At just over 3 miles, Mary’s Rock is a short hike but yet manages to provides a good work out, offers expansive views from the summit, and is very pet-friendly.
The trailhead is at the end of the Meadow Spring parking area which is fairly large with flush toilets and portable water. Although I opt for the short route, there are lots of options to make this a longer hike via the Appalachian Trail – from the Jewell Hollow Overlook (6 miles) or Buck Hollow Overlook (9 miles).
The beginning of the hike is a steady and moderately steep climb on the blue-blazed trail. The uphill becomes more gradual but doesn’t really let up until the summit. This last time I hiked Mary’s Rock with two friends (pre-COVID), I was definitely struggling with the first half mile which is a steady climb. At the junction of the Appalachian Trail, turn right to take the AT then take the Mary’s Rock Lookout Trail on your left for the last bit to the summit. The large area of rock outcroppings at the summit usually allows enough space to spread out from other hikers, have lunch and take in the views.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
Park Pass. The entrance fee is
Heavy Traffic. Parking is more readily available either early in the morning or later in the day (after 2PM) on weekends.
Heavy Pet Traffic. Furry adventure pals love this hike, so make sure to have a leash handy.
Steady Climb. The first half of the hike is a steady climb (nearly 1,000 feet of elevation gain in about a mile)
GEAR FOR THE HIKE
- Sturdy shoes (regular athletic shoes will work)
- Water (at least .5 liter in a water bottle of any kind or hydration pack)
- Snacks (lunch or snacks can be anything you want to enjoy; I bring a mix of salty and sweet snacks)
- Layers (in the fall, spring, and winter)
PARKING & TRAIL HEAD INFORMATION
Parking Lot (GPS Coordinates: 38.6383692, -78.3136365) short distance from Thornton Gap entrance & Skyline Drive.
Drinkable water and flush toilets are available in the parking lot.