10 Hikes You Must Do in Shenandoah Park

10 Hikes You Must Do in Shenandoah Park

 

Shenandoah National Park is the scenic mountain haven of the Mid-Atlantic, the glittering jewel in the crown of the Virginia Appalachians. The main spine of the park stretches for 70 miles end-to-end, dividing bucolic Shenandoah Valley from the Piedmont to the east. Elevations vary from 4,050 feet atop Hawksbill down to less than 550 feet near Front Royal. A wealth of attractions lies outside the park to enhance your Shenandoah National Park experience.

At Shenandoah National Park, you can discover classic destinations like Old Rag and Whiteoak Canyon, where cataracts roar down trout-filled streams while rock outcrops jut above the diverse forest, allowing far-flung views of the Blue Ridge and surrounding Shenandoah Valley. Or you can engage other hikes, to Stony Man and Hawksbill, where lofty heights reveal more views, biodiversity, and park history with every footfall among these stately highlands. You can discover lesser-visited equally scenic sights at places like Jones Run and Furnace Mountain where cataracts roar among old-growth trees spared by the logger's axe and lonely lookouts beg to be visited.

The home sites reveal another era of Shenandoah, rich in cultural history that once found settlers squeezed into the narrow valleys in the shadow of the Blue Ridge. Undertake the following 10 must-do hikes at Shenandoah and you will go away with a montage of experiences reflecting the true nature of Virginia's largest and wildest national park.

 

DICKEY RIDGE LOOP

Easy access, old farmsteads and a rewarding vista sum up much of what Shenandoah National Park offers on this one hike. Walk south on Dickey Ridge to Snead Farm site and check out more human history. Catch a great view of the Shenandoah Valley on your way back, then enjoy more attractive ridgeline woodland.  

Easy access, old farmsteads and a rewarding vista sum up much of what Shenandoah National Park offers on this one hike. Walk south on Dickey Ridge to Snead Farm site and check out more human history. Catch a great view of the Shenandoah Valley on your way back, then enjoy more attractive ridgeline woodland.

 

MARY’S ROCK VIA THE PINNACLE

The hike over The Pinnacle to Marys Rock traverses the most spectacular section of the Appalachian Trail (AT) through Shenandoah National Park. Still more views await along the way to arguably the best vista in the entire park - Mary's Rock with its 360 degree views. Elevation changes only amount to climbs and drops of 450 feet each - not bad for this park, not bad at all.  

The hike over The Pinnacle to Marys Rock traverses the most spectacular section of the Appalachian Trail (AT) through Shenandoah National Park. Still more views await along the way to arguably the best vista in the entire park - Mary's Rock with its 360 degree views. Elevation changes only amount to climbs and drops of 450 feet each - not bad for this park, not bad at all.

 

OLD RAG

Old Rag is Shenandoah National Park's contribution to the great mountains of America. The granite-topped peak delivers incredible views and a rock scramble along the way. Strike up the north slope of Old Rag, emerging onto a massive granite slab, revealing farfetched panoramas.  

Old Rag is Shenandoah National Park's contribution to the great mountains of America. The granite-topped peak delivers incredible views and a rock scramble along the way. Strike up the north slope of Old Rag, emerging onto a massive granite slab, revealing farfetched panoramas.

 

WHITEOAK CANYON FALLS

Since there are no fords, you can hike this in winter and spring without worry - when the falls will be their boldest. It's hard to keep track of all the falls at Whiteoak Canyon tumbling through a chasm of geological wonderment, a place where the rocky base of Shenandoah protrudes above the rich forest. Be prepared for crowds when the weather is nice and views from the uppermost outcrops.  

Since there are no fords, you can hike this in winter and spring without worry - when the falls will be their boldest. It's hard to keep track of all the falls at Whiteoak Canyon tumbling through a chasm of geological wonderment, a place where the rocky base of Shenandoah protrudes above the rich forest. Be prepared for crowds when the weather is nice and views from the uppermost outcrops.

 

HAWKSBILL SUMMIT

Along the way you will enter a "sky island" of Canadian-type spruce-fir forest. Outcrops below the summit are just warm-ups for the nearly 360-degree view atop Hawksbill. The park favorite starts at a high elevation and gets to the top of things in Shenandoah. Get a jump on bagging this peak by starting out at over 3,600 feet, leaving under 500 feet of vertical gain to the nose of Hawksbill.  

Along the way you will enter a "sky island" of Canadian-type spruce-fir forest. Outcrops below the summit are just warm-ups for the nearly 360-degree view atop Hawksbill. The park favorite starts at a high elevation and gets to the top of things in Shenandoah. Get a jump on bagging this peak by starting out at over 3,600 feet, leaving under 500 feet of vertical gain to the nose of Hawksbill.

 

STONY MAN LOOP

Stand atop cliffs rising 3,000 feet above Shenandoah Valley, soaking in views from breezy Stony Man. Take the Little Stony Man Trail to Little Stony Man, where more overlooks await. Return along the Passamaquoddy Trail, where still more views can be seen.  

Stand atop cliffs rising 3,000 feet above Shenandoah Valley, soaking in views from breezy Stony Man. Take the Little Stony Man Trail to Little Stony Man, where more overlooks await. Return along the Passamaquoddy Trail, where still more views can be seen.

 

RAPIDAN CAMP

View Big Rock Falls on the way to Rapidan Camp, the preserved presidential retreat of Herbert Hoover. The camp has much to see; you can even embark on a self-guided tour. Take the Mill Prong Trail into the cool Rapidan River valley. Come along Mill Prong and see 15-foot Big Rock Falls, with its deep beckoning pool. Reach the confluence of Laurel Prong and Mill Creek, where Rapidan Camp lies in a lovely wooded setting.  

View Big Rock Falls on the way to Rapidan Camp, the preserved presidential retreat of Herbert Hoover. The camp has much to see; you can even embark on a self-guided tour. Take the Mill Prong Trail into the cool Rapidan River valley. Come along Mill Prong and see 15-foot Big Rock Falls, with its deep beckoning pool. Reach the confluence of Laurel Prong and Mill Creek, where Rapidan Camp lies in a lovely wooded setting.

 

LOFT MOUNTAIN LOOP

The ideal family hike or afternoon stroll starts at the Loft Mountain Wayside. Walk to a massive rock outcrop with an extensive view, then stop at the Loft Mountain Campground store for ice cream as you complete the loop. Gently descend back to Loft Mountain Wayside.  

The ideal family hike or afternoon stroll starts at the Loft Mountain Wayside. Walk to a massive rock outcrop with an extensive view, then stop at the Loft Mountain Campground store for ice cream as you complete the loop. Gently descend back to Loft Mountain Wayside.

 

FURNACE MOUNTAIN VIA BLACKROCK

Once you finish soaking in the outstanding views of Blackrock Summit with other hikers, enter one of the park's more remote areas on the Trayfoot Mountain Trail then the Furnace Mountain Trail, availing maximum solitude. Be careful on the rocky track then enjoy the solitude and scenes from Furnace Mountain.  

Once you finish soaking in the outstanding views of Blackrock Summit with other hikers, enter one of the park's more remote areas on the Trayfoot Mountain Trail then the Furnace Mountain Trail, availing maximum solitude. Be careful on the rocky track then enjoy the solitude and scenes from Furnace Mountain.

 

BROWNS GAP WATERFALL LOOP

The trail grades are generally moderate as you descend Browns Gap Fire Road, passing a Confederate grave to then follow Doyles River, crashing in a bouldery canyon with big falls and lesser cascades.   

The trail grades are generally moderate as you descend Browns Gap Fire Road, passing a Confederate grave to then follow Doyles River, crashing in a bouldery canyon with big falls and lesser cascades. 

 

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