Ramble On

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Balckrock Summit: An easy Shenandoah National Park Day Hike

Depending on the guidebook you use, the Blackrock Summit trail, in the South District of Shenandoah National Park, is listed at 0.8 to 1.0 miles in length, with about 175 feet of altitude gain. The NPS Riprap Area Road and Trail Map highlights this trails “outstanding views and interesting geology,” and the Easy Day Hikes book (the image will take you to an Amazon.com page) estimates hiking time as up to one hour.

The trailhead starts from a parking lot at Skyline Drive mile 84.8, where there is a sign describing the trail and the geology of the mountain. From there, there is a gentle climb through a fern grove to a junction with the Appalachian Trail, and then a short distance further to the summit, at an altitude of 3,092 feet.

The trail skirts the boulder field and continues on through this gap in the rocks to a couple of the nearby mountains, which include Trayfoot Mountain at 3,374 feet and Furnace Mountain, at 2,657 feet. I read that there is an abandoned observation tower ruin on Trayfoot, only a half mile more distant, visible in the photo here. At first I set out for this – looking forward to the additional 300-foot climb and the added distance.
I ran into returning hiker who had gone to Furnace Mountain, making an overall hike of just over 4 miles. It was a beautiful day and it was clear they had enjoyed themselves – they recommended I continue on to that summit.
I had a late start, and since I don’t relish the thought of picking my way through a rock scramble in the dark, I decided to turn back once I reached the trail junction for the Trayfoot Summit. I headed back to Blackrock, contenting myself with the idea that the little rock scramble and views would probably be worth it.

When I got back to Blackrock, there were a couple of folks at the top of the scramble, including a young boy. He scampered down to my route up, and I asked him if he had seen any rattlesnakes. “Naw,” he said, “I’ve been up here three times before and I’ve never seen any.” “That’s good to hear,” I said, “I’ll take your word for it.” I could see his dad up above smiling at the young trail guide.
The source of the name Blackrock is this flaky black lichen that covers many of the stones on this summit. The lichen is in evidence at many similar features in the Park, such as along the Riprap Trail, on Old Rag, on the Mary’s Rock Trail, and in places at Dark Hollow Falls. I also saw it on Duncan Knob over on Massanutten Mountain. Here, it was mainly small growths, but in some of the other places it hangs in fleshy leaves from the rocks.

As far as my decision to turn back from the Trayfoot Mountain summit goes, one of the other hikers on Blackrock confirmed that I had made the right choice. “Never heard of an observation tower up there,” he said. “That hike is just a lot of extra work, for no reward.”

I was impressed with the beautiful day at hand and the incredible surprise of the environment at the summit, so I messaged a couple of the photos to Mary and others. The responses were unanimous, all remarking on Blackrock’s beautiful scenery. Mary wants to come back there with me, and we’ll do that soon – we also need to take on a similar hike in the Central District – Bearfence Mountain, which has a similar rock scramble.


Howard said...

Great looking hike! REALLY enjoyed this post....

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