a light tug.  Nope, he’s not getting up.  They pick him up and stand him on his feet.  He lays right back down.  This guy knows he’s not walking any more today and it’s not even noon.



Looks like he’s getting a ride.  We wish them Happy Trails.


Our hike down is on an old road.  An easy downhill after our rocky scramble.





One reason for the short hike today other than a) it’s Sunday and b) we wanted to do this hike is that David wants to drive down to Charlottesville for late afternoon memorial gathering of the group he used to work with in honor of their head nurse, Sandra Jackson, who died at her home in Wales of a heart attack.   It’s quite sobering to be at that stage of life where people your age are dying.  It makes our morning scrambling around in the natural world all that much more precious.


  1. Pretty hike and views. We saw lots of rock piles out West this summer and I always wonder the same thing - how on earth did that happen? Unfortunately, as you were warned, our poisonous, slithering friends are usually somewhere close to rocks. Our puppy dog does the same thing if we walk him too far - just lays down and refuses to walk anymore!

  2. What an amazing hike and some wonderful views. Those stacks certainly are amazing. I would not have had the nerve to climb up on those rocks and I would have thought going down might have been worse.

    I hate that those people were making that poor puppy go on that hike. He's obviously very young and their little feet are very tender when they are young. Poor guy. I hope he will be okay. BAD hikers!

    Have you ever left a little "trail magic" on the AT for the thru hikers? Just reading in my book how much they appreciate finding it and have decided to leave some ourselves.

  3. Amazing rocks! Another wonder of nature, for sure. I think I'd like to "hike" the same way as that tired doggie. Want to help me with that? :cD

  4. Oh, wow - you guys are amazing - I can't imagine climbing those rocks! And, that sweet little puppy... I hope the people he's with give him plenty of rests.

  5. If the whole loop is only a mile, I might actually be able to do that hike. Not sure about the rock scrambling though.

  6. I really like to see rocks like that on a hike, even scrambling up on them can be fun if you're careful. What a lovely dog, but poor thing! I hope they don't force him to walk :(

  7. As much as I loved seeing the rocks pics I had to hurry through some of them. That "slide" feeling just gets to me :-( Still, the cracked and stacked were great fun. I bet the six year old thought it was the best playground - just like you kids! Really "like the lichen" circles, don't think I've ever seen them before and now I'll know what they are :-) Looks like the young hikers had planned for some carry time for their new pup. He'll be fine and much happier than staying home in a crate.

  8. Sobering ... especially when a death is unexpected. My BIL's swim friend died of a heart attack after a swim meet a short while ago ... very unexpected, and since he was younger than my BIL, it's given him considerable pause. I feel for that poor dog ... it's one thing for its human parents to walk on those trails with thick soled shoes; entirely something else for the doggie without booties as protection for its paws.

  9. Having seen what the trail can do to a 2 yr old dog, it is probably close to being animal cruelty to take a young puppy on such a trail for 7 days. Most dogs will try to kick off anything you put on their feet such as booties or boots.

    I'm not sure if I could climb up all those rocks, but coming down would be the major problem. Congrats on making it.

  10. You have to be careful on those blocks, but wow, what a view!

  11. Very cute puppy, but he got tired. Nice hike, real rock scrambling! Great views from the top. I'd like to take that hike sometime. If you do it again, call us.

  12. Oh I love hikes like this one! The views, the crazy rocks! But yes, we sure do have to watch our feet...don't dare look around as you walk!

    That was one adorable puppy, good thing it was light weight at this stage!

  13. I haven't done this hike, but will definitely try it when the snakes have gone underground. It's so lovely, but looks like rattlesnake haven to me! I think that couple should not have brought that little puppy on such a hike. Good for him to refuse another step. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Sounds a bit dangerous, but so interesting to see the rocks piled like that. Great views and some fancy stepping to see them! I agree with Pam S. about the puppy. Hopefully, the cutie won't start associating the AT with exhaustion and sore pads. But, great that he's outside getting to enjoy nature too. Cool hike!

  15. Glad that they had a backup plan for the puppy. So adorable!

  16. Oh, I love this rock pile!! This is the type hike we love to do. Scrambling up rocks of any kind are so much fun. Those neat, organized stacks of rocks are way cool. Great day! Poor doggie! He was so cute but way too young for this type hiking.

  17. Whoa! Lots of rocks! I love the mental picture of a giant playing with blocks! Great views and poor tired puppy. That is a lot to expect from a young puppy. xxxooo

  18. Many years ago, (A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....), I went on a 3+ mile backpack trip with my brother and neighbor...the neighbor HAD to take his dog, a standard poodle mix. Three miles in, camp for a few days, three miles out. He had to carry his dog out. People just don't understand the strain that a long hike, over course ground, will do to most dogs...let alone a young one like that. Different if dog is an outside dog that does small hikes to medium hikes daily with their owner...otherwise, leave your dog home.

  19. Wow, that hike definitely involved a lot of scrambling! Those boulders are huge. It's easy to hike on the slick rock in the West (it's like natural velcro when it's dry), but it must be more difficult to hike on the rocks in the East.

  20. Those views are mind expanding. Wonder if that rock fractures in those patterns. Have to assume they fell a long time ago. But even then a good idea to use caution. Keep on keeping on as long as possible I believe will help keep us young(er), or at least keep us happy along the way. Not sure it was a good idea to take a puppy on a 7 day pack trip. Ah, youth....


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