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Shelors Mill, Virginia, United States

Rock Castle Gorge Loop

11+ mile trail near Shelors Mill, Virginia (at the top of the trail. Woolwine, VA (at the Bottom of the trail)

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Length: 12.5 miles / 20 km
Duration: Full day
 
Overview: Rock Castle Gorge Loop is about 12.5 miles long and located near Shelors Mill, Virginia. The trail is great for hiking and normally takes a full day.

Quite possibly one of my favorite Virginia hikes. This hike is very strenuous, since most of the hike when done clockwise gains in elevation. This hike began at the top of the Blue Ridge Parkway across from the Rocky Knob Campground (A great place to Car Camp).  We started left at the trailhead and headed through the field and around the woods. after about a mile of trail you begin to descend the gorge. This is the most treacherous part of the hike since the trail is narrow and descends  1200 feet (give or take) over 1.5 miles.  As you reach the bottom of the Gorge you will interest a fire road where people try to park who are (hiking, or fishing). The road is called CCC Camp Road. As you proceed down the fire you will find an old campground with 15 or so campsites less than a mile down the trail (WE usually camp here) An old fireroad/trail follows a creek that runs for 2.5 miles before you begin to climb the side of the mountain. The creek hike is good for just about anyone (kids, dogs, etc.) And they do allow some fishing with restrictions. This is one of my favorite part of the hike and makes for a good camping spot also.  After 2 miles you will hike through an old plantation house and begin to climb up the old fireroad. Eventually you go back down hill and cross the creek to begin the hike up the mountain.

This next section of trail begin to climb the ridge and begins the very strenuous part of the hike. This section last at least 6-7 miles. As you climb eventually you will pass a boulder field  where I like to stop  and eat lunch. You will continue on until you get closer to the top. Eventually you come out of the woods and begin hiking through fields, then back into the woods and then more fields. My most favorite part of the top hike is the fields.

Eventually, you will intersect the Blueridge Parkway and get a chance to look at the same overlooks that all the motorist look at every day (although it will mean much more to you after climbing the ridge). :) You will pass Rock Castle Gorge Overlook, and Saddle Overlook. This part of the trial is also part of the Rock Castle Gorge Nature Trail. You will them come across an old AT trail shelter (Another good place to stop for a snack). Before head back through the woods and into another field. This part of the trail loop back to the trialhead topping out right over 11 miles or so. Until the next time. :)


Tips: 1. Be prepared for a strenuous and somewhat technical hike. Make sure to wear good hiking boots. Trek poles are a plus.
2. Only campsites are at the bottom and the top.
3. Plenty of water sources along the trail
4. You will need a backcountry permit to camp by the creek at the bottom of the gorge

Points of Interest

Campground
map

Rock Knob Campground

This a a great campground off the Blueridge Parkway at the top of Rock Castle Gorge. This campground has over 100 sites for tents or recreational vehicles but no water or electrical hookups to individual sites. There are no showers or sewer hookups. Comfort station and dump stations are available.
Campground
map

CCC Campground(s) approx. location

These campsites were part of an old CCC camp. These are located less than a mile from the start of the trail in Woolwine, VA. There is a latrine available and the Creek make for a soothing night sleep.
Landmark
map

Grassy Knoll

This a a small meadow near the top of Rock Castle Gorge. This area is a very pretty stop for lunch or a snack.
Viewpoint
map

Rock Castle Gorge Overlook

This is the main overlook from the Blueridge Parkway that gives a awesome 180 degree vista (Perfect for taking pictures).
Viewpoint
map

Saddle Overlook

Another great overlook and Photo opportunity. I actually prefer this one to the Rock Castle Gorge Overlook.
Pictures in this guide taken by: kkirk1980_The_Captain

Rock Castle Gorge Loop Trail Map


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About the Author

kkirk1980_The_Captain
kkirk1980_The_Captain
2 guides
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Love the mountains and the interwebs. Like to hit the trails when I can. Joined to find new places to...
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