AT-Sunset Rocks Circuit

 

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Saki's Trip Report and Photos

 

Description: This is a 8.8 mile moderate circuit hike. The first leg of the hike is repeated on the return. The hike features several modest elevation gains, pretty Tomís Run, the remains of a stone barn built by Hessians captured during the Battle of Trenton in the Revolutionary War as well as the vague remains of a WWII POW camp , Camp Michaux. The true highlights, however, have to be a 0.4 mile fun-filled rock scramble and the namesake of the hike, Sunset Rocks itself.

This hike would work well as an introductory backpacking trip since there are 2 AT shelters near the 1/2 way point. We recently added a bailout route on a logging road (Marked read on the map) if for some reason you decide not to do the rock scramble.

Safety Note: The rock scramble is tricky to negotiate with crevices to cross and large boulders to climb over. It is relatively difficult for a person in good shape. We strongly advise against taking Fido out on this one.

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The hike starts at the parking lot near the AT bathrooms and picnic pavilions.

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GPS Text File for Non-TOPO! Users

 

Trail Notes: The AT is blazed white. All other trails are blue. The trails/roads through Camp Michaus and the bailout route are shown here in red but are not blazed.

 From the parking area return to the intersection of Benderson Rd and Rt 233. Turn left on Rt 233 and walk along the shoulder. Soon turn right onto the next road following the white AT blazes. At about 0.13 miles from leaving Rt 233 the AT will turn right off of the road onto a footpath, pass some cabins and climb a set of erosion dams. You will climb a bit more and descend to a footbridge at Tomís Run (1.16 miles after leaving the last road).

Cross the bridge and turn left onto an old woods road. In 0.23 miles merge with a gravel road that comes in from the right. In 0.47 more miles the AT will bear to the right on a foot path as the woods road continues straight. Pass the Ruins of an old stone barn on the right. In a few more yards arrive at Michaux Rd.

Turn right onto Michaux Rd and walk 0.21 miles to pick up the continuation of the AT on the left side of the road. In about 1.15 miles arrive at Tomís Run shelter, a good place for lunch.

After lunch, cross Tomís Run and immediately turn left on Little Rocky Ridge/Sunset Rocks Trail (blue-blazed). In about 0.64 miles bear left onto an old woods road and explore what is left of Camp Michaux in another 0.11 miles. There is a spillway close to the road. Itís not clear if this was to provide a constant water source for the camp or used for milling.

Return to your original route, turning left onto the blue blazed footpath, and in another 0.45 miles return to Michaux Rd. Turn right here. Pass another woods road on the left. The emergency return route mentioned earlier is beyond the log gate. Make the next left turn in 0.13 miles, passing a house on the left but still following the blue blazes. Regain the trail and climb to the top of Little Rock Ridge.

Now the fun starts! Continue on. The trail seems to stop at a rock spline. Initially there might be some blue blazes on the rocks but in the end the best route for the next 0.42 miles or so is the one that is in your mind. If you are an avid user of trekking poles now is the time to store them. They are more of a hindrance than a help at this point. You will definitely need your hands for this next segment.

On the other side of this rock outcrop youíll pick up the blazed trail again. Soon arrive at a saddle. Continue straight, passing the blue blazed connector trail on the left that youíll use later. Climb the other side of the saddle and arrive at Sunset Rocks.

After resting and taking in the view, return to the connector trail and turn right onto it. Over the next 0.39 miles walk through a recently lumbered area. You might want to put your blinders on here as it is a pretty dreadful sight. Return to the footbridge at Tomís Run and the AT. Turn right and retrace your earlier steps back to the car.

Printable/Downloadable Directions and Trail Notes

Critique this outing!

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Name: Mountainstreamflood                                                                                Hike: AT-Sunset Rocks Circuit

Date: 05/12/13                                                                                                       Rating: 4

 

Critique: Hike: Overall this is a pretty good hike. The views from Sunset Rock are outstanding and the two crossings of Tom's Run are gorgeous (would be even better in late June/early July when Rosebays are in bloom). We did the hike backwards to save my knees from the steep slope of Little Rocky Ridge but this has the disadvantage of getting the best of the hike (Sunset Rocks) out of the way in the first 3 miles, leaving nondescript but pleasant 5 mile return back to the car. Also, we used Old Shippensburg Road to avoid the out-and-back on the AT between Sunset Rocks Trail and Pine Grove Furnace. One note, it appears the AT has been rerouted at Halfway spring (just passed first crossing of Toms'Run.) Rather than following the logging road to Michaux Road at Camp Michaux, the trail now proceeds on a footpath to the north and directly across Michaux Road. As a result the trail bypasses the ruins of the old stone barn. 

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Name: Keith Robertson                                                                                          Hike: AT-Sunset Rocks Circuit
Date: 3-3-13                                                                                                            Rating: 4

Critique: A friend and I did this today. We opted to bypass the out and back section on the AT by parking at the end of Old Shippenburg road instead, which puts you right at the intersection of the Sunset Rocks trail and the AT. We also went directly up to the rocks, deciding that it would be best to get the tough part done first just in case we were too tired at the end. I will warn if you go this way, the way up is exceedingly steep, but not too long. The view from the rocks was one of the better I've seen in Michaux, and the scramble afterwards was fun but not too terribly challenging. After that the rest of the hike was pretty low-key but a chance to walk in the woods is always good in my book. One interesting thing to be seen on the AT portion though is the mid-trail post that was built recently, and the mailbox that some joker put next to it (which has a trail ledger inside.)

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Name: Jeremy K                                                                                                      Hike: AT-Sunset Rocks Circuit
Date: 09 February 2013                                                                                         Rating: 4

Critique: A fun hike for beginners, but it's too easy to be taken as a serious 8+ mile hike. We rated it as a 3.5 because we all had a good day, but were a bit confused because our route did not match the trail notes very well.

However, our route didn't take us the same way as in the trail notes here: we reached Camp Michaux and Michaux Road right from the "old woods road," If you continue on the old woods road you'll reach Michaux Rd (paved) and a parking lot in front of the Camp. Turn right and head uphill on Michaux Rd until you read the AT crossing; turn left and soon you'll be at Tom's Run Shelter.

We didn't see the spur to get to the Camp after eating lunch at the shelter.

There should also be a better marker for the Sunset Rocks spur; we walked right by it, making our trip shorter and a bit disappointing.

However, it's still a great hike! Too short to warrant a 2-hr drive from DC, but good for locals / long-term trips.

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Name: Hard Corey                                                                                                  Hike: AT-Sunset Rocks
Date: 08-12-2012                                                                                                   Rating: 4

Critique: Good 8+ mile hike. The rock scramble is enjoyable, but not as difficult as some would leave you to believe. We followed the posted trail directions, however, should you want to increase the difficulty, turn left at the first Sunset Rocks Trail signage and steeply climb to Sunset Rocks. Invert the remaining directions as applicable.

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Name: iowajoe                                                                                                        Hike: Sunset Rocks
Date:07/10/11                                                                                                       Rating: 5

Critique: This hike was a lot of fun. Don't be discouraged because a few people found it boring. I eliminated most road walking by parking in a different spot. I didn't follow the path specified. We drove up Michaux Road, and parked on Bunker Hill Rd. Walked down Michaux Rd a little bit to pick up the blue blazes. This ended up making the ascent very gradual. I recommend this path to make the trail easier, but not to take away from any of the scrambling. It actually works out great, as the summit is the last place before the descent, and so you are saving the best for last.

Anyways, the trail. You will pass 3-4 beautiful overlooks along the way. Some excellent views of the South Mountains. The terrain does look prime for rattlers and copperheads, but we did not see any. There were plenty of boulders to scramble over, and many little peaks that you could traverse if you chose to do so. It makes the hike better than expected, as you have many 'mini' adventures on your way to the summit.

Once you return from the small 'out and back' portion of the trail that reaches the summit you will have a rapid descent. The trail is wide and clear all the way to the AT, so not much worry for rattlers or copperheads. If you parked on Buker Hill Road, the AT will take you right to your vehicle.

All in all, this was a really fun hike. Not much road walking the way I did it, and it is much shorter. Basically I had 'less filler, more thriller' by the path that I took.

Thanks again for maintaining this website, as a transplant I find it invaluable.

Joe

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Name: Ryan                                                                                                              Hike: AT / Sunset Rocks
Date: May 22, 2010                                                                                                 Rating: 4

Critique: This hike is about par-for-the-course for central Pennsylvania. As previously mentioned, the first part is rather dull. The only exciting part is the rocky part on the "Sunset Rocks" portion of the hike. Definitely do not take small children on this section or anyone who is unable to traverse extremely rocky terrain - ie, the elderly. My 2 year old Irish Setter made it over all but 1 section, where I needed to give her a slight boost. If you can't assist your dog and/or pick them up for certain sections, consider leaving them at home or avoiding this part of the hike.

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Name: Sonya                                                                                                            Hike: AT-Sunset Rocks Circuit
Date: 9/20/08                                                                                                         Rating: 4

Critique: Against the advice of the author, Fido and I took this hike on this past Saturday. I have to agree with the comments that the first 4 miles are pretty dull. There was quite a bit of road walking. On a positive note, I only passed one other group of people on THE ENTIRE HIKE! I couldn't believe it since it was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. It was so quiet my footsteps seemed to echo through the forest. That made up for the dullness. If a hike is crowded, it doesn't matter how pretty it is, it takes away from the entire point of hiking - to get away from people!

Other than the rock scramble and the knee popping descent, the hike would be classified as easy as the trail really just rambles along. The scramble definitely added an element of difficulty. My dog has climbed Mt. Washington without problem but I had to pull her up at a few spots on this one. Also, as an avid solo hiker, I really wish I had brought someone along since the chance of taking a fall or twisting an ankle is pretty good up here. You have to posses good balance and flexibility to maneuver across the boulder field. I would not attempt this hike with small children, someone in less than good shape, or with dogs that can't jump 3+ ft.

I will definitely do this hike again in the fall and will probably bring the dog and another person along.

p.s. Watch where you put your hands/feet.. this place is prime ground for sunning snakes.

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Name: Greg                                                                                                               Hike: AT/Sunset Rocks
Date: May 4, 2008                                                                                                   Rating: 2

Critique: I had high hopes for this hike, but it was really rather dull. Drove out from the Philadelphia area for the hike, and could have found better options closer to home. I have hiked the opposite direction on the AT from the furnace stack on previous occasions, and found it enjoyable - especially the spur up to Pole Steeple. However, this hike is pretty boring for the first 4 miles or so - much of it is spent on private drives and paved roads. Once you get off the AT onto the blue blazed Sunset Rocks Trail, it gets a little more interesting, but traversing the rocks only takes 20 or 30 minutes. But the return trip doubles back on the AT -- and back to the same boring/sightless path you took in.

Even if this was in my own backyard, I probably wouldn't do this hike again. Maybe for someone who has never really hiked before, or maybe looking for a brief intro to scrambling, this would be enjoyable. But if you hit the trails more than once or twice a year, I don't think you will find this hike particularly rewarding.

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Name: Ryan Shaw                                                                                                    Hike: AT-Sunset Rocks Circuit
Date: 08/18/07                                                                                                       Rating: 4

Critique: This is a hike of contrasts.  The first 4 1/2 miles are pretty peaceful and ordinary.  Then you approach the rocks and everything changes.  All of a sudden you find yourself jumping from rock to rock, scrambling around.  Also, for the record, this portion of the hike is closer to half a mile than 100 yards.

I would definitely recommend this hike because the rock scramble is a blast!

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Name: Craig                                                                                                              Hike: AT-Sunset Rocks Circuit
Date: 4/30/2006                                                                                                     Rating: 5

Critique: Excellent hike! I'd recommend taking a short spur to see the springs off of the "old woods road" (maybe called Halfway Springs?). There is a sign and apparently a trail after the point I ventured through the woods. And, the "100 yard" rock scramble is a fun and challenging way to end the loop, although it felt like it was a mile long!
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