I had an early start to the trail since the weather was going to deteriorate as the day went along. I arrived at the trailhead around 8:15 and prepared to make the four mile climb. I was the only one there and I figured that the impending weather would keep the trail pretty desolate. I left the parking area and headed along the Rapidan River Trail for a half a mile. The trail was nearly flat and offered nice views of the rapids caused by the churning Rapidan.
I reached the Staunton River Trail and began a steeper ascent. Almost immediately, a small waterfall (more of a cascade) appeared in front of me. The waterfall was only about eight or ten feet in height, but it gave me a perfect opportunity to play with the camera’s manual settings to take some waterfall pictures. In hindsight, I should have read the manual on how to change the aperture and f-stop. However, five minutes later I was changing the settings like a pro.
I continued on. The path hugged the Staunton River closely, then swung away only to return around the next corner. It wasn’t long until I reached the second waterfall.
This waterfall (probably about 15 or 18 feet) was more of a cascade, but it was steeper than the first fall. Like the first fall, it offered a small area in front of it that was perfect for photography. I set up the tripod and got to work. After adjusting the f-stop and aperture settings, I was able to snap some very good photos.
Above the falls were some weird piles of stones about 50 feet or more from the river. It looked man-made and quite odd, some I took some pictures.
I headed onward. I followed the Staunton River Trail for more than a mile past the second fall, passing several other small waterfalls (about six or eight feet) and many more drops of less than five feet, before reaching the Jones Mountain Trail. I exited the Staunton River trail on began the climb up the much steeper Jones Mountain Trail.
Now the Jones Mountain Trail is much, much steeper than the Staunton River Trail. But after 1.2 miles of struggling uphill, I finally reached Bear Church Rock. Bear Church Rock provides a wide view of the Staunton River Valley (northward) and some very limited views toward the east. Old Rag Mountain is clearly visible from the rocks.
The views were not the best in Shenandoah National Park due to the lack of foliage and the limited depth of the view (the Staunton River Valley is less than a mile across), but they views were still worth the effort. After snacking and photography, I headed back down the mountain.
I took a small spur trail to the Jones Mountain Cabin (which is a steep descent that must be hiked back up). The guide I had said that the trip was well worth it. I found the spur trip not worth the effort, as there were no new additional views (except for a well-designed cabin).
I returned to the parking area, passing more than a dozen other hikers along the Staunton and Rapidan Rivers.
Bear Church Rock: 8.2 miles / 2,210 feet elevation change