Austin Mountain - Furnace Mountain Loop

 

Description: The Southern District of the SNP has got to be my favorite area of the park to hike in. The trails on the west side of Skyline Drive offer a remoteness not found anywhere else in the park. Add to that some of the more extremely difficult and variable terrain in the area and you have yourself a very challenging yet rewarding trek.

This is a 12.6 mile (13.4 if doing the out-and-back Furnace Mt Summit Trail) strenuous circuit with approximately 2600 feet of elevation gain and is for experienced hikers only. Terrain will range from mature woods to Mountain Laurel Tunnels (if hiked in June) to exposed talus slopes. Large sections of the trail are open to the sun. Wear sturdy boots and sun protection. Especially when hiking in the summer months bring extra water and allow plenty of time. 

On clear days grand views can be had all along the Austin Mountain Trail, the Furnace Mountain Summit and the infamous Blackrock area.  

Google Custom Driving Directions

Note: Google Maps may use park fire roads that are closed to the public. Confirm your route with a real map. This hike starts in the Browns Gap Parking Area 0.1 mile north of Mile Post 83.

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Printable/Downloadable Map

View 3-D Map

Zipped National Geographic. TOPO! GPS and Universal GPX Files 

GPS Text File for Non-TOPO! Users

 

Trail Notes: As the map indicates you can start the hike at four different parking areas (one at the western boundary of the park). We start at the Browns Gap Parking Area. 

From the parking area head west down the yellow blazed Madison Run Fire Road. In 0.71 miles turn right onto yellow blazed Big Run Spur. In 0.26 miles arrive at the junction with blue blazed Rockytop Trail. Turn left onto it and in 0.39 miles bear left at a fork onto blue blazed Austin Mountain Trail. Views of Furnace Mountain are had in between the Mountain Laurel tunnels. In 3.3 miles from the last trail junction descend to Madison Run Fire Road. Turn right and in 0.74 miles turn left onto blue blazed Furnace Mountain Trail and ford Madison Run. (This is your last chance to fill up with water if you brought a filter or chemicals to treat it.) 

Climb steadily up the western flank of Furnace Mountain. In 1.71 miles from the ford reach the Summit Spur. We did not do this out-and-back due to dense haze but Iíve been told it offers good views of Madison Run /Dundo Hollow and Austin Mountain (which you traversed earlier). Things never really quite flatten out until you reach Blackrock but the grade does eventually lessen considerably.  

In 2.09 miles reach the junction with Trayfoot Mountain Trail. Turn left and descend to the junction with the AT/Blackrock Spur in 0.26 miles on the left. Make this turn and soon pass through a slot in the rocks and arrive at Blackrock and the AT. Here you have two options. You can either turn right on the AT and then left on the continuation of the Trayfoot Mountain Trail then scramble up the backside of Blackrock for an almost 270 degree view. My preference is a careful frontal assault. Whichever you chose return to the previous trail junction and continue north on the AT. (Note: there was a fire along the northern section of Trayfoot Mountain Trail in the spring of 2008 making for a very unattractive walk. You will pass along the edge of it but there is no need to walk right down the middle of it.) 

In 0.35 miles come to a post on the right marking the Trayfoot Mountain Trail and the Blackrock Parking Area. This is about 75 yards down the old road. Continue straight on the AT and in 0.56 miles cross Skyline Drive. In 0.25 miles cross blue blazed Jones Run Trail, staying on the AT. Jones Run Parking is to the left. Pass side trails to the Dundo Group areas on the left and in 1.26 miles arrive at Skyline Drive and the Browns Gap parking area just across the road.

Critique This Outing

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Name: Matthew Culbertson                                                                                     Hike: Austin Mountain - Furnace Mountain Loop
Date: May 8, 2010                                                                                                     Rating: 4

This is a really beautiful hike filled with many magnificent views of the Page and Shenandoah Valleys, Masanutten Mountain, the Madison Run watershed, the mountains named in the hike, and of course the main line of the Blue Ridge as you get far away from Skyline Drive.

I enjoyed the plotting of the hike along very narrow ridge tops, which were often in quite a bit of shade. The routing through the talus areas on Austin Mountain was also a really interesting experience. I liked resting on Madison Run, where I saw the only motor vehicle on my hike - an NPS utility pickup truck. This was the only place to refill my water, so you should be sure to carry quite a lot! I do wish there were more stream crossings, though I suppose that it's not possible in this particular area of the park.

After Madison Run, I had to pay the park back for the long descent I had made from the hike's start. This portion was often very exposed to the sun, though even in early May quite a lot of blooming mountain laurel made up for it. It did seem endless, so I took many breaks here.

Part of the way up, the side trail to the Furnace Mountain summit branches off. It's an interesting big rock ledge, and the views are nice, though the perspective from Black Rock is much better. It is a good way to break up the long climb, though it adds another mile to the trip.

I found the view from Black Rock to be the best of the entire hike, and climbing through the enormous boulders was great. It should be noted that quite a few spiderwebs are among the rocks, so tread carefully.

After the huge climb, the rolling AT ended the hike. This was a merciful end to a great but strenuous hike. I don't hike long-distance often, but I was able to finish this hike in seven hours with a good number of breaks. It did really take it out of me though!

Highlights: mountain and valley views, rock fields, many wildflowers, mountain laurel

Recommendations for warm weather: strong bug repellant, trekking poles for the many steep parts, three liters of water (plus a filtering method), a hat, and lots of sunblock!

Photo link to a panorama from Black Rock, showing much of the route covered by the hike:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mjculbertson/4683977024/in/set-72157618806650971

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Name: Tony Van Vugt                                                                                                Hike: Austin-Furnace Mountain Loop
Date: 6/21/2008                                                                                                        Rating: 5

Critique: The Austin/Furnace Mountains hike is a challenging day hike at over 13 miles. The Austin Mountain trail offers beautiful views to the south and peak of Furnace Mountain. There are also great vistas from the Furnace Mountain summit back towards Austin Mountain, as well as a panoramic view from the Blackrock area.

We did this hike a couple of weeks after MRHyker, and I strongly agree that doing this circuit counterclockwise is the best route.  And as MRHyker recommends, make sure to wear good sun protection, like a hat and sunscreen for the long hike up the exposed Furnace Mountain ridge. One last note: If you do this hike in the warmer summer months make sure to cover yourself with Deet. The trails are very grassy, and are covered in ticks.

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Name: Blueridgetreks                                                                                               Hike: Austin Mtn-Furnace Mtn Loop
Date: 6/21/2008                                                                                                       Rating: 4

Critique: This is one tough hike full of rock slides, great views (especially at the end of the Furnace Mtn Spur Trail, don't miss it) and wild rock formations on Blackrock Mtn. Bring plenty of water on this trip during the summer as you'll need it especially going up Furnace Mtn Trail after crossing Madison Run. After reaching Blackrock Mtn, the rest of the trail on the AT back to Brown's Gap is fairly "flat", a nice reprieve after the climb up Furnace Mtn. Directions from this site were great, we started/ended at the Brown's Gap Parking area, close to MP83 on Skyline Drive.

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