Rock Castle Gorge Loop is about 12.5 miles long and located near Shelors Mill, Virginia. The trail is great for hiking and normally... more » takes a full day.
Quite possibly one of my favorite Virginia hikes. This hike is very strenuous, since most of the hike when done clockwise gains in elevation. This hike began at the top of the Blue Ridge Parkway across from the Rocky Knob Campground (A great place to Car Camp). We started left at the trailhead and headed through the field and around the woods. after about a mile of trail you begin to descend the gorge. This is the most treacherous part of the hike since the trail is narrow and descends 1200 feet (give or take) over 1.5 miles. As you reach the bottom of the Gorge you will interest a fire road where people try to park who are (hiking, or fishing). The road is called CCC Camp Road. As you proceed down the fire you will find an old campground with 15 or so campsites less than a mile down the trail (WE usually camp here) An old fireroad/trail follows a creek that runs for 2.5 miles before you begin to climb the side of the mountain. The creek hike is good for just about anyone (kids, dogs, etc.) And they do allow some fishing with restrictions. This is one of my favorite part of the hike and makes for a good camping spot also. After 2 miles you will hike through an old plantation house and begin to climb up the old fireroad. Eventually you go back down hill and cross the creek to begin the hike up the mountain.
This next section of trail begin to climb the ridge and begins the very strenuous part of the hike. This section last at least 6-7 miles. As you climb eventually you will pass a boulder field where I like to stop and eat lunch. You will continue on until you get closer to the top. Eventually you come out of the woods and begin hiking through fields, then back into the woods and then more fields. My most favorite part of the top hike is the fields.
Eventually, you will intersect the Blueridge Parkway and get a chance to look at the same overlooks that all the motorist look at every day (although it will mean much more to you after climbing the ridge). :) You will pass Rock Castle Gorge Overlook, and Saddle Overlook. This part of the trial is also part of the Rock Castle Gorge Nature Trail. You will them come across an old AT trail shelter (Another good place to stop for a snack). Before head back through the woods and into another field. This part of the trail loop back to the trialhead topping out right over 11 miles or so. Until the next time. :) less «