Marys Rock is a short, out-and-back hike in Shennandoah National Park with a great payoff that is located right at the Route 211/Thornton Gap entrance. This hike is the perfect way to start your day in the park due to its close proximity to the entrance. The breathtaking views and quick rock scramble at the summit make this trail a must for any visitor to the park. The total length of the hike is 3.7 miles, and it has 1,200 feet of elevation gain. Hitting the trail early is key to beating the crowds, especially in autumn.
Starting from the parking lot, take a quick connection trail and merge onto the Appalachian Trail southbound. The trail slowly makes its way up the mountainside, remaining parallel to Skyline Drive. On one side of the trail large boulders break out of the earth, and on the other, expansive views span over the valley.
After a sharp curve, the trail is almost completely sheltered by a canopy of brush and small trees. Here the path makes its way up a few switchbacks and then hits a fork in the road. At the trail marker, stay right and push out from the forest onto the summit of Marys Rock.
There is a wide flat area at the top that is perfect to spread out, relax, and enjoy the 360-degree views of the beautiful Shenandoah. To the north you can look back out and see the parking lot and Skyline Drive snaking through the mountains. A short rock scramble from the flat section puts you on top of the true summit. Once you take it all in, head back down the way you came to reach the parking lot.
Less than a mile south of the trailhead parking is Marys Rock Tunnel. Here a section of Skyline Drive cuts right through the mountain in a short tunnel. The tunnel is best viewed from the Tunnel Parking Overlook, located on the south side of the tunnel.