Rock Castle Gorge Loop

HARD 74 reviews

Rock Castle Gorge Loop is a 10.4 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Floyd, Virginia that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
10.4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2,470 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

dogs on leash

camping

fishing

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

The trail is great for hiking and normally takes a full day. This hike is very strenuous, since most of the hike when done clockwise gains in elevation and offers views, forests, waterfalls, and wildlife. The trail is primarily used for camping, fly fishing, hiking, and nature trips and is accessible year-round depending on conditions. There are demanding climbs, gentle hiking through meadows on top of the ridge and some steep descents. You will see an old Appalachian Trail shelter, the chimney of an old homestead and then the historic Austin House beside Rock Castle Creek. There are multiple places to start this hike along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

hiking
14 days ago

Outstanding trail. Lots of diverse terrain, amazing views, and a good overall workout. Took right at 6 hours starting from the 605 fire road gate, going counterclockwise, and stopping for water and pictures a few times along the way. There are Lots of trees down across the trail, which made it a bit difficult to navigate, and probably added nearly 60 minutes to our hike time. I highly recommend the starting point on 605 and the counterclockwise route because going down the clockwise route would be very difficult with all the trees down (1/2019) and slippery leaves covering the trail; plus, the fire road is a nice easy way to finish on tired legs. .

*** NOTE: My dog was covered in ticks at the end of the hike, and this was the first week of January! Use caution and do a good tick check on your pets and yourself when you get done ***

hiking
23 days ago

Really enjoyed this hike. completed the last 2 miles in the dark.

hiking
26 days ago

Great trail. It has a little of everything; great views, crawling over rocks, stream crossings, variety of terrain, steep ascents/descents. I parked at the Rock Castle Gorge Overlook, off the Blue Ridge Parkway (mile 169) and went clockwise. Took me 5 hours with a couple stops to change layers and have a snack, plus a number of pauses for pictures. Trail is well maintained, but has a lot of down branches/trees from the recent storms.

2 months ago

Typically a great trail. We did it two days after an ice storm. It took at least 2.5 hours more to do this than last time in 2017. Many large branches across trail and some very big trees right across the trail. It required considerable bushwhacking on steep hills. It will probably be some months before the trail is fully clear. Check with park before you go or allow extra time. Be careful.

hiking
3 months ago

I saw a review below that said it was more than 13 miles. My GPS brought it in at 10.56. The sign that says 5.6 miles one way and 5.2 the other is full of crap. It is more like 7.4 and 3.4. Tough hike. Was just under 4.5 hours pushing hard. If I was to do it again I would go clockwise. Would rather go up the really steep section than go down it. Personal preference (actually that was my knees talking), either direction would be great. My only complaint would be there are fewer views than I expected. That said, the section along the Gorge is amazing, not in what you can see, but how far you could fall (not even remotely unsafe if you pay attention, but use caution when the ground is covered with wet leaves).

3 months ago

Challenging hike, be sure to pace yourself, lots of ups and downs. Took it counterclockwise, finished in just under 5 hours, but I was hoofing it hard, so prepare for 6-7 if you prefer a more leisurely pace. Recommended for sure. Watch out for bears and cow pies!

3 months ago

this trail was a little tuff seen a bear water was cold trail was tuff in spots but it's not 10.8 miles GPS says it was 13.6 last 2 miles kicked my tail

3 months ago

Did this trail in both directions... both have their strong points. Not particularly well marked in some areas so pay attention to the trail. I found it a bit unnerving around the boulder field. Will def do it again though!

5 months ago

Great hike!

5 months ago

Great Trail!! Great work out...

hiking
5 months ago

Awesome hike! Arrived to start the hike later than anticipated around 2:45pm from the twelve o'clock knob overlook and started the hike clockwise... great start considering everyone recommends the opposite direction. The first mile was spent taking in some seriously spectacular views as we passed rock castle gorge overlook, rocky knob, and saddle overlook and even from the first cow pasture! After that you get a feeling of being deeply alone in the woods which is just incredible and exactly what a long, hard hike like this should deliver. There's about a mile of traversing a rocky descent before you arrive at the bottom and meet up with the creek. Then, you're on the fire road. This serves as an excellent place to make up some time which may have been lost enjoying the sights at the overlooks. These 2.8 miles have a slow and steady incline and are wide and easy to traverse-- also another treat! Along this part I did see a black bear and various prints, so beware. After the fire road we began our ascent once again out of the gorge. this was moderate at worst and to me what made it difficult was just the sheer distance preceding it, but it was definitely manageable. At the top of the 1.5 mile 900' ev section you will arrive at another cow pasture. If you have a dog with you please use caution because me and my dog almost got mauled by some angry cows as we interrupted their feeding along the trail. They were not fans of us stepping on their grass before they got to eat it :( from there its easy and your only about 1.5 miles from the twelve o'clock knob parking area again! All in all this was a great hike with excellent views and a challenging but rewarding and manageable terrain. Great for training for an AT thru hike. Make sure to bring plenty of water. Me and my dog went through almost 5 liters on a 80 degree day. There is the creek so you don't have to bring it all with you as long as you have a water treatment system with you (yay for Sawyer filters!) I loved this hike and its a rare gem. Took 4 h 15 m with 3 10 min breaks:) Hike on friends!!!!

hiking
5 months ago

I’m not sure what folks are thinking when they suggest doing this counterclockwise. Do yourself a favor and park at the lower campground parking by the river. Make the hike out of the gorge the first thing you do. It’s a beast but it’s a great accomplishment. Take your time and be careful, especially if it has recently rained. Highly recommend this because you get a little bit of everything. The hike out is tough but the views at the top along the ridge are amazing.

hiking
6 months ago

Quite a challenge. I wasn’t prepared for it. Took me just over 6 hours including a lunch break. Great trail!

6 months ago

had no idea how tough this Trail was going to be. My wife and I do not hike every day but we're in pretty good shape and this was exactly what we were looking for. highly physically demanding. Bring print plenty of water and food, we took frequent breaks so it took us 7 hours to complete the trail. don't make plans afterwards as you will be exhausted, I promise you

6 months ago

Loved this hike
Saw a small bear

hiking
7 months ago

Classic hike, one of the area’s best. High open vistas, deep coves, pristine Appalachian creek, historic structures, physically challenging, pretty much everything you’d want from a hike in this region. Not to be missed!

7 months ago

I've done this trail in the past. It's been awhile. Time to do it again this July. Can't wait!!

9 months ago

Make sure you are in good shape before attempting this hike especially if you have some age on you. it's not the going down but the coming back up that will make you wonder "what in the hell was I thinking". expect to spend at least 5 hours on this hike but it is very rewarding when you complete it. great views getting there along the overlooks on top of the parkway.

hiking
10 months ago

Great trail. Ascent up mountain is strenuous. But you can park at the top and still get the good views. At the bottom of the gorge there is a very cool boulder field.

hiking
Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Clockwise route seemed to be the best but was a rough climb back out to the top.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Great trail

hiking
Monday, October 30, 2017

Definitely a tough hike... especially when you go clockwise. If you plan to hike the whole loop, make sure you get your bearings and go counter clockwise. It was a beautiful hike, however, the cow pasture near the two overlooks isn’t super well marked, just a heads up, but the rest of the trail was phenomenal

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Excellent hike.

trail running
Monday, October 09, 2017

Great, challenging trail. I recommend running it counter-clockwise. Direction is less important for hiking. The descent when traveling clockwise is extremely steep and technical - more so than the descent when traveling counterclockwise. So you will be able to run more and hike less traveling counterclockwise. There is also a bit of route-finding in the pastures, especially the one closest to the campground. Doable, and easy to find again if you lose it - the trail stays pretty close to the fence line next to the Parkway.

hiking
Friday, October 06, 2017

A beautiful hike with lots of different things to see! Loved the huge rocks, old growth forests, the fence stiles were neat, the pastures and scenery were absolutely beautiful. However, this was the wrong hike to choose for your first. We went counter-clockwise as recommended for the easiest trip and it was still very hard. We couldn’t find the entrance and still don’t know where it is. We saw it on the hike but never on the Parkway. We started across the road from the information station. It was very easy hiking for about 5 miles then straight up a mountain for almost 2 miles! Getting to the top of the mountain is an awesome feeling. It is very long and strenuous but we would definitely do it again just not as first time hikers. Definitely recommend to experienced hikers or even first time hikers that are in great shape.

hiking
Sunday, September 17, 2017

Love this hike!

hiking
Sunday, August 20, 2017

This hike has it all. Strenuous climbs, open pastures, woods, streams, views, and even an original AT shelter. I would suggest starting at the bottom of the gorge and getting the hardest climb out of the way at the beginning.

hiking
Tuesday, August 15, 2017

I liked it but I'm not sure if I'll do it again.

hiking
Sunday, June 18, 2017

Rock Castle Gorge loop trail is 10.8 miles long and strenuous. The hardest part of the trail is the 3 miles between the primitive campground on the valley floor and the BRP campground. I advise taking this into account when planning your hike. The guys who recorded banging this trail out in 4 hours are monsters. It took me 6 and was pretty dog gone tough. I finished going up the steepest section last and it was hard. Best trail in the area imo.

Monday, May 15, 2017

it was extremely hard, but had absolutely beautiful view's.

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