Rock Castle Gorge, Meadows of Dan, Virginia

One of my favorite hikes when living back east was the Rockcastle Gorge along the Blue Ridge Parkway Between Mabry Mill and Meadows of Dan Virginia.

I went there the first time alone. The second time my trusty hiking pal Nate went with me .

This trail starts out at the Rocky Knob Recreation area along the parkway.

I parked at the Saddle overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway to pick up this ten mile loop trail. This hike has a little of everything, rock scramble, beautiful creek with nice cascades, grass lands, old ruins and cows. Yes Cows! Along this section of the parkway the NPS contracts with farmers to graze their cattle along the ridge to help keep it under control as opposed to having to mow everything.

The Saddle Overlook
Buffalo Mountain looking west from The Saddle

The Saddle is an overlook on a ridge between the two high points on Rocky Knob(3582). It lies at 3381 feet.

view from the Saddle looking east

I suggest doing this trail in a clockwise direction from here. There is a one mile rock scramble down to the campgrounds at Woolwine Virginia that I would rather do fresh as opposed to having to scramble a mile up after almost ten miles of hiking.

trailhead near the campgrounds

We started in the clockwise direction across the pastures of Rocky Knob.

It’s a long walk across the pasture and these short posts guide the way if you can find them

We soon had to go over the first of many cattle gates and stiles to get to the trail. We have to dodge the cows and their droppings and finally get to the descent into the gorge.

Nate crossing a stile
Yes cows! Watch your step!

Not long after passing the Rocky Knob campground the trail enters the woods and the fun begins. This trail has an elevation gain of 2400 feet. But we are going to descend the 1700 feet that is, for 1100 feet over the first mile, the rock scramble. at the bottom is a great primitive campground just off highway near Woolwine Virginia. This semi developed area has a compost toilet bear boxes for your food and picnic tables. It is at the confluence of Rockcastle and Little Rockcastle Creeks.

Little Rock Castle Creek meanders through the woods.

After passing through the campground the trail starts to hug the banks of Rockcastle Creek.

Rockcastle Creek

There is nothing better then hiking next to a flowing creek and this one was beautiful. It almost continuously cascaded down the rocks.

Rock Castle Creek.

Along this section the trail follows a road which I believe is a county road for a while. Suddenly on your left there is a house. No one lives there permanently but it is a private residence so be careful snooping around.

Nate walking the road

old house along Rockcastle Creek

The trail past the house starts to gently rise as you now begin the ascent towards the summit of Rocky Knob. This is definitely the easy way up. In the woods you can begin to hear the falls of Rock Castle Creek. Unfortunately there is not a clear picture.

Base of Rockcastle Creek Falls.

After the falls there is a bridge crossing and the trail starts up the other bank towards the “Rock Castle”. Up and over the rock castle the trail goes.

The “Rockcastle”
Working our way through the Rock Castle

As you approach the Parkway the trail tops out at the summit of Grassy Knoll (3392ft) Here we get to travel amongst the cows once again.

Heading up Grassy Knoll amongst the cows once again
top of Grassy Knoll

From Grassy Knoll one starts to get some great views of the Virginia Blue Ridge.

The last highlight of this trip in the hike up Rocky Knob where there is an old Appalachian Trail Shelter. The trail was shifted west many years ago but this relic still remains.

Old Appalachian Trail Shelter

You are weary and don’t really want to do this climb. But talk yourself into it. There is a reward.

Four O’clock Knob and Rock Castle Gorge from the Appalachian Trail Shelter
Rock Castle Gorge

Yeah for some reason Nate only gets to do the hard ones………………

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