8 Exhilarating Rock Scramble Hikes in Virginia
There’s something amazing about a rigorous rock scramble hike that requires you to use arms, legs, hands and knees to reach the summit, presumably for wildly scenic views.
Of course, a forested hike to a vista-laden summit is also incredible, but it’s no rock scramble. Scrambles are just plain fun, adventurous and oh so bucket list-worthy.
There are quite a few rock scramble hikes in Virginia, and plenty more beyond the eight that I’ve listed here. These scrambles are certainly among the most rewarding.
Remember to wear proper footwear and take your time as you hop from rock to rock, boulder to boulder. Enjoy the ride and savor the views.
#1: Devil’s Marbleyard (Natural Bridge Station)
Devil’s Marbleyard is the granddaddy of all rock scrambles. You must climb up, over and around huge boulders across a massive eight-acre rock field to reach the top.
This naturally-formed super-size rock scramble was most likely created many, many years ago by frost wedging, when water froze and broke large rocks down over time.
A forested hike along the Belfast Trail leads to what feels like a never-ending field of quartzite boulders – some the size of cars – that will leave you in awe of this wonder.
#2: Little Schloss (Woodstock)
Little Schloss was one of the very first hikes I did when I created Go Hike Virginia in April 2020. It was a doozy too, let me tell you.
The hike begins simply enough, with a gradual ascent along the Little Schloss Trail. Soon enough, the trail gets very steep and you are faced with a large rock scramble.
I thought it was a 30-foot wall of rocks, but another trail-goer thought it was more like 70-feet tall. Either way, once you reach the top, the wide-open views are first-rate.
#3: Old Rag (Etlan)
The hike to the top of Old Rag is a magnet for hikers, so do this one mid-week or in winter (or both) if you can. Get there early, too. The parking lot fills very quickly.
The rock scramble portion of this hike begins in earnest at the 2.8-mile mark. From here, it’s a solid mile of climbing, gripping, pulling and scrambling to reach the top.
You’ve got to navigate tight spaces, strategize rocky passages, slide down granite surfaces and use all your strength to pull yourself up onto rocks and boulders.
#4: Duncan Knob (New Market)
If you like rock scrambles, you will love Duncan Knob near New Market in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. It’s literally like a mini Devil’s Marbleyard.
The hike zigzags upwards along the Gap Creek Trail until the 1.5-mile mark. At this point, turn left onto a white-blazed spur trail. The real fun begins in a few more steps.
At the 1.8-mile mark, you are all in at the rock scramble. Take your time and mind your footing. Far-reaching views across the George Washington National Forest await.
#5: Bearfence Mountain (Elkton)
Reaching the summit of Bearfence Mountain (3,485 feet) by way of the Bearfence Loop Trail is a feat worthy of a spot on any hiker’s bucket list.
On a clear day, the mountains seem to go on forever (and ever). The far-reaching 360-degree payoff views after a hike of less than .5-mile are beyond tremendous.
The short distance of this rocky hike can be deceptive. Prepare to use your hands, feet and arms, even knees to reach the top. It’s well worth every ounce of effort.
#6: Blackrock Summit (Grottoes)
Blackrock Summit at Shenandoah National Park is an easy hike to love. It’s also a plain easy hike, and one that wows with a massive field of – yes, black rocks.
Wide-open views across the Shenandoah Valley are another reason to complete this 1.8-mile hike, which includes a short, but impressive, stretch of Appalachian Trail.
A spur trail through a boulder field leads to the Trayfoot Mountain Trail. The scenic vistas, which now include Trayfoot Mountain, are even more spectacular.
#7: Humpback Rocks (Nellysford)
Whether you take on Humpback Rocks as a 4.3-mile loop or a 2.0-mile out-and-back hike, you’re guaranteed to be stunned by 360-degree views at the jagged summit.
The ascent to the top is not for the faint of heart, but thankfully a handful of benches and a wooden staircase ease the trek to the very top where vistas are plentiful.
The top wows with an easy-going rock scramble that enables you to best position yourself to savor all the vistas. Sit and stay awhile. You’ve earned all the views.
#8: Turk Mountain Trail (Crozet)
The 2.5-mile hike to Turk Mountain at Shenandoah National Park wows with rock scrambles, sweeping views, a talus slope and forested paths to the rocky summit.
As a bonus, there are plenty of large rocks on Turk Mountain to scramble out to in order to savor the wide-open northwest-facing views across the Shenandoah Valley.
Climb out to the most distant rocks for the most primo vistas. This is a great spot to re-hydrate and re-fuel while taking in all the mountain views.
Erin Gifford is the editor of Go Hike Virginia. She has completed more than 300 hikes in Virginia. She is also the author of three hiking guidebooks from Falcon Guides. Need help finding a hike? Check out the Trail Finder feature or send Erin a message.