Last Updated on January 2, 2022 by Erin Gifford
There are actually two trails that lead hikers to the top of Mary’s Rock. One approaches the summit from the north, the other comes up from the south.
Earlier this week, I hiked the shorter, 2.7-mile out-and-back route, which begins at milepost 33.5 (southern approach).
|Elevation Gain||669 feet|
|Terrain||Mostly rock & dirt trails|
|Fee||$30 per vehicle (good for seven days)|
|Driving Directions||Click Here|
Arriving at the Trailhead
As this hike is one of the most popular in the park, you’ll want to arrive early to get a parking space in the Meadow Spring parking area.
There are just 12 parking spots, including nine pull-in spots and three parallel spaces. It is also possible to carefully parallel park along the two-lane Skyline Drive.
The trailhead is easy to find, just across Skyline Drive from the parking area at milepost 33.5. Look for blue blazes that set you off in the right direction toward Mary’s Rock.
The First Steps
From the trail marker, hike a short and steep .6 mile along the Meadow Spring Trail, which connects with the white-blazed Appalachian Trail.
Wooden steps built into the trail make the climb more manageable, particularly for children.
About half-way along the shaded Meadow Spring Trail, you’ll see an intriguing old stone chimney.
It’s all that remains of a former home once lived in by one of more than 450 families that lived within the boundaries of the national park in the 1930’s and 1940’s.
At this point, you will also be steps from the namesake spring. Once you reach the Appalachian Trail, you’ll continue along another .75 mile to reach the summit.
Just before the final steps to reach the summit, the trail connects with the northern approach trail, guiding hikers coming from both directions along a spur trail to Mary’s Rock.
Look out into the valley from the overlook or climb high up onto Mary’s Rock for even more outstanding panoramas. I arrived as some low clouds were rolling into the valley.
Retrace your steps to the parking area. Stay aware since after .1 mile the spur trail ends.
You’ll need to continue right to go southbound on the Appalachian Trail. The path to the left leads you to the parking lot for the alternate trail to Mary’s Rock.
For those eager for a longer hike (though slightly longer), opt for the hike to Mary’s Rock by way of the northern approach.
The hike is 3.4 miles out-and-back, beginning and ending at the massive Panorama parking area at milepost 31.6.
A start from Panorama is a great option if you get shut out at the Meadow Spring parking area. There are at least 50 spaces at Panorama, as well as restrooms.
For a shorter hike, try the Traces Trail. This easy 1.7-mile loop hike begins and ends in the parking lot for the Mathews Arm Campground at milepost 22.1.
From the Meadow Spring parking area, it took me 35 minutes to reach the overlook. It took about 30 minutes to make my way down.
For those eager to re-fuel post-hike, go north along Skyline Drive to Elk Wallow Wayside Store at milepost 24.1.
You’ll find groceries, camping supplies, souvenirs and grab-and-go sandwiches. There is also a restroom and a picnic area.
If you want to grab a bite outside the park, look to Sperryville Trading Market & Café. They have take-out service, but you can also eat on the café’s front porch.
Before you arrive, keep your eyes open for one of the iconic LOVEworks. It will turn up on the right and is perfect for a quick snapshot.