Bearfence Mountain is a splendid destination where the path to the summit includes two rock formations with stellar views. The trail to the summit is a welcome change from the basic hike in the woods common to most Shenandoah mountains. Bearfence isn't like Old Rag with significant climbing required, but it is a fun romp over rocks. There are several viewing points along the trail. The first is a clearing on top of some rocks which has some very nice views. 1/4 mile beyond is a beautiful 360 degree panorama on top of some steep rocks. This hike can be done via the short trail from the Bearfence Mountain parking lot or via the longer Bootens Gap Appalachian Trail (AT)/Bearfence Mountain trail route. You can reach the summit, and avoid the rock climbing via an Appalachian trail loop.
From Washington DC follow I-66 West and exit onto US 29 at Gainesville. Follow to Warrenton, and take 211 West. Take 211 to Sperryville until you reach Skyline Drive. Take Skyline Drive south towards Big Meadows. Pass the big meadowns and drive down to either Bootens Gap (mp 55.1) or the Bearfence Mountain Parking Area (mp 56.4).
Appalachian Trail (AT)/Bearfence Mountain trail route:
Park at Bootens Gap. Pass the entrance to the gravel path, and take an immediate right on the AT (South). You will lose elevation first, and then gain about 330 feet, up towards Bush Mountain. In a little less than a mile, you will be near the top of Bush Mountain. The AT then descends about 200 feet, until you reach the Bearfence Mountain Trail. Follow the blue marks and take the rocky trail up to the 360 degree panorama rocks, and then continue on to the summit. Getting down from the summit requires a short scramble climb, after which the Bearfence Trail returns to a normal hiking surface. The Appalachian trail can be accessed from either one of two right turns from the Bearfence Trail. The second right turn should be followed to complete the one-mile loop. The Appalachian Trail leads back down the mountain to Skyline Drive.
From Bearfence Mountain Parking (3295')
From Skyline Drive, cross the road where a sign points to Bearfence Rocks. Follow the blue marks and take the rocky trail up to the 360 degree panorama rocks, and then continue on to the summit. This trail is short, but steep and mostly a class 2 scramble up and down rocks.