Along Buck Ridge Trail, which is 2.6 miles long, we encountered several wildflowers.
Starry Campion, or Silene stellata, is a member of the Carnation family (Caryophyllaceae) and blooms June to September. It favors open woods. A native plant, it grows in central and eastern North America. This wildflower is pollinated by butterflies and many kinds of moths.
Along Buck Ridge we encountered a couple types of Goldenrod.
Sweet Goldenrod, Anise-scented Goldenrod, or Solidago odora, is a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae) and blooms July to September. It favors dry fields and open woods. A native wildflower, it grows in eastern and south-central North America. The crushed leaves of Sweet Goldenrod give off a anise scent. A tea can be brewed from its leaves and dried flowers.
Zigzag Goldenrod, Broadleaf Goldenrod, or Solidago flexicaulis, is a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae) and blooms July to September. Native to eastern North America, this wildflower grows in rich woods and thickets. These flowers attract both bees and butterflies.
Buck Ridge Trail connects with Hazel Mountain Trail and you walk another 0.4 miles to reach Skyline Drive and the Meadow Spring Parking Lot. In order to get to Mary’s Rock, you have to cross the road, hike 0.7 miles along Meadow Spring Trail, turn right onto the Appalachian Trail and walk for another 0.7 miles to reach the summit. Some parts of this path are a bit strenuous, especially if you’ve been climbing uphill from the bottom, but it is well worth the effort. Mary’s Rock is a popular hike for families with children, too.
Cankerweed, Lion’s Foot, Snakeweed, Earthgall, Butterweed, or Prenanthes serpentaria, is a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae) and blooms August to October. A native wildflower, it grows throughout the eastern U.S. We found a few of these growing along Meadow Spring Trail and the Appalachian Trail.
After a couple hours of steady uphill hiking, we reached the summit view at Mary’s Rock. The weather was gorgeous, with swift breezes hinting at the start of autumn. We ate our sandwiches and basked in the sun for about half an hour before it was time to head back home.
On the way back, you shuttle down the way you came until Skyline Drive. After crossing Skyline Drive and heading to the same entrance point you came through before, you take a left onto Buck Hollow Trail. The decline can be steep at times and is constant. Our leg muscles were shaking by about halfway down. Buck Hollow Trail continues for 2.7 miles, followed by the 0.2 mile connector to the parking lot.
There are many reasons to love this loop trail. The hike is moderately tough, but provides a variety of forest, river, and mountain viewpoints that make the effort worth it. It remains one of my favorite hikes in Shenandoah National Park.