A perfect holiday outing when you have an onslaught of guests is one that takes very little effort on your part but delivers spectacular "oohs" and "aahs." The Buzzard Rock North hiking trail in the George Washington National Forest provided that for me and my family the day after Thanksgiving.
We'd decided to #OptOutside with REI (they closed their stores on Black Friday and encouraged everyone to go outside), and Buzzard Rock gave us an effortless way to work off some of the pumpkin pie while still knocking our socks off. Why was it perfect?
1. Buzzard Rock is an hour from the Beltway.
Straight out on I-66 and just past Shenandoah National Park, getting to the trail head only takes an hour from the Beltway. But that drive west that quickly turns tree-thick and hilly makes you feel like you're getting away from it all.
2. Buzzard Rock is a short hike to -- and through -- lots of goodness.
It's a two-mile hike to the cliffs, and that hike is a pretty one: winding through tall trees, crossing streams, over hills and dales. You do switch backs and ascends near the end, but except for one portion, I really didn't huff and puff. And I have NOT been getting to my kickboxing class. It's an all-ages, all-abilities kind of hike.
3. Buzzard Rock loses its leaves.
As we meandered, we noticed pretty hillside views that we wouldn't have been able to see in the summer and early falls months because of the leaves. I'm sure the leaves are spectacular in the fall. So are the crowds. Hiking Buzzard Rock in the winter will allow you to see more of the countryside with fewer people around (although the small parking lot got packed early on the day after Thanksgiving. Learn about the TICKET we got below.).
4. Buzzard Rock has enormous wow factor.
We were tooling along and beginning to ascend and noticing some pretty views when -- BAM! -- we hit a switch back that gave us a spectacular view of the rural countryside, a creek and ponds below. It truly surprised us. Buzzard Rock offers up a lot "ooooooooh" in its short two miles.
5. Buzzard Rock makes you feel like you've climbed a mountain.
After that first "wow" view, Buzzard Rock truly ascends for a short bit; here's where some huffing and puffing come into play. But it's totally worth it. Because at the top, you walk along a narrow ridgeline bordered by jagged slabs of rock that you can clamber on and capture astonishing views of Fort Valley below. The roads are like lines. The cars are like ants. You're high. You're cool. And you and your crew didn't even work that hard to get there.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Buzzard Rock Hiking Trail
Parking lot: The trailhead is at a small parking lot outside Front Royal, at 3087-3139 Mountain Road/Route 619. DO NOT PARK ON THE ROAD!!! The lot was already full when we got there at 10 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving. So we parked just outside the lot, on gravel between the lot and the road. We truly didn't see the No Parking signs. When we returned to our car, a nice trooper told us why we got a $20 ticket. But the other cars, parked after ours, along the road and touching the asphalt -- they were all being TOWED!! Yes, towed. DO NOT PARK ON THE ROAD!!!