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First Hike in Virginia: Humpback Rocks

One of the greatest perks of living in Charlottesville is that we’re only a half-hour drive away from both the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive. Hiking trails galore in that area. So, we were excited to get our first hike in, earlier this week. It was a short, but definitely scenic one. I was also delighted to (finally) take my new Adidas AX2 hiking shoes for a spin on an actual trail.

Hiking Humpback Rocks, Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia
Humpback Rocks

Hiking Humpback Rocks – A Short, But Scenic Challenge

One of the shortest trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, this great little hike starts just 6 miles (9.7 kilometers) from the northern terminus of that amazing road. Don’t let the distance fool you, though. It’s a steep hike. From the trailhead at the Humpback Gap Parking Area to the highest point on Humpback Rocks, there is an elevation gain of 800 feet (244 meters), which is significant, the grade steep enough to be a heartbeat-raising challenge to any hiker—albeit quite a brief one.

Humpback Rocks trail
Humpback Rocks trail in March

All the way up, the grade remains rather steep, there are stairways to be climbed and, particularly at the end, there’s some rock scrambling involved as well. Visitors who regularly hike will find the steepness of this short trail a pleasant challenge. Because of its short distance—a roundtrip of merely 2 miles (3.2 kilometers)—I would categorize it as easy to moderate.

Blue Ridge Parkway, from Humpback Rocks
A glimpse of the Blue Ridge Parkway

Hikers who want a longer route can opt to hike the Humpback Rocks loop trail, a 4.2-mile (6.8-kilometer) circuit that also starts at the Humpback Gap Parking Area. Other starting points for hikes to Humpback Rocks are at the Humpback Rocks Visitors Center and the Humpback Rocks Picnic Area.

Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains (yes, that’s a kite)

Because Humpback Rocks, as the name implies, is a prominent outcrop of bare rocks, the views are nothing less than amazing in every direction. These panoramic views take in the Shenandoah Valley and Shenandoah National Park, to the west and north respectively, as well as the rest of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the south.

Bram at Humpback Rocks, Virginia
The top of Humpback Rocks
Shenandoah Valley seen from Humpback Rocks
Shenandoah Valley seen from Humpback Rocks
Top of Humpback Rocks
Wonderful 360-degree veiws

The shortness of the trail, combined with the commanding views at the top, makes it a great one for sunset hikes.

Some Numbers

Distance: 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) one-way; starting from Humpback Gap Parking Area, mile marker 6 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Time: 25 minutes up, 15 minutes at the top, 20 minutes down; 1 hour total.

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