Pocosin Mission Trail

The Pocosin Mission Trail is a fairly short walk along a fire road that leads to the ruins of an abandoned Episcopal mission.

Pocosin Mission Ruins
The Pocosin Mission ruins are slowly sinking back into the forest. Below: The fire road makes this trail pleasant and easy to walk along; The old church steps still stand at the site; Adam explores the ruins.

Pocosin Church Steps Adam Explores the Mission Ruins

Adam Says…

We’re back to Virginia hikes!  This week, we’ll be sharing a trio of short hikes.  In fact, the hikes are so short that we’re going to skip doing our typical dual write-ups.  I’ll cover this one, and Christine will cover the next two.

Since we had surprisingly nice temperatures on an August day (it didn’t get above 68 on our hike), we decided to go for three short hikes off Skyline Drive. The last time we did the Pocosin Mission Trail we were with a couple of friends.  Shortly after we got to the mission site, we were pounded with a fierce thunderstorm.  We were all so soaked to the bone, that we ended up buying clothes at the Big Meadows wayside, looking like complete tourists with all of our Shenandoah National Park gear.

PATC Cabin

The PATC maintain a cabin, available for rent, along the Pocosin Mission Fire Road. Below: Wildflowers (and bees) were abundant along the trail; We saw many varieties of berries; There were also butterflies everywhere.

Bees and Flowers Along the Pocosin Trail Berries Along the Trail Butterfly along the Pocosin Trail

On this trip, we had a nice easy stroll down the fire road.  After about .2 miles, the road crosses over the Appalachian Trail, but you just want to stay on the fire road for this trail.  We took a few minutes on our way down to stop by the PATC Pocosin Cabin, which can be rented by the PATC.  The cabin was locked, but we could tell that people renting this cabin would wake to a nice sunrise view.  Continue down the trail for another .8 miles until you reach another cement post, marking the junction with the South River Falls fire road.  You will see the remains of a cabin nearby and stone steps with a foundation.  After exploring, just go back to your car up the fire road.

The Pocosin Mission was an Episcopal mission established in 1904 for the mountain community living in the area.  “Pocosin” is a Native American word meaning “swamp”.  The mission building is actually where you see the stone steps, a small foundation, and a fallen-down chimney.  Be careful as you explore the area – there is a lot of broken glass and twisted metal.  The cabin has a rusted metal roof and there are plenty of rusted materials on the ground, so watch your kids carefully in this area.  In addition to these sites, there is also an overgrown cemetery that is across the trail from the mission, marked by old nameless headstones.

Old Church Walls and Fallen Chimney
The old church walls and a fallen chimney are still visible. Below: Buckets and an old sink can still be found inside the mission ruins.

Inside the Ruins

For those interested in the history of the people that lived on this mountain will enjoy visiting this site.  While there aren’t any views to speak of, the hike does cause you to speculate on how life was back in the early 1900s being a part of a community that lived and worshiped together.

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 2.2 miles out and back
  • Elevation Change – 450 feet
  • Difficulty 1.5.  Most people should be able to handle this.
  • Trail Conditions 4. It’s just a fire road, so not much difficulty for trail conditions.
  • Views –0. No views.
  • Waterfalls/streams 0. No streams/waterfalls.
  • Wildlife 2.  There should be a variety of wildlife in the vicinity.
  • Ease to Navigate 5.  Just straight down a road and back.
  • Solitude 4.  This isn’t a very popular spot, so you should have your peace.

Directions to trailhead:
Around mile 59.5 on Skyline Drive, you will see a small gravel road leading to a parking lot on the eastern side of the trail.  Park here, cross the chain, and walk down the fire road to start the trail.

5 thoughts on “Pocosin Mission Trail

  1. Carrie

    My family lived on this land before skyline drive was formed . They were made to leave and homes burnt down, there’s. My great grand father lives in a gave there after being made to leave but didn’t .


  2. e. Humphreys

    I’m wonderin if anybody noticed the old Model T Ford carcass about halfway down on the left tucked into the woods a bit when iwent it was early spring so not much cover next time you go check it out. A nice hike indeed also saw a bear cub on the way back up no sign of mom bear.


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