(Originally published with Forum Magazine.)

Aching to leave campus and experience the full beauty of fall? Look no further than the hike to Humpback Rock. Positioned off the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, this two-mile hike provides a breathtaking, nearly 360-degree mountain view. The climb is sustained and steep but aided by occasional sections of stone steps, making it less difficult to ascend. The rock outcropping crowning the summit is more than worth the effort. Layers on layers of mountains fade into the distance, clothed in varying degrees of hazy blue. The dotted fall colors spread like patchwork fields beneath the plummeting cliff, the trees so far below they meld together, undulating like a bunched blanket. The whole scene creates the feeling of standing in the sky.

The descent is sharp but quite manageable. The path to the visitor center parking lot winds past historic log cabins, a garden, and a natural spring. If hikers wish to take a break and bask in the mountain sunshine, they can sit in rocking chairs at the largest cabin and play checkers on the front porch. The visitor center provides bathrooms, water fountains and boasts a gift shop displaying interesting artifacts and snippets of Blue Ridge history.

Reflecting on her recent trip, sophomore Susana Kenyon wrote:

 “The hike up to Humpback Rock left me out of breath, but it was definitely worth it to see the gorgeous, panoramic view of the Shenandoah in autumn. The experience was quite different from my last hike in the area. Spring had not yet arrived, and the weather was bitterly cold and windy. On this occasion, however, the trees carpeting the surrounding mountains, hills, and valleys displayed their bright fall colors, and the sunshine warmed up our chilly faces. The world looks so beautiful from up there, I could just sit there by myself for a long time and think and observe the beauty of God’s creation.”

Jenny Elwin, an exchange student from St. Andrews, Scotland, agreed, writing:

“The colours were so beautiful, I finally felt like I was experiencing a proper American fall! I loved seeing the log cabins, and the view at the top definitely made the trek up worth it!”

A mere hour and a half from campus, this hike is a must for any adventurous, mountain-loving Spider.