We're in the peak of fall right now in Hoo-ville. If you can, you should jump into your car this weekend and make your way to the Blue Ridge Mountains. On the Blue Ridge Parkway, a winding road with stunning views, you will feel like you are in a car commercial. Even in, hmm, say, an 11-year-old Honda Civic. Trust me.
But even better is getting out of the car and putting yourself in this vivid painting.
Hikes abound near Charlottesville. Many of them are long, wonderful loops that take four or five or more hours, plus an hour or more each way in travel time. If you have little spare time (i.e. any first-year at Darden), Humpback Rocks is your kind of hike.
Less than an hour from Cville, Humpback Rocks provides a spectacular view just a mere mile or so from the parking lot. The path winds through a lovely forest, with some wide spots, some rocky areas, a bit of scrambling here or there, even a staircase of sorts.
We saw lots of dogs (including — at the top — one miniature black and white bulldog in a pink sweater). I wouldn't, however, take my grandmother on this hike.
The path is marked by whitish-blue painted lines on the trees, just in case you get disoriented. There are a few spots in which it seemed like we could go a couple of different ways. If that happens, look for markers of the same color.
It took us a bit more than an hour to get to the top, but I'm not the speediest hiker. The ending is a little deceiving, because you actually go downhill to a huge steel-gray collection of boulders. Climb to the top, and there it is:
The view was stunning. And these photos are from an iPhone. Just imagine what it looks like in 3D, 360-degrees, sitting on a gigantic rock.
From Charlottesville, take I-64 heading west.
Then take the Blue Ridge Parkway south — a road I almost missed, so be careful.
Go 5 or so miles, and you'll eventually see a sign for Humpback Rocks.
A visitors' center and parking lot will be on your right; another parking lot is shortly thereafter on your left, along with the start to the trail.
Note: the Blue Ridge Parkway is free, but Skyline Drive — essentially, Blue Ridge Parkway's name on the north side after it cross I-64 — is something like $10 a car. Ouch!