Welcome to the magical world of the best hikes in Shenandoah National Park! This is Virginia’s crown jewel for outdoor adventure.
This state park is one of the East cost national parks usa and offers over 500 miles of hiking trails. They are just as diverse as they are beautiful. From the challenging climb of Old Rag Mountain to the scenic beauty of the Riprap Trail, and the history of hiking the Appalachian Trail, there’s something for every type of hiker.
Whether you’re a pro trekker looking for your next adventure, or you are just getting into your hiking story, these Shenandoah hiking trails promise unforgettable memories of Virginia’s top landscapes. So, break in those hiking boots, and let’s get to some of the best things to do in the Shenandoah National Park, hiking!
Best Hikes in Shenandoah National Park
First up is the Hawksbill Summit, which is the highest peak in the entire Shenandoah National Park. With an elevation of 4,050 feet, this hike is always a favorite and the best day hike because of the short distance to reach the park’s highest point and the sweeping views that come with it.
You can pick one of the three main routes to reach the summit. The shortest is a 1.6-mile out-and-back trail which is considered moderately challenging and should take about 1 hour to complete. This way is very steep but it will take you directly to the platform on top of the Hawksbill.
For those looking for an easier but longer hike try the Hawksbill Summit. This is a loop 2.9-mile trail that will also lead you to the highest peak of the park. It’s a fairly easy hike and is perfect for those who want to take their time and enjoy the views.
To find the trailhead for Hawksbill Summit travel about 20 minutes into the park along Skyline Drive. Keep in mind that there is an entrance fee for cars and it is valid for 7 days.
Next up is one of the easy Shenandoah hikes, the Dark Hollow Falls trail. This is also a popular choice among hikers in Shenandoah National Park, thanks to its easy accessibility and the beautiful waterfall it offers. The out-and-back trail is 1.4 miles long starting from a dedicated parking area at milepost 50.7 on Skyline Drive.
Despite being one of the short hikes in Shenandoah National Park with waterfalls, it is known for its steep and rocky areas which can make the return climb more challenging. However, the hike down to the falls is considered moderately challenging and all fitness levels can do it.
The trail runs about half a mile and leads you to the head of the falls. It’s recommended to stick to the trail because there’s not a great view from the top of the falls and the rocks are slippery. The loop trail will take about an hour and a half to complete for most hikers plus the time spent at the falls.
Whiteoak Canyon Trail
The Whiteoak Canyon Trail is a picturesque 9.4-mile trail with enchanting cascades, making it one of the best hikes in the Shenandoah National Park.
Your journey will begin at the Whiteoak Canyon parking area. The trail is known to be challenging and the average time to complete is a little over 5 hours. The incredible views will tempt you to extend your time in the forest taking in all the beauty that Shenandoah has to offer.
One of the best parts of this trail is the Lower and Upper White Oak Falls. The stretch between these two waterfalls is 1.4 miles so prepare yourself for a hard trek in between because the path gets steep and is rocky.
You also have the option to take the 8.2-mile circuit hike that includes Cedar Run-Link-Whiteoak-Whiteoak Fire Road-Horse Trail. This loop not only gives stunning views of several falls but also comes very highly recommended by the Virginia hiking community.
Whichever way you pick to explore the Whiteoak Canyon Trail it is one the best waterfall hikes in Shenandoah National Park.
Stony Man Trail
The Stony Man Trail is a short 1.5-mile loop near Syria, Virginia. You can get this one of the simplest circuit hikes in Shenandoah. On average it only takes about 45 minutes to complete. There’s also the Little Stony Man hike which is a 0.9-mile round trip on a steep, rockier section if you are looking for a challenge.
Despite its short length though the Stony Man Trail has some of the best vistas in the Shenandoah National Park. Little Stony Man is just below the main peak and is the most famous part of this hike.
Stony Man is not just a trail it is also a mountain and is the second-highest peak in the park. The trail leading to the cliffs of Stony Man is an easy upward walk that presents hikers with a magnificent view of the Shenandoah Valley. This route begins in the parking lot at mile marker 39.5 on Skyline Drive.
Dark Hollow Falls Trail
Dark Hollow Falls Trail is a popular hiking trail that is also known for its waterfall views and for being the closest to Skyline Drive in the park. which is one of the most traveled trails in the park.
The trail is 1.4 miles out and back and is relatively short, but it’s steep. Which makes it a moderately challenging hike. The waterfall cascades 70 feet over greenstone, offering a mesmerizing view to hikers.
Follow along the stream that leads you to the waterfall, starting from the dedicated parking area located at milepost 50.7 on Skyline Drive. This is one of the day hikes in Shenandoah because it is mostly shaded and gives you a comfortable trek even during summer days.
For a more scenic walk, you can try the Story of the Forest Trail before the start of the Dark Hollow trail.
Mary’s Rock Summit Trail
Mary’s Rock Summit Trail is out and back trail that is just under 4 miles with an elevation gain of 1200 feet. Plan for this hike to take about 2 hours to complete. To start head to the Panorama parking area at milepost 31.6 on Skyline Drive. Or the other access points including Meadow Spring Trailhead and the Pinnacles picnic area.
This hike will lead you through a thick forest before finally reaching the summit of Mary’s Rock. It’s a fantastic place to take a break, enjoy a picnic, and soak in the Blue Ridge mountains. Which is one of the best things to do in the Blue Ridge.
The trail is open year-round and offers unforgettable experiences across the VA seasons. In spring, you’ll find wildflowers blooming along the trail, while the fall foliage brings colorful, changing leaves. Winter hikes in the Shenandoah National Forest can be particularly beautiful if you catch a dusting of snow on the trees and rocks, but ensure you’re prepared for the cold.
Blackrock Summit Trail
Blackrock Summit Trail in Grottoes, Virginia is a short hike that leads you to a viewpoint on a massive boulder field. The boulder field is so big that it takes about 30 minutes to explore. The Blackrock trail offers stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley and Massanutten Mountain Resort. To find it head towards Skyline Drive milepost 84.4.
To complete Blackrock you will hike an easy 1.1-mile loop trail. And with a mild elevation gain of 175 feet is it one of the easy hiking trails in Shenandoah. There is also a relatively easy, but longer 5.1-mile hike in the region with the same magnificent viewpoint at Blackrock Summit. Pick whichever you want when you arrive. Both are very popular hikes in Shenandoah.
Old Rag Mountain
Old Rag Mountain is a stunning hike inside the Shenandoah National Park, the closest town in Etlan, Virginia. This 9.3-mile loop trail starts at the Old Rag Mountain trailhead. Enjoy the 2-mile journey through shady woods, but keep in mind that it does get steep.
Throughout the hike you will also have significant rock scramble, adding an element of adventure to your walk. But despite the challenge, the rock scramble is a unique feature of the Old Rag Mountain hike. You may want to bring a pair of breathable gloves with you so you can grip the rocks better.
Once you have beaten the rock scramble, the reward is totally worth it. The summit of Old Rag Mountain has incredible vistas of the surrounding Shenandoah Valley and is always rated as one of the best hiking trails in Shenandoah National Park.
The Riprap Trail is a 9.3-mile loop trail near Crimora, Virginia. It is considered challenging and takes about 5 hours to complete. Throughout this hike, you will enjoy panoramic views, clear streams, a swimming hole, and even a waterfall!
However, your hard work is truly worth it. The trail takes you into the heart of Riprap Hollow and the famous Chimney Rock. Take a few minutes to appreciate the views here but the sights don’t stop there.
The Riprap trail also has a few stream crossings, which can add a bit of refreshment but, also get your feet wet, so pack extra socks. You can’t wait to fully immerse yourself in the water until you finally reach the swimming hole! If you are looking for where to hike in Shenandoah National Park, Riprap Trail gives you all the magic of the Shenandoah rolled into one.
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The Appalachian Trail, often referred to as the A.T., is the most famous hiking route on the East Coast. In total, it extends over 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine. Luckily for you, one of the most scenic parts of this AT trail winds its way through Shenandoah National Park for over 100 miles.
A popular hike is the Front Royal to Lewis Mountain Campground hike. Here you can cover 54 miles of the Shenandoah National Park. You will pass through thick forests, rugged terrain, and many streams. It’s a great place to try backpacking in Shenandoah National Park.
This section of the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park is generally considered challenging but offers an array of unforgettable experiences. The climb rarely exceeds 500 or 1,000 feet and it is a challenge but manageable if you are a newbie hiker.