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Hiking Mary’s Rock in Shenandoah National Park

View from the top of Mary's Rock in Shenandoah National Park.

View from the top of Mary’s Rock in Shenandoah National Park.

I woke up Sunday morning sick and incredibly sore. The soreness was due to an awesome 10 mile hike up Mary’s Rock in Shenandoah National Park the day before. The sickness was probably caught from a colleague at work. The cough and sinus headaches started on Friday, and worsened on Saturday. I probably should have stayed in bed, but I ignored the symptoms and went on with the hike anyway. It was definitely worth it.

I love Shenandoah National Park. It’s beautiful in the fall when the leaves are turning. It’s also nice during springtime. The park is a short drive from the D.C. area — about 1.5 hours — which makes it a popular destination on the weekends.

Our plan was to hike Mary’s Rock and then visit Barrel Oak Winery afterward.

Mary’s Rock is a 3,514-foot mountain, with several entrances. We chose to do the Buck Hollow/Mary’s Rock loop, which extends the hike by a few miles. The combo-loop contains two portions: The Buck Hollow/ Buck Ridge trail and Mary’s Rock. This hike is less crowded than Old Rag, which on the weekends can resemble I-495 during rush hour (i.e., lots of foot traffic).

Mary’s Rock, on the other hand, offers greater solitude, especially the Buck Hollow portion. We only saw one other person on that part of the hike — a trail runner speeding his way on the rocky path ahead of us.

Buck Hollow starts off slow on the ascent, crossing the stream a few times before turning into a steep incline. It’s a bit rocky, and the loose leaves made the path a little slippery in some areas. About an hour later, we arrived at Skyline Drive, near the Hazel Mountain parking spot.

We crossed Skyline Drive and made a right onto Meadow Spring Trail for the Mary’s Rock portion of our hike. About a half mile in, we saw old brick ruins of a homestead, which was pretty cool. Soon we arrived at the intersection of the Appalachian Trail (AT) and ridge line. We followed the AT for nearly a mile before arriving at the junction of Mary’s Rock lookout.

This part of the hike wasn’t as secluded as Buck Hollow — we saw several other hikers, including a trio of guys thru-hiking the AT together (love seeing thru-hikers!) and groups of kids letting their energy run wild on the trail.

We were starting to get a little tired at this point, and had separated a bit — two farther back, me in the middle, and one slightly ahead. About half an hour later, we reached the summit. Mary’s Rock has a fantastic 360-degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the town below (Sperryville?). You can also see Skyline Drive and the entrance to the park. We rested a bit, took in the view, and ate lunch before making our way back.

The second half of our hike started off on the wrong foot — or turn, actually. We made the wrong turn at the junction for Mary’s Rock lookout. We hiked about a mile or so down, before one of us (thanks, Andy!) realized that the path looked unfamiliar. We were uncertain in our tired state. But grumbling, we turned back toward the lookout, to go the other way. It set us back a bit, and what was supposed to be a 6 mile hike, turned into a 10 mile hike.

The trail moved pretty quickly on the descent once we were on the right track back. We were less talkative on this second half, and (I, personally) zoned out a bit.

About six hours and 10 miles later, we were done. And so tired. We were ready for wine (if sleep didn’t take us down first).

Barrel Oak was slightly off our path toward home, so we decided to go to Pearmund Cellars instead. It’s in the eastern part of Fauquier County, not too far from Northern Virginia and DC. We opted against the wine tasting, and just went with two bottles off the bat (and later a third), since we knew we wanted to drink and relax.

The winery was packed. No surprise since the weather was beautiful. Though we were tired from the hike, we felt terrific afterward (not sure if it was the physical activity or wine). It was a great afternoon — perfect cross-training activity, and excellent time with good company.

I got home around 6-7ish, showered, and passed out.

Sunday was a little rough, but it was well worth every steep and rocky step.

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