These 5 hike and beer day trips combine a little exercise in the great outdoors with the relaxing payoff of a cold Virginia craft brew. ...
The Raven Rocks hike follows a rocky stretch of the Appalachian Trail, climbing and descending three times before reaching an overlook with beautiful Virginia views of the Shenandoah Valley and mountains. Hiking sites rate the trail as moderate, but the hills are steep and rocky, making it a challenging 5.5 mile out-and-back for many of us.
Since the Raven Rocks hike is just an hour drive from Washington DC, it’s a popular spot and can get busy on weekends. In the warmer months you’ll often encounter AT through-hikers, and more exposed views and less traffic are advantages of a cold weather hike. Fortunately, this area of Loudoun County is pretty, with lots of fun diversions nearby (wine, beer, pie anyone?), so it makes a great day trip.
Raven Rocks Hike to Beautiful Virginia Views
To reach the Raven Rocks hike, follow route 7 to Bluemont, turning right on Pine Grove Road near the top of the Snicker’s Gap hill. Park in the small lot on your right just after the turn. (See below for essential tips on parking). You’ll see a large AT sign board (but no map) marking the trail.
The hike climbs steadily but not too steeply as you begin your first ascent. This is the point where I thought reviewers may have overstated the challenge level of the trail. Silly me. After a few feet of level hiking, the first descent begins and you get a clearer picture of the steep and rocky nature of the roller coaster.
The next ascent is long, steep, and rocky, offering a great workout as you continue along the Appalachian Trail through the woods. There are a couple of partially obstructed views of the Winchester Valley, and rocky areas for a little climbing fun or a rest, along the hike.
There are also some very rocky sections which require careful footing, especially when the trail is damp or covered in leaves.
The AT crosses streams at the bottom of each descent. Water levels were very low when we hiked, and the stream crossings are very rocky so you should be able to stay dry. A sign at the Raven Rocks Hollow Run crossing directs AT through-hikers to a spring, a short walk from the main trail.
Your final ascent follows a long stretch of switchbacks before crossing the West Virginia border and reaching the ridge and Raven Rocks. We hear there is a sign marking the Virginia / West Virginia border, but we missed it (no doubt looking down to avoid tripping over a rock).
The payoff for all of that up-and-down hiking is pretty sweet. The open ridge offers a series of rocky outcroppings, which gives multiple hiking groups a chance at some privacy. The first open area is the largest, with great views of the Shenandoah Valley and peaks of distant mountains from the ledge or the rocks further back. On a hazy day, you’ll see more valley than mountains, but it’s still an excellent view this close to DC.
Follow the trail further along the ridge for more nice areas to relax, picnic, and enjoy the view. In good weather you may be able to watch rock climbers.
When you’re ready, head back the way you came, and be prepared for an equally challenging return trip. In fact, the descents on the return were even tougher on the knees.
Tips for the Raven Rocks Hike
Here are 3 tips to make your Raven Rocks hike a success:
- Wear good hiking shoes or boots; this is a very rocky trail.
- Prepare for hills. The hike follows a section of the Appalachian Trail called the roller coaster. You’re going to make 3 steep climbs and descents on the way to (and back from) the overlook. Hiking Upward rates this hike as moderate, but the descents were fairly tough for some of our group.
- DO NOT park on the street. The lot at the trailhead is small and you will be towed if you park along the roadside. Fortunately, there is a much larger lot close by. Across Route 7 and slightly east you’ll find a large lot at the base of Blue Ridge Mountain Road. Follow the AT connector trail from the parking lot, turning right on the AT (north) to cross Route 7 and head to Raven Rocks.
If you have young children along, consider the much shorter and easier hike to Bear’s Den overlook, accessed from the large parking area.
Fun Things to Do Near the Raven Rocks Hike
You deserve a reward after all that hard hiking! Fortunately, one of our favorite spots for Virginia wine and craft beer with a view are close by. Dirt Farm Brewing, and it’s sister site, Bluemont Vineyard offer a commanding eastward view, just 3.5 miles from the trailhead. Nearby Twin Oaks Tavern Winery is on our list for a future visit.
If time allows, consider a scenic drive on the Snickersville Turnpike, enjoying the beautiful Loudoun County countryside, historic general stores, and more wineries.
If you prefer a sweet reward, we highly recommend a stop at Mom’s Apple Pie Shop, about 5 miles east on Route 7 in Round Hill. The old school pie shop also makes yummy sandwiches and they have a cozy seating area perfect for a post-hike lunch stop. Bogati Winery operates a tasting room in the same building, so you can satisfy both your pie and wine cravings.
A bit further east, in Purcellville, you’ll find several more excellent Virginia craft breweries, distilleries, and restaurants. Plan your stops with our round-up of great things to do in Purcellville.
You could also head west on route 7 and enjoy charming Winchester, Virginia. In fact, the Raven Rocks hike would be a fun way to kick off an overnight getaway or northern Shenandoah Valley road trip.
We have been planning to try the Raven Rocks hike for a long time and are glad we finally made the trip. For DC area resident and visitors, the trail is closer and easier to reach than Shenandoah National Park, but offers a nice challenging workout with the payoff of beautiful views.
Is the Raven Rocks hike on your list? We’d love to hear your feedback on the hike, and tips on things to do in the area, in the comments below.