There are great options for hiking in Shenandoah, from cruising along the Appalachian Trail, or darting off the A.T. to make some swings down into the park's officially designated wilderness, or making a checklist of waterfall hikes.
Shenandoah contains more than 500 miles of trails, a good-sized number for a park surrounded in all directions by humanity. And those trail miles roll out in both long and short bites.
The longest trail in the park would be the A.T., which runs the ridgelines for 101 miles. The shortest very possibly is the Blackrock Summit Trail, which is an eight-tenths of a mile roundtrip hike from Blackrock Summit parking.
While the A.T. runs end-to-end through the park, that doesn't mean you can't break the 101 miles up into meanderings spanning anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Study the park's maps or pick up a guidebook to Shenandoah's trails and you'll see more than a few options.
Conveniently, most trailheads are along the Skyline Drive. And for ease of breaking down the park by hiking trail, the Shenandoah staff has developed a series of printable hiking maps (add link) broken down by the North District, Central District, and South District.
Trails featured on the Traveler:
Mennonite Women Backpacking and Bears Falling in Shenandoah National Park
Fall is a spectacular season to hike in Shenandoah National Park. Reds, golds, greens and browns are dappling the hillsides, deer are on the move, and, if your timing is excellent, bears are falling from the trees and Mennonite women are backpacking along the Appalachian Trail.
Lewis Falls Trail In Shenandoah National Park
Fall might not be everyone's preferred season for hiking, but in Shenandoah National Park it can be one of the best seasons. Not only are crowds down to a small trickle, but the naked forests can make it easier to spot remnants of old homesteads.
Of course, if a waterfall is your desired payoff, a fall hike is not the best of time to see a real gusher. But sometimes, as they say, it's not the destination but the journey that matters. and the relatively short hike down to Lewis Falls is a nice morning's or afternoon's activity.
Dark Hollow Falls And Beyond At Shenandoah National Park
There are many nice hikes in Shenandoah National Park, some that ramble on for miles, some that run just a short way to a wonderful payoff. Dark Hollow Falls is one such payoff, but the hike is just a mile-and-a-half roundtrip, rather short if you were looking for a good leg stretcher. You can, however, easily extend that hike by more than a few miles by weaving in some other trails and fire roads.
Tack on a short piece of the Rose River Fire Road, and another of the Stony Mountain Trail, and finally a leg of the Rapidan Fire Road, and you'll have a nice hike of about 6 miles that will entail several hours. Plus, you'll have some great solitude in the mountains, as these are not mainstream hiking corridors in the park.
Here's a look at other park trails, courtesy of the Shenandoah staff:
Dickey Ridge Area
Dickey Ridge Trail - 2.7 miles round trip, fairly easy, has overgrown fields and small stream.
Fox Hollow Trail - 1.2 mile circuit, fairly easy, features homesites and a cemetary. Pets are not allowed on this trail. Guidebook available at visitor centers and at trailhead.
Snead Farm Trail - 1.4 miles round trip, easy, features an old orchard and barn. From the south end of the picnic area, cross Skyline Drive and follow the gravel fire road.
Mathews Arm and Elk Wallow Area
Overall Run Falls - 6.5 miles round trip from amphitheater parking lot to a viewpoint of the 93' waterfall; moderately difficult. Take the Traces Trail from amphitheater parking lot to Tuscarora Trail to Overall Run Trail.
Knob Mountain - 5 mile circuit along a stream. Take Knob Mountain Trail near wastewater treatment plant to left on the Cutoff Trail, then left on the Elkwallow Trail.
Little Devils Stairs - From the Boundary: From Sperryville, follow US 211 E/522 N for 2 miles, turn left on Rt. 622 (Gid Brown Hollow Road). After 2 miles turn left on Rt. 614 which turns to gravel and ends at the park’s boundary trailhead in 5.2 miles. Take the Little Devils Stairs Trail to the Keyser Run Fire Road for a 5.5 mile strenuous circuit with rock scrambling. Trail crosses stream many times up a narrow rocky gorge. Do not attempt after heavy rain. From Skyline Drive: 7.7 mile circuit from parking at Mile 19.4. Take Keyser Run Fire Road to Little Devils Stairs Trail. Round trip hike is 4.8 miles straight down the
gorge and back; strenuous.
Marys Rock from Panorama upper parking area - 3.7 miles round trip to an outstanding view, difficult.
Marys Rock from Meadow Spring Parking - 2.8 miles round trip to an outstanding view, moderately difficult.
Hazel Mountain - parking at Meadow Spring area. A network of trails through woods, streams, and cascades, as well as evidence of old homesites. Tailor to your ability and interest.
Millers Head - 1.6 miles round trip, fairly easy hike from parking area beyond the stables to a spectacular view, with moderately steep sections on return.
Limberlost Trail - 1.3 mile circuit stroll, especially beautiful when the mountain laurel blooms. This trail is often enjoyed by persons with mobility challenges. The trail was originally constructed to meet ADA accessibility standards; however, the requirements have recently been revised. Shenandoah is working on upgrading Limberlost to meet the new standards. In the meantime, use this description of the trail to determine if it is appropriate for your use: This circuit hike of 1.3 miles is for people of all ages and has a 5' wide crushed greenstone walkway on a gentle grade with frequent benches, a boardwalk, and a bridge. The trail passes through forest and a stand of mountain laurel - stunningly beautiful when it blooms in June. Pets not allowed.
Stony Man Trail - 1.6 mile circuit, fairly easy hike from parking area to spectacular view. Guidebook available at visitor center and trailhead. Pets not allowed.
Little Stony Man - 0.9 mile round trip from the parking area, fairly easy hike with views. Some steep sections
White Oak Canyon Area
Whiteoak Parking Area Skyline Drive (mile 42.6) to Upper Falls – 4.6 miles round trip to upper falls, the highest of the Whiteoak cascades at 86 feet. Return trip is very steep. Consider your physical condition and available time before continuing past the upper falls. Add an additional 2.7 miles round trip (1100’ elevation change) to lower falls and return.
Cedar Run/Whiteoak Circuit (mile 45.6) – very strenuous 8.2-mile circuit hike. From Hawksbill Gap, take Cedar Run-Link-Whiteoak-Whiteoak Fire Road-Horse Trail. Multiple waterfalls and cascades. Be sure to bring water.
Whiteoak Canyon from Boundary Trailhead – 2 miles round trip to lower falls; steep and challenging 6 miles (1100’ elevation change) round trip to upper falls. Return before crossing the large metal bridge above the upper falls.
Old Rag is Shenandoah's most popular and most dangerous hike. The number of blogs and websites about this hike attest to its popularity. The number of search and rescue missions each year attest to its danger. There's no doubt that the scramble is great fun and the views are spectacular. A day on Old Rag is one of Shenandoah's premier experiences. We want to be sure that your experience is not marred by an accident or health issue that could be prevented with good planning.
Hawksbill Mountain Area
Hawksbill Summit from:
* parking area at mile 45.6 - 1.7 miles round trip, fairly steep hike to spectacular view.
* parking area at mile 45.6 - 2.9 mile circuit, moderate hike with beautiful views much of the way, and a spectacular view at the top.
* parking area at mile 46.7 - 2.1 miles round trip, easy to moderate hike to a gorgeous view.
Rose River Loop Trail - 4 mile circuit from Fishers Gap, moderate, shady trail with streams, cascades, and a waterfall.
Big Meadows Area
Dark Hollow Falls Trail – 1.4 miles round trip; very steep; 70' waterfall. Pets are not allowed.
Story of the Forest Trail – 1.8-mile easy circuit that passes through forest and connects with paved walkway. From Byrd Visitor Center exit turn right, follow sidewalk to trail entrance. At paved walkway turn left to return to visitor center, or to avoid pavement, retrace steps. Pets are not allowed.
Lewis Falls Trail – 3.3-mile circuit from amphitheater to observation point, or 2 miles round trip from Skyline Drive. 81’ waterfall. Moderate with steep rocky areas; one stream crossing. Return via Appalachian Trail.
Rose River Loop Trail – 4-mile circuit from Fishers Gap. Moderate, shady trail with
stream, cascades, waterfall.
Rapidan Camp Area
Rapidan Camp via Mill Prong Trail - 4 miles round trip from Milam Gap Parking, moderate, steep at places, 3 stream crossings.
Rapidan Camp via Mill and Laurel Prongs, AT - 7.4 mile circuit, moderate (but long), along streams with cascades.
Lewis Mountain Area
Bearfence Rock Scramble - 1.2 mile circuit hike to a spectacular 360° view. Short, but challenging hike with a rock scramble––do not attempt when rocks are wet. Pets are not allowed on this trail.
Pocosin Mission - 1.9 mile, easy round trip hike via the fire road to the ruins of an Episcopal mission. Artifacts are protected by law–leave them as you find them.
South River Falls - 2.6 mile moderately strenuous round trip hike from picnic area to observation point of an 83-foot waterfall. To return by a different route, take the fire road and AT back up to make a 3.3 mile circuit. Add an additional 1.4 mile spur to reach the
base of the falls.
Loft Mountain Area
Frazier Discovery Trail – 1.3-mile circuit from the trailhead. Moderately easy hike to beautiful views. Guidebook available. Pets are not allowed on this trail.
Doyles River – 2.7 miles round trip to upper falls (28’); 3.2 to lower falls (63’). From parking area at mile 81.1, cross Skyline Drive and take blue-blazed Doyles River Trail. Moderate.
Big Run Loop – 5.8-mile circuit from overlook along Big Run Loop Trail and A.T.; views and wildflowers. Moderate.
Browns Gap – 6.5-mile moderately difficult circuit. 3 waterfalls. From parking area cross Skyline Drive and take Browns Gap Fire Road. Go right on Doyles River Trail, right on Jones Run, and right on A.T.
Jones Run Falls – 3.4 miles round trip. 42' falls. Moderate.
Blackrock Summit - from Blackrock Summit parking, an easy one mile circuit hike (.8 mile round trip) with outstanding views and interesting geology.
Riprap Trail - 3.4 miles (moderate) round trip from parking area to Chimney Rock, or a 9.8 mile (steep sections) circuit connecting with Wildcat Ridge Trail and the Appalachian Trail.
Turk Mountain - fairly easy, shady 2.2 mile round trip hike to a view.
For visitors with mobility issues, there's the Limberlost Trail located at Milepost 43). It was was originally constructed to meet ADA accessibility standards; however, the requirements have recently been revised. Shenandoah plans to upgrade Limberlost to meet the new standards. In the meantime, use this description of the trail to determine if it is appropriate for your use: This circuit hike of 1.3 miles is for people of all ages and has a 5' wide crushed greenstone walkway on a gentle grade with frequent benches, a boardwalk, and a bridge. The trail passes through forest and a stand of mountain laurel - stunningly beautiful when it blooms in June.