Not long ago, I hiked to Buzzard Rock Overlook near Front Royal. It was a beautiful 2.9-mile out-and-back hike on the aptly named Buzzard Rock Trail.
The views were gorgeous. I had no idea at the time, however, that even more breathtaking views were only a few more steps ahead on the trail.
AllTrails lists a longer hike, which continues past the overlook, as 7.4 miles. I didn’t have time for a hike of this length, but was able to return in early-December.
For me, this Shenandoah Valley hike clocked in at 6.2 miles. It also was not as “hard” as AllTrails rated this hike.
I definitely felt like this was more of a “moderate” hike in the George Washington National Forest, and I have done some very hard Virginia hikes.
|Elevation Gain||1,391 feet|
|Terrain||Mostly dirt & rock trails, some rock scramble|
|Driving Directions||Click Here|
Buzzard Rock Parking Area
A series of two-lane country roads lead you to the tucked-away parking lot for the Buzzard Rock Trail. Here, there’s enough space for no more than 15 vehicles.
I arrived at 8 am on a Sunday, just as another hiker was pulling into the lot. He was wearing camo. I was a bit concerned at first, but then he revealed trekking poles.
The lot can fill up quickly given the popularity of the two hikes, so keep this in mind, especially on fair-weather days that are made for hiking.
Buzzard Rock Hike
The trailhead is easy to find, at the south end of the parking lot. From here, begin walking along the forested white-blazed trail of dirt and rocks.
Within the first .5-mile, you’ll cross over two small creeks. Both are easy-peasy crossings. It’s unlikely you’ll even get your hiking boots wet.
You’ll reach an area with large rocks ideal for a break at the .5-mile mark. I was pleased to see that the rock cairns had been dismantled since my first visit.
Cross over another small creek at the .6-mile mark. At the 1.0-mile mark you’ll see fire pits and a primitive camp site. Veer right here to follow the white blazes.
Over the next .5-mile, you’ll make the final ascent of Buzzard Rock. Prepared to be awed by spectacular views extending out to the Shenandoah River.
Buzzard Rock Overlook
The north-facing overlook is mostly flat, though there are some rocks to sit down on. The overlook makes a great spot to relax with a snack or lunch.
The trek to this point is called the Buzzard Rock Overlook Hike in AllTrails. Yet, the actual Buzzard Rock Overlook is due west, with views of this overlook.
Ouch, my head hurts. Buzzard Rock Overlook is located on the Signal Knob Loop (or shorter Meneka Peak Loop), on the orange-blazed Massanutten Trail.
I completed the Signal Knob Loop a few days earlier, so my head is spinning as this is all coming together in real-time. Oh, mon dieu.
The Buzzard Rock Overlook on this hike is atop Buzzard Rock. The Buzzard Rock Overlook on the Signal Knob Loop is facing Buzzard Rock.
Oof, I’m so glad that that’s all cleared up. I’m moving on with this hike.
From here, continue on the trail. It’s a fairly steep, rocky incline. Fortunately, it levels off after about .15-mile as you begin to walk along the ridgeline.
You’ll encounter small rock scrambles here and there as you make your way along the ridge. The west-facing views toward Green Mountain are especially scenic.
There are lots of rocky outcrops to settle in on for the views. You’ll also see several stone fire pits and cleared tent camping areas along the trail.
At the 3.1-mile mark, look for a short spur trail on the left. This leads out to an east-facing outcrop for views toward Front Royal in the distance.
From here, re-trace your steps to the parking lot. If you can, check out the alternative Buzzard Rock Overlook on your way to Signal Knob another day.
From the parking area, this hike took me three hours, including time spent ogling the plentiful views all along the Buzzard Rock Trail.
Stroll the streets of historic downtown or sit in the gazebo in the town square. From Front Royal, you’re a short six-minute drive to Shenandoah National Park.