Hiking to Mary’s Rock Summit at Shenandoah National Park (Southern Approach)

Last Updated on January 2, 2022 by Erin Gifford

More than 500 miles of hiking trails stretch across Shenandoah National Park, including 101 miles of the iconic Appalachian Trail.

A popular Skyline Drive trail leads to the Mary’s Rock Summit, which wows with breathtaking views across the Shenandoah Valley.

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).

Trail Stats 
Length2.7 miles
DifficultyModerate
Trail TypeOut-and-Back
Elevation Gain669 feet
Duration1.5-2 hours
TerrainMostly rock & dirt trails
Dog-FriendlyYes
Fee$30 per vehicle (good for seven days)
Driving DirectionsClick 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.

Marys Rock-Meadow Spring Parking Area

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.

Marys Rock-Trailhead

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.

Marys Rock-Stone Chimney

As the trees and greenery open up at the top, get ready to be awed by the spectacularly scenic views on one of the most scenic Skyline Drive hikes

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.

Marys Rock-AT Marker

Hike Options

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.

Marys Rock Trailhead-Panorama

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.

Panorama Parking Area

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.

Wrap-Up Notes

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.

Lovework Sperryville

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.