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Buzzard Rock

April 4, 2010

This 4 mile out-and-back hike takes you to a ridge walk with views of Fort Valley below.

Adam on Buzzard Rock

From Buzzard Rock, you get a great view of Passage Creek and Fort Valley below. Below: The view below from this vantage point; Scrabbly pines are the predominant tree at the summit

View of Fort Valley

Adam Says…

This was the first time that we had done this hike.  The hike seems to be very popular for people from nearby Front Royal, Winchester and Northern Virginia.  It is not too difficult of a hike, which makes it a great hikes for families and newbie hikers.

You start the trail from the parking lot and you’ll follow the double white blazes for the entire trip.  You begin walking through a piney area that will smell nice if the area has been warmed up in the spring/summer sun.  The trail has some hills to go up and down and a few small streams to cross.  Around 1.0 miles, you will arrive at a frequently-used campsite.  Just cross the campsite and continue up the trail for about another .75 miles until you reach the first overlook.  You will continue up the hill to reach the ridgeline.  Continue to hike across the ridge to take in the views from different angles.  Once you feel that you have seen all that you would like, you can return the way you came.

Trail Sign

The trail is well-marked and connects to other local GWNF trails. Below: Lots of stuff along the trail is in bloom now; the rocks at the top are covered in lichen.

Blossoms Flowering Trees Lichen

For any of those people that are interested in geocaching, you can grab three easy ones along the trail.  All of them are normal-sized containers and have some things to trade.  One of these was placed by our inspiration for a lot of hikes, Hiking Upward.

Unfortunately, this trip was marred for us since my wife sprained her ankle very badly at the top of the ridge.  She somehow managed to hike back down under her own power despite my offerings to carry her down – quite a trooper!  We definitely will do this hike another time.

Christine Says…

Buzzard Rock was a beautiful hike for a beautiful spring day.   The summit offers a great scenic payoff with minimal effort.  The elevation gain of 650 feet is very gradual with the exception of one very short, steep climb to the ridgeline.

The early part of the hike passes close to civilization, so the sound of cars and glimpses of houses are always in sight.  However, within a half a mile, the trail leads away from everything and passes through a pretty stretch of open woods with very little undergrowth.  In early spring, the forest floor is covered with tiny wildflowers peeking out from under the brown leaves. The view from the trail eventually opens up and provides a nice view of the Front Royal Fish Hatchery and the surrounding valley below.

The view of the valley below is beautiful! Below: The Front Royal Fish Hatchery; A view of the Buzzard Rock "spine"

From this point on the trail is extremely uneven and rocky – big slabs of stone, angle up out of the ground like jagged teeth… more about that later.  The view from the top is not as dramatic as other Virginia hikes, mostly because you can’t see many distant layers of ridges.  What you do see is a deep, narrow valley below with Fort Valley Road and Passage Creek winding their way through.  Because of all the recent rain, we could hear creek’s roar even hundreds of feet above.

We enjoyed the view, had some trail mix and then headed back down the mountain.  I stopped along to way to photograph some flowering trees.  When I turned to rejoin Adam, I moved a bit too hastily and carelessly.  The toe of my boot got caught between two of the “jagged teeth” on the ridge.  My toe stopped dead, but my ankle kept moving.  It completely rolled to the side, resulting in a bad Grade 2 ankle sprain.

I was extremely glad to get back to parking lot so I could stop walking on my injured ankle. Below: My bruised and deformed ankle.

My ankle immediately started to bruise and swell, but I had no choice but to hike myself out.  Adam found a makeshift walking stick in the woods, and that helped offset weight on my injured foot.  Nonetheless, it was a long two miles back down to the car. I’ll be off the trails for several weeks to come while my ankle heals and rehabs.  I’m hoping it won’t take as long as the doctor predicted.  I hate to waste three (or more) weeks of this fantastic spring hiking weather.

Wookie Says...Wookie Says…

This was a great first hike of the year for me!  It wasn’t very steep, and I love to scramble on rocks.  What I liked less were all the small stream crossings on this trail.  I hate to get my paws wet and muddy, but that’s exactly what I ended up doing on this hike.  I actually acted quite brave, and on the return trip I crossed all the streams with confidence.  Maybe I’ll be a water loving dog yet!

Wookie on the Trail

Wookie had a great time on the hike.

I really enjoyed the breezy overlook atop Buzzard Rock.  I liked sniffing the air and feeling the sun on my back.  I even got to enjoy a few graham crackers from my masters’ trail mix.  I also got some water from my portable dog dish.

It was a great day, but I have a feeling I’m getting a bath when I get home.

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 4 miles – out-and-back
  • Elevation Change –around 650 feet
  • Difficulty – 2 This trail isn’t too steep and most people should be able to make it up to the top.
  • Trail Conditions – 3. The trail is in decent shape.  There are some muddy spots and a lot of jagged rocks on the ridge.
  • Views –3.5. There are great views along the entire ridge.  We would have liked it better if we couldn’t see a road below.
  • Waterfalls/streams –1. There are a few rock-hops across some streams, but nothing photo-worthy.
  • Wildlife – 1. This is a better bird-watching trip than a trip for spotting any mammals.  We were glad we saw a buzzard at the top since it is their rock.
  • Ease to Navigate – 4.5. The trail is well-marked with a white double blaze.
  • Solitude – 2 . This is a popular trail for local families and also rock climbers.

Directions to trailhead: From I-66, take 340 South Exit.  Take a right on 55 – Strasburg Road.  Take a left onto 619 – Fort Valley Road.  Parking lot is on the right-hand side.  If you are arriving from the south, go up 340 (following directions for Front Royal Airport) until you reach 619-Rivermont Drive.  After a few miles, Rivermont Drive becomes Fort Valley Road.  Parking lot is on the left-hand side.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Ken Knott permalink
    April 15, 2010 5:34 pm

    If you guys aren’t hiking with hiking poles yet, you really should. They, more than anything, GREATLY reduce the chance of injuries like this. Knee or ankle. They also really help with crossing streams.

    • April 15, 2010 6:07 pm

      Thanks for your visit! We do hike with trekking poles (love them!). The place I fell was more of a scramble than a trail. It wasn’t terrain where I could have used my poles. I think this accident was just fated to happen. It feels a lot better now.


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