Hiking Shenandoah National Park

Sunset over the Mountains

With 195,000 acres and over 500 miles of trails hiking Shenandoah National Park can be enjoyed by everyone. There are hikes from easy to strenuous, from ridgeline mountain views to cascading waterfalls and everything in between. Along Skyline Drive you can hike over 100 miles of the Appleciahnan trail to get a glimpse at what it might be to accomplish such a feat.

Although I don’t consider myself an expert hiker, I love hiking and over the years visiting Shenandoah experienced some of the best hiking on the east coast. There is nothing better to fuel the soul than walking through the woods on a beautiful sunny day.

I put together a list of some of the most favorite park hikes. Always remember to hike to your own ability, wear sturdy shoes, bring plenty of water, carry a pack with some first aid, warm jacket, map, flashlight, rain ponchos, and compass. You never know when conditions can change in the mountains and you should always be prepared no matter how long of a hike you take.

Black Bear on road in Shenandoah National Park

Bear Activity

Note: This park has an active black bear population and caution should be taken when hiking in the woods. To avoid encounters with bears be aware of your surroundings and make loud noises if you hear a bear approach. I’ve personally been in the woods hiking with bear activity so be alert at all times. The park is home to one of the densest bear populations of any national park with an estimated 600 to 800 bears.

Appalachian Trail Marker

Appalachian Trail

There are 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park marked with white trailblazers or like the above picture. The trail parallels Skyline Drive so most of the trails are right off the road. Here are some short hikes on the Appalachian Trail, maybe you will meet up with a thru-hiker, wouldn’t that be cool!

Fort Windham Rocks Mile 10.4 easy

A short .8 mile hike partly on the Appalachian Trail to Catoctin Lava Formations.

Sunset over Shenandoah National Park

North marshall mile 15.9 easy

Another short hike to a pleasant view on the Appalachian Trail.

Hogback Overlook mile 20.9 easy

A .7 loop hike to Hogback Overlook on the Appalachian Trail.

Bearfence Viewpoint Mile 56.4 Moderate

Follow the Appalachian Trail for a 1.2 roundtrip hike to a viewpoint.

Waterfall in Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park Waterfall Hikes

I’m a big fan of waterfall hikes while my husband prefers ridgeline, mountaintop or fire tower hikes. So we usually try to do a combination of both when we travel to a park. To me, there is nothing better than listening to the sound of the rushing water. Here is a list of hiking Shenandoah National Park waterfalls.

Lands Run Milepost 9.2 easy

This 1.3-mile roundtrip hike is to a series of small waterfalls. It follows a stream down a slope for a view of the fall. You must retrace your steps back and it can get steep in some parts but is still considered an easy hike to take.

Overall Run Milepost 22.2 Strenuous

This is a 6.5-mile roundtrip hike to the largest fall in the park at 93 feet. Its all downhill except for the last .5 mile before the falls is very steep. In addition to the falls, there are beautiful views of the gorge. You need to pace yourself on the way back as its all uphill.

Note: Late in summer and fall this waterfall can be dry depending on if there were recent heavy rains. Also by the views is steep with no guide rails so caution must be taken.

Whiteoak Canyon mileposT 42.6

This is a 9.5-mile roundtrip hike to a series of six waterfalls with the tallest at 86 feet and the smallest 35 feet. There are many places to go swimming in the waterfall pools on this trail. It can be strenuous in areas with a total elevation gain of 2,408 feet. This is a very popular hike in the park despite its length so trail traffic could be heavy in peak season.

Deer on the top and a mountain on the bottom

Dark Hollow Falls Milepost 50.7 Moderate

This is a very crowded hike during the park’s peak season as it goes to a beautiful waterfall. Roundtrip is 1.4 miles and it takes you to the bottom of Dark Hollow Falls. The start of the hike is all downhill but remember the return will be all uphill, steep at times.

Lewis Spring Falls Milepost 51.4 moderate

This is a 2.5-mile roundtrip hike to an 80′ waterfall. Make sure you have a map cause you will cross two other trails including the Appalachian Trail on this hike. At that intersection, you will go left and follow the blue trail blazed signs.

Waterfall

South River Falls Milepost 62.8 moderate

This is the third-largest waterfall in the park at 83 feet. There is a pool under the falls where you can take a dip in the warmer months. This 4.4-mile roundtrip hike can be a challenge with its 850 foot gain in elevation.

Jones Run-Doyles River Mile 84.1 Strenuous

This is a strenuous hike to several waterfalls (Upper and Lower Doyles River Falls and Jones Run Falls. This is a circuit (loop) hike totaling 7.8 miles with an elevation gain of 1,825′.

Hiking in Shenandoah National Park

Other Hikes in Shenandoah National Park

Easy Hikes

View from Stoney Man Trail Shenandoah National Park
View from Stoney Man

Stoney Man Trail Mile 41.7 easy

This is a short hike that offers beautiful mountaintop views of Stony Man Mountain that anyone can do even young children. Its 1.6 miles round trip with panoramic viewpoints on Stony Man. Its a popular trail and pets are not allowed. I’ve done this trail many times and it’s one I would highly recommend.

Miller’s Heads Mile 42.5 easy

This trail offers 360-degree views from an observation platform. It begins in Skyland passed the stables. This trail is 1.6 miles round trip. I’ve taken this trail and the views are stunning.

Moderate Hikes

Meadow Spring Mile 33.5 moderate

This 1.6 round trip hike is steep in sections but is still considered moderate to hike. You will get to see the views of Shenandoah Valley. Meadow Springs is located at .4 on the trail. You also pass the remains of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club cabin which burnt down in 1946.

View from Hawskbill Summit
View from Hawksbill Summit

Hawksbill Mile 46.7 moderate

There are three trails that you to the highest point (4,049′) in the park ranging from 1.7 to 3 miles. The steepest one takes you directly to the top of the summit. Other than the beautiful views you will find trees that you won’t find anywhere else in the park, like the red spruce.

Strenuous

Old Rag

The Old Rag Trail is the most popular hiking in Shenandoah National Park, it’s very strenuous and can be dangerous. Caution must be taken when hiking in this area. I’ve never personally hiked this and its way above what I know I’m capable of. Although within the boundaries of Shenandoah National Park most people access from outside on US600. There is a big parking lot there to begin your hike.

Planning is needed before you venture out on this 9.2-mile hike. You need to give yourself a good 7 to 8 hours, bring at least 2 quarts of water, pets are prohibited on this hike and it’s really not for children either.

Most people do this as a circuit hike due to the crowds. The first 2 miles are through the woods until you reach the ridgetop after this it gets very difficult climbing over the rock scramble of giant boulders. Once at the summit you will be able to see most of the 195,000 acres of Shenandoah from a 360-degree viewpoint. You can make your descent down the Saddle Trail where you will come across two day-use shelters (Byrd’s Nest and Old Rag) and a privy near Old Rag.

Note the numbers under the trail markers as this tells you how dangerous this trail really is. They are numbered for the search and rescue squad to know the location if an emergency happens and on this trail, it’s not uncommon. For more information on hiking Old Rag click here.

Plan your visit now

Hiking Shenandoah National Park you will be able to see stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley. There is nothing better in my opinion then spending some time in the woods and Shenandoah is a beautiful park for everyone to enjoy. Plan your visit now to see this stunning park. as For more information on this park visit the National Park Service. Kathy xoxo

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6 thoughts on “Hiking Shenandoah National Park”

  1. Thanks for the great info! I’ve been to Shenandoah many times but have never really done any hiking there. I have birded the area around Big Meadow, but bird walks are very different from hiking. I might try one or two of these next time I’m down there. There is so much to do in this park, and Luray Caverns, apple orchards, and wineries are not far off of Skyline Drive.

    1. It’s a lovely park to hike since there are so many ridgeline hikes with stunning views. In the next couple of weeks, I will be posting an article all about Shenandoah and the lodges and restaurants and areas around the park that make this such a great place for a vacation!

  2. I love hiking. This is something my family does every Sunday. It is so refreshing to be out in nature.

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