Photographing Shenandoah NP: Blackrock Summit
Photographing Blackrock Summit
Location: Shenandoah National Park-Southern District
Best time of year to photograph: Year Around
Subject Focus: Landscape, Nature, Sunrise, Sunset
Distance: 1 mile loop trail
Blackrock Summit has the best view of Shenandoah National Park in the Southern District. This 270 degree view of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains makes this summit a must for any photographer.
(Blackrock Summit, looking North at Sunrise. 130mm, F/16, 30sec, ISO 100)
To reach the trail head, park in the Blackrock Summit parking lot located at mile marker 84.4 along Skyline Drive. There are two ways to get to the top of the mountain: through the use of the Appalachian Trail or through the use of an old fire road (Blackrock Hut Road). The fire road is a little more direct but slightly steeper; whereas the Appalachian Trail is more gradual. Either way, this is an easy hike because hikers will only gain about 175 feet of elevation. I prefer to take the Appalachian Trail there and the fire road back so that I complete the entire loop. The trail head is at the end of the parking lot furthest from Skyline Drive. Once on the trail, hike about 50 yard to intersect the Appalachian Trail. Turn south (left) at the junction, and follow the white blazes. Hike along the Appalachian Trail for 0.5 mile until you reach Blackrock Summit. There is a large pile of quartzite boulders at the top of Blackrock Summit. There are views to the north and south from the trail, but climb to the top of the boulders to get the best view of Shenandoah National Park. I have found the easiest way to get to the top of the boulders is on the backside of the pile near the trail junction of the Appalachian Trail and the Blackrock Spur Trail. The rock scramble is not as difficult as Old Rag as these boulder are much smaller. The boulders are similar in size to the boulders found along the Devil’s Marbleyard Trail.
(Blackrock Summit, looking Northeast at Sunrise. 70mm, F/16, 0.6sec, ISO 100)
Blackrock Summit is a great location in Shenandoah National Park for landscape and nature photographers. The 270 degree view offers great views of the Blue Ridge Mountains for sunrise and sunset. The view to the north, northeast, and south east has multiple layers of mountain ranges. West has a great view of Trayfoot Mountain, and Northwest has an amazing view of the Blue Ridge Mountains leading to the Shenandoah Valley. The only obstructed view is to the east, which makes sunrise between mid-September to May not ideal if you want to actually view the sun rising over the mountains, but during these months, the Blue Ridge Mountains will have a nice side light at sunrise, which is great for seeing all of the texture in the mountains ranges. Doing late spring through the summer months when the sun rises in the northeast, Blackrock Summit is an outstanding place to photograph breathtaking images of the sun rising behind the mountain. The quartzite boulders work great as a foreground element and allow endless possibilities for unique composition. With the 270 degree view, photographers will not be limited to facing a certain direction, which will allow photographers to take advantage of the best light wherever it happens to be. During the summer months, Blackrock Summit is a very popular hike in Shenandoah between midday and sunset because it is an easy, short hike with outstanding. Photographer who would like to enjoy the views to themselves during peak tourist times should consider waking up early for sunrise.
(Blackrock Summit, looking Southwest at Sunrise. 16mm, F/16, 1/8sec, ISO 100)
To return to the parking lot, follow the Appalachian Trail around the pile of boulders and back into the trees for 0.1 miles until you reach the old fire road (Blackrock Hut Road). Turn North (left) along the fire road, and follow the yellow blazes for 0.4 miles until you reach the parking lot.
(Blackrock Summit, looking Northeast at Sunrise. 70mm, F/16, 0.5sec, ISO 100)
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