Near Afton, VA
Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 6
Distance: 1 mile
Views: Outstanding views of the Shenandoah Valley
Trailhead: Humpback Rock Parking area on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 6
Type: Out and back
Dogs: Yep. Just make sure to bring the leash
Notes: Short, yet crowded and steep
From Charlottesville, VA head out on 64 West. Take exit 99 for Afton mountain/250 exit. Hang a right at the light and then turn right near an area where there are abandoned buildings and a large parking area. Drive past all that, and take a right onto the Blue Ridge Parkway at Rockfish Gap. Look for the Humpback Rocks parking area at milepost 6.
This is a wildly popular hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Central, VA. Don’t hike this trail if you are looking for seclusion – that’s only going to happen if you get started before 8am. That being said, this is the perfect hike for a busy weekend if you only have a few hours to get outside. Get here early if you want a parking spot at the Humpback Rock Parking Area (milepost 6). The trail begins to the right of the information board. This trail starts with a steep ascent on a nice, wide path with plenty of benches and rocks for resting along the way. Don’t be ashamed about taking breaks every 5 seconds on this hike. I do it all the time!
Details for this hike are pretty simple. Follow the trail and the lines of people (kidding. mostly). There are some stairs to climb and a few switchbacks. At one point, when the trail starts to flatten out, keep an eye out for trail markers to be sure you make it to the rock outcropping. This should be a left turn on the trail. The trail to the right will take you along the Appalachian Trail and past the Humpback Rock Picnic Area (there’s a secret hike to a plane crash near here that I MIGHT share info about on a later post. I like keeping this one a secret though, so we’ll see).
Spend some time at the summit and enjoy those views you worked for. The hike down should be fairly quick, just take it easy on those knees. Don’t forget to stop at Blue Mountain Brewery on your way home!
Note: One of my pet peeves is all the graffiti on Humpback Rock. Please don’t add to it!
Tip: I prefer to park at the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center (around milepost 5.8) and start my hike there. By doing this you add about a half a mile onto your trip, but this parking area is typically less crowded and there are restrooms. If hiking in early Spring, watch the Blue Ridge Parkway’s website for opening dates as the restrooms don’t usually open until May. If you park here, simply walk on the Mountain Farm trail through the log cabins and outbuildings. Next cross the Parkway to reach the trail head.
Difficulty and length: This hike usually takes me about 1.5 hours to complete. This includes a lot of ‘heavy’ breathing breaks on the way up and spending some time on the rocks to soak in the view. The descent is fairly quick and doesn’t take near as long as the trek up. I’ve been on this hike with people that walk a little slower and it took 3 hours to complete. If you have little ones with teeny legs or slower folks with you, leave yourself some extra time. I want to call this hike strenuous, but that seems a little harsh since its so short. Let’s settle on ‘difficult’; that takes care of describing the steep climb at the beginning, but sounds completely “doable”.
This is the first trail I remember hiking as a kid. I remember my grandmother taking me here when I was very young, so Humpback Rock holds a special place in my heart. Grandma Ruth loved to walk and hike; I can remember running ahead and then running back to her as she walked slowly and steadily up the trail with her walking stick.
Both my mom and my grandmother have always made sure I know how special our Blue Ridge Mountains are. They taught me about loving nature and having a free and wild spirit. Love those ladies.