“Run up and down Punchbowl Mountain only to descend toward the James River Footbridge along Rocky Run Row.
— Drew Lensing
River/Creek · Views
This is a not too difficult, one or two day-run that gives you two great views from Bluff Mountain and Little Rock Row. Lots of campsite locations and a good water source give you everything you need to make this a great run.
Need to Know
If you aren't planning on doing this as an out-and-back run, leave a car at the west end and have a friend shuttle you back to the start.
Park right off Blue Ridge Parkway at Punchbowl Mountain Overlook and connect with the AT by crossing the road. You'll start with a decently difficult climb up Bluff Mountain to find a near 360-degree view of the surrounding area. Continue with the descent of the mountain, most of which is flat or slightly declined. You'll meet a good amount of switchbacks as it turns into a significantly heavier decline.
At 9.2 miles, you'll hit Johns Hollow Shelter which is actually a really nice shelter with a ton of tent/hammock space right next to it. Also near the shelter is a running stream and a privy. You can either run the extra mile to the parking lot or spend the night to turn this into a 2-day trek. Since the shelter was already swarming with boy scouts, my buddy and I decided to run onwards to see where else we could pitch for the night.
About 0.25 miles past the shelter there is a very nice clearing with a couple fire pits and a bunch of wood ready to burn. Past that about another 0.2 miles is another camp spot right off the trail. Both are right next to a stream providing a good source of water refills.
Overall, this is an easy run...don't let the almost 10 miles in one day scare you, since most of it is downhill. Bluff Mountain and Little Rocky Row
are both truly great viewpoints and worth taking the trip to see.