Mary’s Rock Hike: Enjoy Far-Reaching Views Across the Shenandoah Valley (Northern Approach)

Last Updated on July 12, 2021

When I first began hiking in earnest and started Go Hike Virginia (more than one year ago) I bought my coveted America the Beautiful Pass at Shenandoah National Park.

I knew I’d be at this national park a lot and would get my money’s worth (the annual pass is $80). Mary’s Rock was one of the very first hikes I completed at this park.

I wrote about the 2.7-mile hike to the top of Mary’s Rock by way of the Meadow Spring parking area (southern approach) last May. It was such a fantastic hike.

More than 150 hikes later, I made time to hike Mary’s Rock via the Panorama parking area (northern approach). It’s a little longer, a little steeper, but just as fabulous.

Trail Stats 
Length3.7 miles
DifficultyModerate
Trail TypeOut-and-Back
Elevation Gain1,184 feet
Duration2-2.5 hours
TerrainMostly dirt & rock trails
Dog-FriendlyYes
Fee$30 per vehicle (good for seven days)
Driving DirectionsClick Here

Arriving at the Trailhead

The large Panorama parking area at milepost 31.6 on Skyline Drive is a stone’s throw from the Thornton Gap entrance station. You can see the entrance from Mary’s Rock.

There are at least 50 parking spaces at Panorama, as well as restrooms. A large trail kiosk is located at the back of the parking lot, adjacent to the trailhead for this hike.

The hike is almost entirely uphill, but plan to enjoy the scenery through the trees as you make your way to the top. Plus, the summit views ahead are outstanding.

The First Steps

From the large trail kiosk, proceed along a very short spur trail that guides you to the white-blazed Appalachian Trail. Turn left to begin your trek to the summit.

In a few more steps, a quick dozen or so wooden steps built into the trail make the ascent more manageable, particularly for children.

As you make your way along the trail, you’ll see some large rocks here and there along the right side of the trail that are fun for kids and adults to climb on.

At the 1.0-mile mark, a nice-size opening on the left allows for far-reaching mountain vistas, as well as delightful bird’s-eye views of Skyline Drive.

Press on and the trail connects with the southern approach trail at the 1.7-mile mark, guiding hikers coming from both directions along a spur trail to Mary’s Rock.

Turn right to continue along the blue-blazed trail to the summit. As the trees and greenery open up at the top, get ready to be awed by the spectacularly scenic views.

From the summit, look out into the Shenandoah Valley from the rocky overlook or climb high up onto Mary’s Rock for even more far-reaching panoramas.

This is a great place to stop for a water break and a snack. Take a seat and savor the views. When you’re ready (don’t rush), re-trace your steps to the parking area.

Wrap-Up Notes

From the parking area, this hike took me 1 hour, 45 minutes, including time spent enjoying a snack and the views from high atop Mary’s Rock.

For those eager to re-fuel post-hike at Shenandoah National Park, go north along Skyline Drive to Elkwallow Wayside at milepost 24.1 (open seasonally).

You’ll find groceries, camping supplies, souvenirs and grab-and-go sandwiches. There is also a restroom and a picnic area.