Explore beautiful overlooks, historic sites, and an array of stunning waterfalls on these 10 classic hikes in Shenandoah National Park.
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia is one of the most coveted areas to visit in the eastern United States. The park is long and narrow and dissected by Skyline Drive, a 105-mile scenic roadway that mostly follows the ridgeline. Motorists and cyclists frequent the road for its beauty, and the iconic Appalachian Trail even passes through the heart of the park. According to Wikipedia, “almost 40% of the land area has been designated as wilderness and is protected as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System." In a nutshell, the Shenandoahs are a hiker’s paradise.
Soaring to a height of 4,051 feet above sea level, Hawksbill Mountain towers above all the other peaks in the park and offers a large stone observation deck with stunning, panoramic views. This loop to the summit pairs the Appalachian Trail with the Lower Hawksbill Trail for a short 2.7-mile trek. The talus mountaintop also is also a nesting ground for peregrine falcons, "the fastest bird in the world and the fastest member of the animal kingdom," according to Wikipedia. When hunting, they can reach speeds over 200mph!
Just a short drive north, Stony Man is the “most northerly 4,000 foot peak in the Blue Ridge Mountains," according to Wikipedia, and the only other peak above 4,000’ within the park. This route explores both Stony Man and Little Stony, offering plenty of views and a unique mix of red spruce and balsam fir trees, an ecosystem typically confined to northern latitudes.
One of the most iconic hikes in SNP is the Old Rag Loop. In contrast to most routes on this list, it doesn’t begin along Skyline Drive. The National Park considers this one of the most popular, yet dangerous, hikes around, and even proclaims it as “one of Shenandoah’s premier experiences!” A rock scramble near the summit is followed by epic views from a talus slope – the perfect reward for your efforts.
If waterfalls are your thing, you’re in luck. Shenandoah National Park is home to countless stunning waterfalls, all of which can be accessed via trail. A few highlights include Dark Hollow Falls, South River Falls, Lewis Spring Falls, Rose River Loop, Whiteoak Canyon, and the Browns Gap Waterfall Loop. The highest waterfall in the park is Overall Run at nearly 93’ tall, but it failed to make the list since it dries up in the summer months – the most popular time to visit the park.
Last but not least, the Dickey Ridge Loop is the northernmost hike to make the list. It includes plenty of views and history and is great for the entire family. The Blackrock & Lewis Spring Falls hike is also an excellent family-friendly hike and part of the Kids in Parks program.