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Spend the night on Buzzard Rock

An easy escape into George Washington National Forest.

By: Scott Kaiser + Save to a List

Buzzard Rock in George Washington National Forest is one of my top 5 favorite hikes around the Washington, D.C. area. It's easy access makes for a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of the nation's capital. What makes this such a great hike are the unobstructed views to the east and west from the top. It is an ideal spot to catch sunrise and sunset from more or less the same spot on the trail. It's also not a very popular trail. At most I've encountered half a dozen people on any given hike. During warmer months, Passage Creek at the trail head makes for a perfect spot to cool off with a frosty beverage before heading home.

Buzzard Rock has also been high on my list of places to spend a night in the woods because of the epic rock fire pit and rock sofa with direct views to the west. The forecast at the beginning of last week was looking pretty good for February and I decided if the forecast held true, I would head out for a much needed night unplugged. It did. I loaded up the car on Saturday and the dog and I hit the road that afternoon.

There are multiple routes to the top of Buzzard Rock but my preference is to pickup the trail from Elizabeth Furnace Campground. After following Passage Creek for a half mile or so you start the ascent to the top. It's a moderately steep trail with a couple of switchbacks and I was quickly reminded the last time I had a loaded backpack on was in October.

It's not a long hike to the top--about 2.5 miles--and made it to the ridgeline in just over an hour. The fire pit and rock sofa are about 300 meters below Buzzard Rock. I pitched the tent tucked into the trees to shield from the wind gusts coming over the ridge. There was about 2 hours of daylight left so I decided I'd collect firewood and then relax until sunset before starting dinner. Unfortunately it was overcast so the sunset wasn't quite as epic but lounging on the rock sofa next to the fire more than made up for it.

After dinner I hungout by the fire for a few hours thinking about absolutely nothing. It was great. Just before retiring for the night, the clouds finally broke and the stars put on quite the show as the snow moon rose in the west.

Woke up Sunday morning to a steady rain so instead of catching sunrise, I stayed cozy inside the tent. Around 7am there was a brief pause in the rain so I decided to scrap a lazy morning around camp and pack up and head back down the mountain. It was the right decision as it continued to rain the entire way back to the car and didn't stop until we pulled up to the house a few hours later. I hadn't planned for rain, though the forecast did call for a chance after midnight on Saturday, so I was pretty soaked by the time I reached the car. Gear is now hanging out to dry in every corner of the apartment--speaking of, I should probably go put it away now...

Note: If you decide to overnight on Buzzard Rock be aware the closest source of water is 2.5 miles away, only collect firewood already on the ground, and practice LNT.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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