Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 8

The bald portion of the Rock Castle Gorge Trail is just above the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Gail RheinheimeR

Gail RheinheimeR

FROM THE EDITOR

The Rock Castle Gorge overlook sign
talks about the quartz crystals.

Best Hike off the Virginia Section of
the Blue Ridge Parkway?

The loop is long, at nearly 11 miles, but its great variety of terrain, habitat, flora and
vista make it a worthy undertaking.
by Kurt Rheinheimer
If the parks and overlooks along the Blue
Ridge Parkway are, as original landscape architect Stanley Abbott said, "a
series of beads on a necklace," then the
perks and viewpoints of the 10.8-mile
Rock Castle Gorge loop hike at milepost
167.1 are surely the treasured trinkets on a bracelet.
For where else is the hike that you can begin in any
of several different ways: descending steeply through
woodland; ascending gently through alternating bald
areas, woodlands and Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks; ascending even more gently along a pretty trout stream;
or ascending steeply through woodland.
And the best part is you get all the other elements no
matter which way you begin a hike that has been touted
as the definitive Virginia Sampler for a mountain walk.
Not to mention that, depending on the time of year,
the almost 1,900-foot elevation change from the high
point at 3,752-foot Rocky Knob to the low of 1,700 feet
along Rock Castle Creek can have the effect of putting
your walk into two different seasons. There are times
when winter has come to the parkway ridge line and
there is still fall leaf color along the creek. And there are
times in early summer when it is a spring-like 10 degrees
cooler along the creekflow than up on the balds.
The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All and I have done
scores and scores of hikes once, scores more twice, and
only a chosen few a half dozen times. Rock Castle Gorge
is on that short list, because of its variety, its challenging
nature as a day hike and because it allows-encourages-a different focal point for each walk.
For most of our undertakings, we have begun by
8 BlueRidgeCountry.com

parking near the Rocky Knob Campground across the
parkway from the trailhead.
The first time out, we headed left, where the trail
starts down, gentles out for a time and then plunges
down to Rock Castle Creek. From there, the walk is upstream-with an easy but steady climb-then back up
to parkway elevation before a walk across the balds and
open areas back to the start. The focus of that hike was
simply discovery-of the elevation changes, the stream,
the open views and the fulfillingness of a long walk.
Since then we've begun in the other direction from
the same start-traversing the open areas first; and from
Va. 605 (off of Va. 8 at its crossing of the parkway at MP
165.3), where the choice is to climb hard first or to walk
along the stream before climbing.
For all its length and variety, Rock Castle doesn't
have a strong feel of wilderness to it. There are a number of benches on both of the mountainside sections,
the upper section has constant views and contacts
with the parkway, and along the stream are a beautiful
campground, a well-maintained (and privately owned)
house, and any number of great spots for lunch, including a streamside bench and several small waterfalls toward the north (upper) end of the gorge.
Rock Castle Gorge is no less than a true wonder. Go
up first, go down first, go flat first. Walk into the next
or the previous season. Get a full drink of what Virginia
has to offer in hiking. And, with the trail's loop structure, step nowhere twice.
And when you're finished the exhilarating nearly 11
miles, get in the car and you're right back on the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway. 


http://www.BlueRidgeCountry.com

Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017

July/August 2017 - Cover
Table of Contents
Letters / Worth a Click
Contributors
From the Editor
Mill Creek Stories
Creature Feature
The Good Walk
Mountain Report
Country Roads
Eclipse!
Saluting the Blue Ridge Parkway: A Photo Essay
Mountain High Life: Explorations for Summer
‘Swiss’ Towns in the Mountains
The Strange Post-Biltmore Life of Cornelia Vanderbilt
The Almost-Happened Lost States of the Mountains
Farm-to-Table in Upcountry South Carolina
Festivals & Events
Singing in the Garden
Guest Column
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Intro
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - July/August 2017 - Cover
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Cover2
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 3
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Table of Contents
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 5
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Letters / Worth a Click
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Contributors
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - From the Editor
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 9
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Mill Creek Stories
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 11
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Creature Feature
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 13
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - The Good Walk
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 15
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Mountain Report
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 17
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Country Roads
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 19
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 20
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 21
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Eclipse!
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 23
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 24
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 25
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 26
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 27
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Saluting the Blue Ridge Parkway: A Photo Essay
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 29
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 30
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 31
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 32
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 33
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 34
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Mountain High Life: Explorations for Summer
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 36
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 37
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 38
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 39
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 40
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 41
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - ‘Swiss’ Towns in the Mountains
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 43
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 44
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 45
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 46
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 47
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - The Strange Post-Biltmore Life of Cornelia Vanderbilt
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 49
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 50
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 51
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 52
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 53
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - The Almost-Happened Lost States of the Mountains
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 55
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 56
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Farm-to-Table in Upcountry South Carolina
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 58
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 59
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 60
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 61
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Festivals & Events
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 63
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Singing in the Garden
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 65
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Guest Column
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Cover3
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Cover4
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