Here in Virginia, especially northern Virginia within the reaches of Washington D.C., the best way to avoid crowds on the popular hikes is to hike over the weekdays. So we visited the popular Buzzard Rock to break up the drive down I-81 on a Tuesday.
- name: Buzzard Rock North
- type: in & out
- distance: 3.9 mi
- elevation change: 673 ft
- time: 1:59 hours (1:42 moving)
- location: George Washington National Forest near Front Royal, VA (google map directions)
We opted for the shortest hike to reach Buzzard Rock from the north. There is a 7 mile option from the south starting at the Elizabeth Furnace area (Hiking Upwards).
The trailhead and parking area is off of VA 619, Mountain Road, and was near full even on the Tuesday around noon.
A few steps on the trail and we came to a sign depicting our end point of our hike, Buzzard Rock, and the trail junctions should you look to continue for a longer hike.
The first mile had a slight elevation gain and crossed a few creek beds, some of which were dry during our hike.
While we were in a tunnel of green for the most of it, we did find a friend on the trail.
The only flowers we saw on this summer day were a few wildflowers. These are called Wild Potato Vine, Man of the Earth, Wild Sweet Potato, or Bigroot Morning Glory with the latin name Ipomoea pandurata. It is know to have edible roots, though it shouldn’t be eaten raw (uswildflower.com)
We came to an open area with established fire ring about a mile into our hike.
The elevation profile over the next half mile increases with a 10.6% average grade as we work to gain the ridge.
Once on the ridge, we came to our first vista looking north.
For the next 0.17 miles, there is 15.6% grade incline before the ridge flattens out. The ridge is a little rocky, preluding the rock formation making up Buzzard Rock.
Roughly 2 miles from the trailhead, we arrived at Buzzard Rock. The main feature is a large slab of granite, which has a few climbing routes. There was a group from Reston area climbing here when we arrived.
The view here is of the Passage Creek drainage and Elizabeth’s Forge area. Across the way are Richardson Knob and Meneka Peak.
We didn’t continue much further beyond Buzzard Rock, but the trail does continue onwards along the ridge toward High Peak. It is the beginning of the Massanutten Mountain Trail and Ridge.
After hanging out here for a few, we retraced our steps back to the trailhead.
The rating below are based on an unevenly distributed scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest). For full description of the ratings and the categories, see the explanation here.
- view: 2. There are two major viewpoints on the hike up to Buzzard Rock, an overlook toward the north and the views around Buzzard Rock of the Passage Creek drainage and Meneka Peak. Neither were great views of the surrounding mountains, but the rocky ridge that make up Buzzard Rock is pretty cool.
- difficulty: 1. There isn’t too much elevation gain.
- technical: 1. The trail is well marked with no technical aspects.