Buzzard Rock gives the greatest payoff in views for the least amount of effort, while providing the option for fun rock scrambles. Located in the Fort Valley section of Virginia’s George Washington National Forest, the start point for the hike is midway between Strasburg and Front Royal, only 30 minutes from the Inn. It’s a 4-mile out-and-back hike with a gentle ascent through the woods and a walk along the rocky ridge-line with great views overlooking Passage Creek below and the beautiful Fort Valley.
The first overlook actually looks back over the way you drive in on Mountain Road past the Front Royal Fish Hatchery, which is open for visits during the week (closed on weekends). From the overlook,you can see the ponds where they raise mostly walleye and smallmouth bass fingerlings.
There are several accessible overlooks on and off the trail. The rocks form a sort of “stadium seating” in several places for sitting to enjoy the views and have a picnic.
The ridgeline has several places to scramble up the rocks, which very accommodatingly have lots of hand-holds and toe-holds.
Clearly, Buzzard Rock is not Old Rag, but it is a much loved hike for local folks in the area. On a smaller scale, it also has some of Old Rag’s problems of popularity. The parking lot is very small and the trail can be crowded on weekends. The trail up to the ridge can be a bit of a shock if you are used to hiking in the Shenandoah National Park where trails are meticulously maintained and visitors seem to have more of the “Leave No Trace” ethic. The trail is heavily eroded in some spots.
In spite of these considerations, we agree with Hiking Upwards’ ranking of the Buzzard Rock [North access] hike as a 2 for difficulty and a 5 for views. Not a bad combination in our book!