Jones Mountain - Staunton River Loop

Description: The base circuit is a strenuous 11.5 mile trek with approximately 2400 feet of elevation gain. Additional mileage an elevation can be added by including out-and-backs to the Jones Mountain Cabin and Fork Mountain radio tower (for a nice view) and/or adding the Fork Mountain Trail and another segment of the Laurel Prong Trail to the loop. Highlights include the cliffs of Hazeltop, the alternating rock gardens and Mountain Laurel tunnels of Jones Mountain, a view from Bear Church Rock and the beautiful Staunton River with its cascades and waterfalls. You’ll also pass a couple of slab piles, remnants of a logging operation over 100 years old.

  Google Maps Custom Driving Directions

Note: Google Maps tends to use woods roads that are closed to the public in its SNP directions. Confirm your route with a real map. The hike starts in the Bootens Gap parking lot on the east side of Skyline Drive just south of mile marker 55.







Printable/Downloadable Map

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Zipped National Geographic. TOPO! GPS and Universal GPX Files 

GPS Text File for Non-TOPO! Users



Trail Notes: From the parking area follow the Conway River Road for just a few steps and then turn left (north) onto the AT. In 0.45 miles turn right onto the blue blazed Laurel Prong Trail. Follow the edge of the cliffs above you to the junction with the Cat Knob Trail in another 1.01 miles. Turn right onto it and climb steeply for 0.54 miles to the junction with the Jones Mountain Trail. Turn right onto it. In 0.67 miles a pink trail comes in from the right. This is part of the Rapidan WMA. Stay straight on the Jones Mountain Trail. At about 1.25 miles you will walk through one of several rock gardens. This one has some partial views into the Staunton River watershed on the left. In another 1.01 miles begin to switchback down from the mountain. Look for a short unmarked but obvious trail on the left that leads to Bear Church Rock and a nice vista.

Continue down the Jones Mountain Trail and reach the spur to the cabin in 0.44 miles from the vista. It’s a 0.62 mile round trip if you want to visit it. Follow the signs to the Staunton River Trail. You’ll reach it in another 0.63 miles. Turn left onto it and immediately cross Garth Spring Run. You will cross the river twice as you climb out of the valley. In 1.38 miles arrive at dirt/gravel Fork Mountain Fire Road. Turn left onto it. In 0.72 miles reach a trail post on the left. You have three options here: continue up the fire road to a nice view at a radio tower then return to complete the circuit, take the yellow blazed Fork Mountain Trail than the Laurel Prong Trail south to rejoin the loop or make a hard left on the blue blazed Jones Mountain Trail and hike through “The Sag” to the junction with the Cat Knob Trail in another 0.95 miles. Here we describe the latter. Once you reach that junction simply turn right onto the Cat Knob trail and retrace your initial steps back to Bootens Gap.

Critique This Outing




Outing Critiques


Name:   Jeremy
Date(s) of Hike: 09/04/15
Hike Name : Jones Mountain - Staunton River Loop
Ranking (1 to 5 with 5 being the best): 5

Outing Critique:  A slight variation on this hike...

Starting at the Boundary in the Graves Mill Parking Area, I completed this 13.3 mile loop hike. I followed the Rapidan River (Graves Mill) and  Staunton River trails to the Fork Mountain Road.  I took the road to the Sag where I picked up the Jones Mountain trail which I took to Bear Church Rock and then back to the Staunton River Trail.  I got a late start (noon) hiking to the sound of continuous thunder (which luckily never materialized into rain) in 90 degree heat barely making it off the mountain in daylight.  In what should have been miserable conditions I had a great time and would highly recommend this hike.

Pros: I don’t like to throw around phrases like hidden gem, but this was one of the best hikes I have done in SNP.  The Rapidan and Staunton rivers were beautiful to watch transition from flowing rivers at the start to a cascading brook at the top.  For the 6+ miles from the Jones Mountain trail junction to the Sag to Bear Church Rock I did not see a single person (maybe they were smart enough to not hike in these conditions).  This part of the trail, while easy to follow, did have portions where it felt like you were the first person hiking them in a long time.  The rock formations in and around Bear Church Rock were typical of SNP (in a good way).

Cons: SPIDERS.  Seriously, there was a web across the trail every 10 feet once I was past the Bear Church Rock (Jones MTN TR) turn off.  This hike also has a ton of elevation so be prepared for ~6  miles of steady (but never steep) uphill.
Watch the video of this hike.



Name: Sara                                                                                                               Hike: Jones Mt-Staunton River Loop

Date(s): 05/11/15                                                                                                    Rating: 5


Critique: My boyfriend and I completed this outing over two days in early May.  We entered the park from Skyline Drive (warning, there's a $20 fee to enter Skyline Drive). Once you park at the Booten Gap lot, you veer left onto the AT (white blazed trail).  It's a slight uphill journey until you quickly reach a trail marker that is a concrete post and very easy to read (they are available throughout the hike, you will have no problems staying on the trail or getting lost on this hike). Here, you veer right onto the Laurel Prong Trail which is for the most part downhill on the side of the mountain, crossing various neat rocks until you reach the very bottom of the mountain and another trail marker to turn right onto Cat's Knob Trail.  This is probably one of the steepest inclines of the trip, but it doesn't last for too long and it is beautiful toward the top.  You climb beautiful rocks and level out at the top. There isn't a "view" up here, but you can see mountains all around you in the distance.  Continuing from here, you reach the Jones Mountain Trail.  From here it is up and down, nothing too steep. You pass through rock gardens and woods, and there are no good spots to camp until you reach the very tip of the mountain.  Here you will find a premade campsite on the left hand side.  There are two large rock formations on either side, a fire ring in the middle, and behind are the strange swirly trees you have seen throughout the Jones Mountain Trail.  It felt like a very safe spot to camp because it was enclosed on two sides, but it does get very windy, so be sure to secure your tent and rain fly.  After spending the night, we began to climb down, only moments after leaving our campsite ran into a little side trail that opens up to a rock facing 5 layers of mountains.  It's the most beautiful viewpoint on the trip.  Continuing down, we eventually made it to another trail marker that included the Jones Mountain Cabin, which we opted to see.  It was a downhill journey which led to a fresh spring and some log seating.  After filling up on water, we climbed back up and onto the Staunton River Trail. One of the more beautiful trails, for the most part it follows and crosses the river, plus there were more than a few spots to hop into the water to cool off.  Once you veer away from the river it is a longer trek uphill, and one of the toughest for me the entire trip.  Eventually, you reach a gravel road that leads you back to the Jones Mountain trail, through cats knob, and back up the laurel prong to the AT.  I rated this hike a 5 star because of its balance of beauty and difficulty.  It was the perfect two day hike and the campsite was beautiful in the morning (we watched the sunrise).  I might even suggest if you make it to camp soon enough, watching the sunset from the view point I mentioned that is just after the campsite, it is truly breathtaking, and if we knew about it beforehand we certainly would have watched the sunset there.  The hike was amazing and I can't wait to try another trail like this soon!



Name: Joe M.                                                                                                              Hike: Jones Mt - Staunton River Loop
Date: 8/29/2010                                                                                                       Rating: 3

Critique: Nice hike, but I picked too hot of day to thoroughly enjoy it. The hike in along the cliffs was very nice, the overlook at Bear Church Rock was great, but by the time I reached the Staunton River, it was getting VERY hot and humid. Did see one small black bear who ran off before I could get a picture. Directions and mileage was spot on.


Name: Moonshine                                                                                                      Hike: Jones Mountain-Staunton River Loop
03/21 - 22/2010                                                                                                        Rating: 5

Critique: Did it as an easy BP, starting from the parking at the end of Rt 622, visiting Camp Hoover and camping on Hazel Top. Staunton River valley is beautiful and not popular yet. All the visitors were within 2 mi from the park boundary.


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