I hiked this one years and years ago with my high school Venture Crew, and it stuck with me as one of the most inspiring views I’d ever seen on a hike. As a teenager, I remembered watching the shadow of the clouds move across the mountains, and the giant rocks we played hide and seek in. It’s a trail I’ve mentioned to Billy several times in our adventures together, but we never managed to get back to it—usually because we either wanted a longer hike, or didn’t leave enough time for it on the way home from a camping trip.
For Father’s Day yesterday, we made a tentative plan with my mom, who was leaving in the morning to head back to her house, to drive with her as far as Afton and have lunch at Blue Mountain Brewery, and then my mom would continue on to Tennessee and we would do a hike. My plan was Crabtree Falls since I’m pretty sure Kairi would love it, but my mom decided she wanted to go ahead and hit the road, so our goodbyes meant we got too late a start to do a trail that far from home. Between that, and the ominous forecast of thunderstorms over the entire western part of the state, we decided to have lunch and then do a shorter trail closer to Afton. Billy was all for Blackrock given its overall length, and I saw it as a good opportunity for us to finally get out there.
The trail itself is very easy. From the parking loop you connect with the AT and follow that for a little less than half a mile to the summit. It’s uphill most of the way—it levels out for the last tenth of a mile or so—but it’s a pretty moderate grade. Even in the extreme humidity, while carrying Sebastian, after a full meal, and being more out of shape than I’ve been in my entire life, we were still able to carry on a conversation the whole way, and Kairi kept us moving at a pretty quick pace since she had the promise of brownies once we got to the “big big rocks.”
As for the rocks themselves—it’s a lot more of a rock scramble than the massive boulders I remembered, but that made it a little easier to climb, especially for me since I was still wearing Sebastian so was staying fairly upright the whole way. Kairi loved the rocks and did great climbing up them. She has really good instincts for where to place her hands and feet, and she loves climbing. For a girl who struggles on the rock wall of her friends’ swing set, being out on real boulders really brings out a fiercely determined side of her that’s wonderful to watch. I was surprised at the level of pride I felt watching her right after she learned to pump her legs on a swing, and it’s a very similar feeling watching her tackle rocks when we go out hiking. I see a trip to Peak Experiences in our future!
Because of the humidity, the view wasn’t quite as spectacular as it could have been, but it was still gorgeous. We enjoyed our beer and brownies, and watched the kids play around on the rocks—we let Sebastian climb around for a bit in a space where he wasn’ t in danger of falling off anything—and in general took in the majesty that comes with sitting on top of a mountain.
We retraced our steps on the way back down since I had failed to note the trail wound around the rocks and came down a different route, but it looks like the recommended return route is about the same length. Not sure of the grade, and the next time we come we’ll be sure to do the whole loop. There is also an option of adding part of the Trayfoot Mountain trail to extend the hike to 1.6 miles, instead of the .75 to the summit and back. I wanted to do that, but the kids were starting to get restless and Billy still isn’t feeling the greatest from his recent surgery, so we’ll have that for another time as well. We did see a little spur where thru-hikers have obviously used as a camping site, and when we got back in the car Kairi asked if we could go camping there sometime. We haven’t taken them out backpacking yet—Billy hasn’t even gone with me—but if not this year, then I think next year an overnight trip may be in order somewhere!
Overall family-friendly rating: 5/5. Easy, short, gorgeous views, and rocks to keep the littles entertained.