The trailhead for the Bear Rock Trail is located here:
I came in from the north on Bath Alum Ridge Road. The trailhead is marked from the road by a brown hiker sign, but no trail sign. There is a wide spot on the road that can hold a couple of vehicles. Don't worry - there won't be anyone else here! I came here during the Coronavirus pandemic looking for a hike that would not have me seeing other hikers. Not only were there no hikers, there were no other cars on the roads for 10 miles before and about 8 miles after this trailhead. This is remote country for Virginia.
Mile 0.0 - After leaving Bath Alum Ridge Road at the hiker sign, the trail climbs steeply up Warm Springs Mountain to the left of an intermittent stream. Note that you will never cross that stream bed on the hike, though the trail comes close. The trail starts out well blazed with blue blazes.
Mile 0.4 - The trail levels off some, but enters into an area with much Mountain Laurel that has overgrown the trail. Because the area is well blazed, it is relatively easy to follow heading uphill, but it isn't as well blazed on the return - even though I had just been on the trail in the opposite direction, I had more trouble finding the trail on the way down than I did on the way up.
Mile 0.8 - The trail comes out of a Mountain Laurel stand just before it merges into an old woods road. It does not stay on this road for long before cutting left uphill while the road continues level. Watch for blazes uphill or keep an eye on your GPS track.
Mile 0.9 - The trail cuts right, heading directly uphill. Starting here, the trail has been cleared out and cleaned up dramatically. It gave me hope that there were maintained trails at the top - maybe someone had come down from the other side and run out of fuel when they stopped. At the same time, the blue blazes became much fainter, and disappeared altogether before reaching the summit.
Mile 1.3 - The trail cuts back right. This is harder to see from both directions. It is a straight line from here to the summit, but the trail becomes increasingly faint as you finish the climb. I'm not sure how anyone would be able to locate this trail from the summit.
Mile 1.4 - Reach the summit shortly after passing a small boulder with a rock cairn on top, shown below. The ridge was wide and flat here. The summit's undergrowth was very open in early Spring, so it appears that it would be very easy to walk the summit southwest to link up to the Piney Mountain Trail where it crosses the summit, approximately 2 miles southeast. If you plan to return down the Bear Rock Trail, carefully note where you summited. There are no markings indicating the trail.
|Rock cairn near summit.|
|View of ridge summit.|
On the other hand, the summit was incredibly and wonderfully silent!
This trail probably makes part of a good 11 or 12 mile long circuit hike that ascends west on the Bear Rock Trail, bushwhacks south along the summit of Warm Springs Mountain, heads west on the Piney Mountain Trail until it meets the Walnut Hollow Trail (not marked on current maps but a part of the Great Eastern Trail and cleaned up by the PATC Charlottesville Chapter over two worktrips in 2019), then back north on the little used Bath Alum Ridge Road.