Had a great time yesterday reconnoitering a hike on Buzzard Rock, just southwest of Front Royal in the Shenandoah Valley. It’s an easy to moderate 4-mile hike with a 650-foot elevation gain, and offers a nice climb and spectacular views in exchange for an hour’s drive from the Vienna Metro Station in northern Virginia.
To get there is simple: you drive west on I-66 for almost 56 miles, take exit 6 to US-340/US-522, drive south about a mile, then turn right onto VA-55 W/ W Strasburg Road and drive about 5 miles. At a historical marker for the “State Fish Hatchery” you turn left onto State Route 678/Fort Valley Road, follow it for a bit over a mile, and turn left again onto State Route 619/Mountain Road, at a sign for the “Virginia Fish Cultural Station.” (Seems like another way to say fish hatchery, but whatever.) After driving just over a mile you’ll see the trailhead sign on your right. The approximate address is 3134 Mountain Road, Front Royal, VA 22630, GPS = 38.937690, -78.288351. Here’s a Google map of the drive: http://tinyurl.com/p3arh9b
The trailhead is on the south side of the parking area, which is big enough for a dozen cars or so. The first mile and a half of hiking is pretty easy going: follow the white trail blazes as the trail winds around through the woods and over a couple of sparse rivulets, until you reach the rather abrupt final ascent to the north ridge overlook. The overlook features wonderful views to the west, north and east, so a short break is in order to catch your breath and enjoy the view.
From there you just face about and continue south and up along the ridgeline, continuing to follow the white trail blazes, for another about another half mile to the top of Buzzard Rock North, enjoying views from the cliffs on either side along the way. This portion is very rocky and narrow, with sheer cliffs on both sides, so if you have difficulties with depth perception, this stretch is probably best avoided.
The white-blazed trail continues down into a saddle and on a couple more miles to Shawl Gap, but for this hike, it’s time to turn around and retrace your steps to the parking area. Here’s a Google map of the hike: http://tinyurl.com/k9xxh3l
H/T to Hiking Upward for their overview of the hike.