Photographing Shenandoah NP: Bearfence Mountain
Photographing Bearfence Mountain
Location: Shenandoah National Park - Central District
Best time of year to photograph: Year Around
Subject Focus: Landscapes, Mountains, Sunrise, Sunset
Distance: 1.2 miles loop
Bearfence Mountain is one of the best 360 degree views in Shenandoah National Park, which makes it ideal for photographers. Bearfence Mountain is located in the Central District of Shenandoah in between Big Meadows and Lewis Mountain.
(Bearfence 360 outlook, looking Northwest at Sunrise. 19mm, F/16, 6 sec, ISO 100)
To reach the trail head park at the Bearfence Mountain Parking Lot, located at mile marker 56.4 along Skyline Drive: The trail head is on the opposite side of Skyline Drive. Once across Skyline Drive, follow the Bearfence Trail marked with blue trail blazes to the top of the 3,600 foot mountain. The trail is considered an easy hike and only gains 300 feet of elevation over .4 miles with a short rock scramble. About 200 yards from the trail head, the Bearfence Trail crosses the Appalachian Trail, which is marked by white blazes. Stay on the Bearface Trail, and continue to follow the blue blazes. Roughly .3 miles from the trail head is a rock scramble, which is clearly marked by the blue blazes. This rock scramble is not too difficult and easier than the rock scramble at the top of Old Rag Mountain. While scrambling up the rocks, views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains will become visible. Continue up the trail until it opens up to the 360 degree outlook. This is the ideal place to stop and take stunning photographs of Shenandoah National Park.
(Bearfence 360 outlook, looking North at sunrise. 18mm, F/8, 1/4sec, ISO 100)
Bearfence Mountain is located in an ideal place in the Central District of Shenandoah. The Blue Ridge Mountains widen both to the east and west of Skyline Drive. This, coupled with a panoramic view, makes this a rare treasure in Shenandoah. Photographers are able to capture multiple layers of the Blue Ridge Mountain ranges rather than just one or two ranges found at most other outlooks in Shenandoah. The exposed greenstone on top of Bearfence Mountain works well as a foreground element for landscape photographers and is a perfect spot for photographers to capture stunning sunrise and sunset picture. The 360 degree view makes finding and photographing the perfect light easier. Photographers are not limited to only facing one direction, allowing photographers to take full advantage of the light in every direction. This outlook offers photographers the ability to take advantage of different types of light (front, side, and back) cast on the mountain ranges to capture the pictures they envisioned without hiking miles to a new location and possibly missing the perfect light. The proximity of Bearfence Mountain to the campgrounds at Big Meadows and Lewis Mountain, mixed with an easy, short hike with outstanding views, makes this a very popular spot in Shenandoah. Photographers who would like to enjoy the view to themselves during peak tourist times should consider waking up early for sunrise.
(35mm, F/1.4, 20 sec, 3200 ISO)
To reach the true Bearfence Mountain summit and for a second outlook, the Bearfence Trail continues along the rock face for .1 miles. The 3,600 foot summit is wooded and only has a 180 degree view looking northwest back toward the first outlook. This outlook offers some of the same views as the first outlook, but for photographers who would like a second angle, this is a great location; it’s just not as grand as the first outlook.
(Looking Northwest at Sunset, 70mm, F/16, 1/6 sec, 100 ISO)
To complete the 1.2 mile loop, continue along the Bearfence Trail for another .1 miles until it intersects again with the Appalachian Trail. Turn right and follow the while blazes of the Appalachian Trail for .6 miles at which point the trail is at the first junction crossed on the hike. Turn left back on to the Bearfence Trail for .1 miles until you reach Skyline Drive and the Bearfence Parking Lot.
Learn More: Essential Landscape Photography Tips, Photographing Shenandoah National Park
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The trail is marked well and near the top the blue blazes are on the rocks in stead of the trees. The trail has the easiest rock scramble so I suggest following it all the way to the top. There is only one spot where the trail get mostly vertical but this area is well marked and has big hand holds and lots of places to put your feet making it very easy to scramble up to the top. You and your son should be able to get up to the top just fine.
I hope you guys have a great hike, the view is amazing and will worth waking up early for. If you have any other questions let me know.
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