I went end of January on a Saturday morning. The pastures we nice and open and none of the passages were to hard to navigate even with a small dog. There was a little foot traffic to at least give you the sense you weren't alone. Really enjoyed the scenic views! Worth the Hike!
This is the second time this year I am doing this loop. First time I left my car on the Blue Ridge and went clockwise. Coming back to the car with the long climbing was quite painful... So the second time, I left my car at the Rock Castle Gorge Rd (right after the CC Camp lane), and I did the loop anti-clockwise. Much better for my legs! Once near by the Rocky Knob, I could stop for a while, relax, have a good lunch ...and start the second part of the loop in good shape! Well, this is specially true when you are 60++, Before, you can enjoy it either way!
The Castle Gorge Trail/Loop was excellent!:)…10.8 miles……..I parked at the Gorge and went counter-clockwise, going up the steep accent first while my legs where fresh and that’s the best way to do it as most of the second half of the trail was going down. I took my time and stopped to eat and enjoy, it took me 9H15M, very nice and beautiful…….I will return and do it again and take even longer to enjoy the endless streams and water-falls. I did see bear poop, so beware and keep your eyes open.
Rock castle gorge is a great trail with great views, lots of history, and a fun challenge. You can start at the top and see the grand views first, work your way through cow pastures down to the Gorge. Or you can start at the Gorge, where primitive camp sites are offered, and work your way to the grand views. Either way you will leave feeling very accomplished.
We did the full Rock Castle Gorge loop, starting from the bottom at the trailhead off SR 605. Be sure to do this counter-clockwise. Right after the sharp right not far from the parking lot, the trail gets very steep- about 1100 feet of gain in a little more than a mile (20%). Hiking clockwise you'd get that as a tough descent on tired legs. Once the climbing is out of the way, you'll reach the Rocky Knob area on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This area opens up as a meadow, leading to a couple of miles of spectacular views. You could also start the hike here from any of the overlook parking areas. The descent from the ridge is much longer. It follows Rock Castle Creek much of the way, making it an interesting trek through the trees. You'll pass through a couple of boulder fields, too. The trail finishes by following an old fire road, so the hiking is easier.
This trail has it all - climbs, views, creeks. The variety helps the miles pass quickly. It gets my highest compliment: I can't wait to do it again.
Shelby T. B. on Rock Castle Gorge Loop
Beautiful views. Steep climb up
my boyfriend and I hiked from the Rocky knob visitors center. we parked at the upper end if the picnic area. we crossed the parkway and Turned right on the rc trail. it was beautiful views right off the bat. we could see the gorge and where we would be camping. we had no tent just sleeping bags and freeze dried food. and some coffee to make it out the next morning. take a tent with you we slept in weird glowing stuff. the campground is beautiful you can even fish so take a pole. I would recommend parking at the bottom near the primitive campground on the trail. we packed everything for 13 miles and we are both exhausted today. good luck