Hiking Bear Church Rock
Just like any weekend I'm home, I decided that I wanted to do a hike either Saturday or Sunday. Saturday was rainy so I decided to go Sunday instead. I chose Bear Church Rock because it has amazing views and a wonderful trail that winds beside two rivers for a majority of the time. We (Mom and Dad came.... of course) woke up early and drove two and a half hours to get to the parking lot around 9:30ish because a few websites warned that the lot was small and filled up fast. The parking lot was "full" when we arrived, but that's only because people are idiots when it comes to parking without lines to guide them. Seriously, you could've fit at least three more cars in there if the previous cars had been more mindful of their spacing. The trail starts directly at the back of the parking lot and you immediately start your hike off by walking alongside the Rapidan River. Just a heads up... This hike starts out on a horse trail and you'll definitely be sharing the trail for a little while.
After about half a mile walking next to the Rapidan River (which is full of brown trout and other little fish), you turn off to follow the Staunton River Trail, which follows the Staunton River up the mountain. This first portion of the hike you're walking beside never-ending cascades, waterfalls, and beautiful little rapids; the sound of the running water is so relaxing to listen to. There are a ton of little side paths that you can go down to get closer to certain parts of the river, most notably those sections that have waterfalls and larger cascades, but honestly you're basically walking right beside the river the whole way anyways.
After walking on the Staunton River Trail for awhile, you intersect with Jones Mountain Trail. At this point you follow that trail all the way up to the outlook. There's a point where the trail breaks off and offers a side trail to Jones Mountain Cabin but we decided not to do that part. We hiked straight up to the outlook and, oh my god, it was a workout. Hiking Upward warns that once you hit the Jones Mountain Trail it's basically a steep hike to the top... they weren't kidding. After that nice little climb, we welcomed the view although we were out of breath.
I know I say I loveeeee every hike that I do and oh my god they're SOO pretty but this hike really did move up to the top of my favorite's list. I think hiking beside the two different rivers was something new and fun compared to the usual woods-only hikes. So that was definitely a plus. The outlook, while it was beautiful, wasn't as extensive as some of the other hikes I've done such as Spy Rock and Old Rag. So that would be a slight negative. Overall, I would have to say this hike was definitely worth the two and a half hour drive. We were also outrageously lucky and the weather was almost too perfect. When we got on the trail it was still in the 50s but after an hour of hiking it finally warmed up into the upper 60s (glad I brought some extra shorts!). It was low humidity and the visibility was clear for miles.
If you're someone who really enjoys water, this would be a perfect hike for you. It would also be a great hike for a hot summer day because at the base of a majority of the waterfalls, there are little deep pools that you could swim and cool off in. Oh and last thing about this trail that I loved is that it was secluded. The fist people we saw was a couple when we reached the outlook and they left right as we arrived. Then we saw another couple hiking up to the outlook when we were on our way down. So the solitude was also great and definitely a plus. For more information on this hike visit here