Thursday, November 22, 2012

Best Shenandoah Hike for Kids: Bearfence Mountain Loop

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, son has no school, and dad has the day off from his job at the University, while mom still had to work.  Dad gave son the choice between biking a semi-nearby rail-trail or going hiking in Shenandoah National Park.  Son chose hiking the trail he first hiked with the old man half his lifetime ago and several times since: the Bearfence Mountain rock scramble.

Today's hike got me to thinking that Bearfence Rocks just may be the best hike for a boy to take, as I can think of no better views to be had with such little effort in Shenandoah.  There are 360 degree views from the top, and lots of great rocks to climb.  Of course, it may not be such a good hike for moms to take with sons, as they might be just a little nervous to see the real love of their life climbing out on rocks with a steep drop.
It really is a scramble to the top.
There are two loop possibilities with Bearfence Rocks ("BFR").  When son was 6, we took the shorter loop.  Now that he is 12 looking at teenage, we took the longer loop, which tops out at a whopping mile-and-a-half (or so).
Checking out the big sky from BFR
The BFR scramble is accessed from the Skyline Drive near MP 56, a little over a mile north of the Lewis Mountain Campground.  The toughest part of the hike is the first part of the trail - between the parking lot and the rocks.  But that is when young legs have the most energy, so it isn't a problem for the little ones.  After you hit the rocks, there are a number of spots requiring a climb - the favorite activity for boys from 6 to 12, and beyond.
Enjoying the view west towards Massanutten Mountain.
As son approaches teen years, dad realizes that events like this one may be limited in number.
The trail tops out at a 360 degree viewpoint after following blue blazes on the rocks to the peak.  Back in the day, son believed that only Jedi could see the blazes and Yoda had painted them.  Son first learned to follow blazes on this trail.  The top is a great spot for snacks when hiking with younger boys.  And with an older boy, the spot seems appealing for a short nap.

There are a couple of return options taking a short section of the Appalachian Trail.  From the A.T., little eyes can look up and see the rocks they climbed.  This is a popular hike, and for good reason.
Bearfence Rocks Elevation Profile
Topo map of the Bearfence Hike.

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