Chris and Tori recently adopted a new dog, Basil. So they joined us for his inaugural hike. He even found a bear.
- name: Blackrock, Trayfoot Mountain, & Paines Run loop (gps track – alltrails wikiloc)
- type: loop
- distance: 9.4 miles
- elevation change: 2218 ft ascent and descent
- time: 3:45 hours (3:30 hours with breaks)
- location: Blackrock Gap, Shenandoah National Park near Waynesboro, VA (google map directions)
Shenandoah National Park, unlike the Jefferson & Washington National Forests in southwest Virginia, is a national park. So there are entrance fee (Shenandoah National Park) associated to access this hike. With the heavy traffic of visitors to Shenandoah, it is very much needed to up keep with infrastructure. I would also recommend to get the America the Beautiful Annual Pass for USD$80, it usually pays for itself if you visit 3 national parks.
There are several possible starting points for this hike. We started at Blackrock Gap on Skyline Drive. The closest alternative is Blackrock Summit parking lot (google maps) a short ways down on Skyline Drive. From these two starting points, you are looking at mostly a hike down into Paine Run drainage and then back up to Skyline Drive.
Alternatively, you can start outside of the park, further downstream of Paines Run (google maps). Starting from this location will add half a mile to your hike.
It was a beautiful sunny Saturday when Chris, Tori, and Basil met up with us for a hike. The mid 70 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures was a nice break in the hot and humid Virginia summer making a prefect hiking day. We met up at Blackrock Gap to start our hike around noon. The first portion of our hike was following the Appalachian Trail (AT) northbound. The AT immediately crosses Skyline Drive a couple of times.
After the AT crosses Skyline Drive the second time, it’s just over a mile of steady uphills for at about a 13.5% grade. At 0.7 miles from the start, there is a junction with the trail to the right leading to the Black Rock Hut 0.2 off trail (see Hiking Upward description). We continued on until we reach the next junction at about the 1.2 mile mark. Even though the junction marks the Trayfoot Mountain Trail, we continued on the AT to head for Blackrock Summit. From the summit, there is another cutoff trail to return to the Trayfoot Mountain Trail at a later point.
The AT soon cuts across a boulder field covering the side of the mountain.
There are several places you can start scrambling up toward the peak.
Little did we know, Blackrock summit was the high point of the hike. It provides a great panoramic view of the valleys and peaks around.
This includes Trayfoot Mountain and the Paine Run drainage that we would hike through the rest of the day.
We didn’t hang around too long since dogs aren’t the most coordinated to scramble on rocks, though he did a great job. We returned to the AT and it wasn’t long before we reached the junction for the side trail (Blackrock Spur Trail) to connect us back to the Trayfoot Mountain Trail.
The spur trail was pretty cool as it cut through the boulder to return to the Trayfoot Mountain Trail in about a quarter of a miles at about -11.6% grade decline.
Once we rejoined the Trayfoot Mountain Trail, we turned right and were back in the green tunnel Virginia hiking is known for in the summer.
The trail climbs at about a 11.4% grade over the next half mile until the next junction with the Furnace Mountain Trail branching off downhills and to the right. Furnace mountain is said to have a nice overview with a 13 mile loop possibility (described at Hiking Upwards) or a couple in and out possibilities (alltrails listing from Skyline Drive or outside the park).
Our hike, meanwhile, continued at a steeper 15.3% grade for a final quarter mile push to the tree covered summit of Trayfoot Mountain. We wouldn’t have known it really without a marker.
The trail continued on the tree covered and overgrown ridge for the next 1.5 mile undulating, but with an overall decrease in elevation at about -6.2% grade.
About 3.75 miles from the start, the drop down into the drainage begin in earnest. It did so for over 2 miles at a constant -12% grade. There was an interesting rock wall feature along the way that Chris and Tori though would have had interesting climbing problems, but they would not pack a pad this far in. I scrambled up the side of it hoping for a better view, but the trees around blocked most of the view. I did see Skyline drive cutting around the side of the mountain on the opposite side though.
One good thing about overgrowth was we found some blackberries right next to the trail. They were good, though probably a little early.
Near the end of the drop, there was one outlook of a cone shaped mound without and the flat I-81 corridor.
After a couple long switchbacks, we were at the intersection with Paines Run Trail. We turned left to start regaining some of the elevation we just lost, though at a very mild pace initially at about 2.8% grade over 3 miles on the disused fire road.
Shortly after the starting on Paines Run Trail, crossed Paines Run, the really only good reliable source of water.
The trail starts to rise over Paine Run after that
and then leaves the stream pretty much all together to our disappointment. We did cross several tributary stream bed, though I recall only one that was running during our hike. Either way, it’s not the same hiking next to a stream than crossing it. This was probably most disappointing section as I had looked forward to hiking next to Paines Run after the boring Trayfoot Mountain Trail. All we saw instead with more green tunnel.
Once the old fireroad ended, it was a last mile uphill at about a 9.1% grade to the parking lot. However, it was at this point that we saw a bear off trail. I’m now 3 out of 4 hikes seeing a bear in Shenandoah National park. For all I know, this was the same bear I saw a week earlier coming out my Jones Run and Doyle River loop hike. About another week later, we heard that the Blackrock shelter was closed for a while due to bear activity (WHSV ABC Harrisonburg). Despite it being a mostly uninteresting hike for us, I guess the trail heard us and did provide for entertainment.
After the hike, we topped off the day with a visit to Blue Mountain Brewery (tripadvisor). They are one of the better microbreweries in the area and their food is decent, especially after a hike.
ratings (1-5; click link for detailed breakdown)
- views: 2. Overall, were underwhelmed by the loop. The 2 score here was mainly due to the rocks and the fun that can be had scrambling around Blackrock Summit. Trayfoot mountain was very typical of Virginia peaks in that it was covered with trees with no overlook. The most disappointing aspect was actually the trail by Paines Run. I use “by” loosely as the old fire road turned trail was only next to Paines Run for a few steps and moving away from it. There seem to be many dry stream beds that we might have crossed that maybe more interesting after a wetter stretch. If you are just looking for a walk in the woods with plenty of solitude, then this trail would do just fine. If not, you can just do the short hike from Blackrock Summit Parking lot to see Blackrock summit (alltrails) to enjoy the best part of this hike.
- difficulty: 2. The elevation profile for his hike has is over 2000 ft with several decently steep sections. The trail was plenty overgrown, especially the Trayfoot mountain section. However, I didn’t run into any stinging nettles. Since the hike is in the trees for most of it, you’ll have good cover from from the sun. Lastly with hikes starting from the Skyline Drive, staring downhills and end the day with an uphill makes the final climb seem more tiring.
- technical: 1. The trails in Shenandoah National Park are well signed.