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Humpback Rock

June 18, 2009

Humpback Rock is a steep, but popular trail in the northern section of the Blue Ridge Parkway with great views.

The summit of Humpback is always crowded.

Adam Says…

This was the third of our three hikes in one day, with Crabtree Falls and The Priest making up the earlier hikes.  We both were quite exhausted.  Christine definitely didn’t want to do this when we arrived.  She blamed me for tweeting about it earlier, since she felt the tweet had publicly committed us to finishing all three hikes.  So, I think I’ll not be allowed to tweet for a while.  We were both low on energy, but we relied on each other to get ourselves up to the top.

It is surprising to see all of the different people that hike this trail and what they choose to wear.  We saw people with serious hiking gear and trekking poles.  We saw elderly people with business shoes and teenage girls wearing party dresses.  This is a steep trail through most of the hike, so be prepared and wear appropriate shoes/clothes or you may end up on a future blog.  As much as you will huff-and-puff on the way up, you will likely have a sadistic smile on the way down as you witness the effort on the faces of those ascending, knowing your work is behind you. We heard a lot of music when we were hiking up and couldn’t place it.  It turns out there was a bluegrass concert at the Humpback Rocks visitor center.

You can extend the hike an extra mile by taking off from the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center parking lot and taking the Mountain Farm Trail.  This takes you through a re-creation of an 1890s farm with lots of buildings you can inspect and think about a farming time long ago.  For us, we didn’t have any fuel left in our tanks to walk the extra mile and the concert was taking place at the farm.

You can see a little snip of the Blue Ridge Parkway from the summit.

You can see a little snip of the Blue Ridge Parkway from the summit.

The views from the top are quite remarkable and you will have some gorgeous views of the Parkway and the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Take some time to soak in the beauty of the area.

Christine Says…

Let’s see here – what do I remember more about Humpback Rock… the pain or the suffering? Really it’s so close; I’m going to have to call it a draw. All kidding aside, Humpback Rock is actually a fun and scenic hike. This isn’t the first time we’ve hiked it, and we normally enjoy the hike quite a bit. However, it was probably rather ill-advised for us to hike it as the final leg of our trifecta of hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We hadn’t eaten anything in over eight hours (except for that half donut on the summit of The Priest). We were both really hungry and thirsty, but stupidly mused “How bad can one more mile of uphill really be?”

As we learned, it can be quite bad! Along the way, Adam and I moaned at every moment that someone else wasn’t in earshot. We took turns declaring that we should turn around, go back to the car and just get lunch at Sonic. At one point, I said to Adam “Here… take this blasted camera and go up to the top and take photos for me. I’ll wait here.” A few minutes later, I turned around and saw Adam sitting on a rock about thirty feet back. He told me that he didn’t think his feet would move – not even one more step. Basically, we were a big, stinking heap of melodrama.

Last time we hiked up to Humpback Rock was April of 2008. Sometime since then, the trail has been re-routed. The first half of the climb still follows a steep, but wide and smooth, pathway up the mountainside. In the past, the second half of the trail climbed up the backside of the rock. The terrain was more like a scramble than a trail, but it was fun. Now, in order to reach the top, hikers must climb around and under the rock and then follow a trail up the side to reach the summit.

By the time we got to the top, we were beat!

By the time we got to the top, we were beat!

If you hit Humpback Rock on a nice, clear day – the views are beautiful and panoramic. The rock ledges at the top are fun to climb on and there are lots of places to sit and enjoy the view. The trail is exceedingly popular with central Virginians, so it’s not the kind of place you’ll find peace and solitude. On the beautiful Sunday afternoon we hiked the trail, we saw at least 50 other hikers.

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 2.0 miles out-and-back
  • Elevation Change – 800 feet
  • Difficulty – 3.5. This is short but fairly strenuous.
  • Trail Conditions – 3.5. There are some pointy rocks later on in the trail, but there is a lot of sections that are covered in gravel.
  • Views – 3.5. Nice views from the top.
  • Waterfalls/streams - 0. Non-existent
  • Wildlife - .5. I don’t think you’ll see much wildlife due to all the people.
  • Ease to Navigate - 3.5. The trail is not hard to follow.
  • Solitude - .5. If you do this during any normal day hours on a nice day, it will be tough to not have people in your view.

Directions to trailhead: The trail is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway between mile markers 5 & 6… although you can hike to the rocks via slightly longer routes from either the picnic grounds or visitors center.  For the route described above, there is a large parking lot with a information board near the trailhead.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 12, 2014 1:10 pm

    This is a great hike. The trail is always in good condition and popular enough that you’re never alone, but never cramped either. The trail starts on mile marker 6, BTW.

  2. April 10, 2012 1:15 pm

    Just hiked Humpback yesterday!

  3. Ann Youell permalink
    August 21, 2011 11:30 am

    Are you sure you were on the right trail. I’m 63 years old and have no problem at all reaching the summit. It’s worth every step. Years ago the trail was a little steeper but it has been made a lot easier.

  4. November 27, 2010 4:44 pm

    I just hiked that mountain on Thanksgiving Morning! I am used to hikes east of I-95. Humpback Rock took a lot out of me. All I saw was a trail continuously going up. When I finally made it to the top where that window like rock formation was (It was too windy for me to actually climb up on the rock it’s self), I felt like I had conquered something! Now, I’m hooked on mountain hikes and will try to see my in-laws in Charlottesville more often.

    • November 27, 2010 4:50 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed your hike up Humpback! It’s definitely a tough little hike – lots of uphill packed into a short distance. You’ll have to start exploring some trails in the South District of Shenandoah now. They’re not too far from C’ville!

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