Somehow I never made it to The Bears Den on the Appalachian Trail in Clarke County until this year, even though I grew up just a few minutes away. I had been on the AT in Amherst, Greene, and Albemarle Counties of Virginia. I’m so glad that during our visit “home” this year, my mom took Nick and me up the mountain.
Bears Den is a lodge and wayside for hikers on the Appalachian Trail, but it can be a destination in its own right. Families can park a short walk through the woods from the stunning overlook into the Shenandoah Valley. Playful rock climbing near the overlook is fun for the kids (and maybe not as dangerous as they think), and there are some short loop trails in the area, including a very manageable nature trail. (My boys, when they were active older toddlers or young preschoolers, could have done it, but this is a mountain trail – no strollers are going here).
There is primitive camping in the area as well as a lodge, which provides a shower and a bed for hikers or which can be rented for groups.
The Bears Den is on Blueridge Mountain Road in Clarke County, just off Route 7 near the Shenandoah River. It’s basically between Winchester and Washington D.C.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) owns Bears Den Trail Center, and it’s managed by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Center (PATC). I’m always amazed at the work that is done to keep wild places both wild enough and accessible enough for people to enjoy the way Nick and I enjoyed The Bears Den.