Hiking & Rock Scrambling: Bearfence Mountain ~ Shenandoah National Park


I could finish my post with that picture of the top of Bearfence Mountain.  Everyone around me in the East Coast kept saying, "Now remember our mountains are not like California mountains" but I've learned to love all my National Parks.  National Parks are like my children, you can't compare them to one another because that would be mean, and each one provides its own uniqueness.  Instead, I have learned to enjoy each child, in this case Virginia's Shenandoah National Park, for what it is.

I recently read "Wilderness Society's "15 National Parks for Fall Color" and Shenandoah was No.2 on their list, so I was very excited to visit during fall peak period.  We don't have as many "Fall Colors" in the San Francisco Bay Area as the East Coast does, so it was a nice change in weather and scenery for our family.

Appalachian Trail and Bearfence Mountain

As a family of hikers at heart, we were very excited to hike on the Appalachian Trail even if it was a tiny section of it.  Jennifer Chambers of Hiking Along also recommended Bearfence Mountain because it would give us 360 degree view of Shenandoah, its beautiful fall colors, and her recommendation did not disappoint.  She also knew that my toddlers would love rock scrambling at the top of Bearfence Mountain which they certainly did!

Our first steps on the Appalachian Trail near Bearfence Moutain.
Trail Directions & Description: Parking lot is off of mile marker 56 on Skyline Dr in Shenandoah National Park.  If you follow the Bearfence Mountain Trailhead Kiosk, this is a 1.2 mile circuit hike with less than 300 ft elevation.  We took the first turnoff to the viewpoint so the hike was shorter than 1.2 miles and took us about 1.5-2 hours.

For more detailed trail information please visit: Lewis Mountain Area Road and Trail Map (National Park Service)

The trail starts off with wooden steps which always motivates my son to hike more than an uphill trail with no steps.  I don't know why but he loves going uphill on stairs but he loves to race to the top...I'm just happy he's not complaining about going uphill!

My boy on the crossroads of the AT and Bearfence Mountain Trail

We went south on the Appalachian Trail, to the 180 degree Bearfence Mountain view point.  It was a very slight up hill with a partial stone trail, easy enough for my 3 and 4 year old children and I, a 5 month pregnant lady!  The overall elevation change is about 300 ft, which is like going up a small hill but it still was a good little workout for us.

It was a very beautiful cool fall hike up to the view point, where we took a little break to enjoy the amazing views looking unto the west of Shenandoah National Park.  We had promised our children as we left Big Meadows campground that we would find more ladybugs and caterpillars on our hike.  Of course the second we sat down we found the fuzzy caterpillars and the bright red ladybugs.

180 degree Bearfence Mountain View Point.  Oh beautiful fall!
At the time we were a little confused because Jennifer Chambers had told us there was 360 degree view point, and we walked around looking for it but then we realized that we'd find it during the rock scramble.  The kids thoroughly enjoyed the first view point but they heard that we were going "rock climbing" aka rock scrambling and they were itching to go climb!

Time to Family Rock Scramble!

The New Outdoor Experiences.....

We experienced two new outdoor "aspects" on our hike to Bearfence Mountain:

  1. Rock Scrambling: It'ts kind of a hybrid of hiking and rock climbing, with no ropes or climbing gear and not really on a traditional trail.  For a more detailed description of rock scrambling please visit "Basic Rock Scrambling".  The difficulty of  Bearfence Mountain rock scramble climb was easy enough for my four year old son and a five month pregnant Chasqui Mom to complete.  Granted we were still very cautious and hand guided our son down certain sections of the way. Note: There is both an uphill and downhill rock scrambling on Bearfence Mountain.
  2. Trail Blazing:  This isn't very common in California, or at least in the San Francisco Bay Area.  What is it? It's a painted mark on rocks, posts or trees to designate the way or trail.  I can see how someone can easily get lost with all the foliage/snow covering the ground or in this case the trail on the rocks (see middle picture in collage).  It also provided a "game" for our children to find the next blaze on the trail, kind of like hide-and-seek for toddlers.
But the best new outdoor experience was seeing Shenandoah National Park in its most beautiful time of the year and enjoying the 360 degree view of this awesome park from the top of Bearfence Mountain!

View of the west 1st picture, view of the east
I would highly recommend this hike if visiting Shenandoah National Park, especially during Fall.  It's a great short hike with a kick that families with little ones can enjoy, not to mention amazing views of the park and the great feeling a "conquering" a mountain with toddlers.

Thanks again to Jennifer Chambers of Hiking Along who recommended Bearfence Mountain for our adventurous family.  That is the great thing about being a blogger is that I get to meet like-minded people who instinctively know where we can enjoy the outdoors to the fullest!

Also if you are in the Washington DC greater area.  Chambers newest book "Best Hikes with Kids: Washington, DC, The Beltway and Beyond" would be a great resource to find family friendly hikes.  Bearfence Mountain is listed as a "difficult family hike" in the book due to the rock scrambling, but it is highly recommended by Chambers.

Hike Date: October 20, 2014

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