Shenandoah National Park Things to Do

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    It gets really cold up there..Nov 2012
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    Austin Mountain from Furnace Mountain
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Most Recent Things to Do in Shenandoah National Park

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    Old Rag

    by jmpncsu Written Aug 18, 2014

    Old Rag Mountain is probably the most popular hike in Shenandoah National Park. Unlike most of the mountains in the Blue Ridge range, Old Rag has a rocky exposed top. As such, the hike up to the top if very rocky with one full mile of rock scrambling. This is a challenging hike so should only be attempted by those in good physical shape. As there are many exposed rocks, avoid this hike in the rain as wet rocks are extremely slippery. The parking area for Old Rag is off Route 600 (Nethers Road) near Sperryville. This is a fee area, but if you've already paid to enter the park, show your receipt and you don't have to pay another fee. The trailhead is about 0.8 miles further up the road, but you can't park anywhere, so you'll have to hike up the road to the trailhead at the end. Start off on Ridge Trail, which steeply climbs up through the forested part of the mountain through a seemingly endless number of switchbacks. After about 3 miles, the forest will thin out and you'll come to the rocky part. It's another mile to the summit and you'll have to hike, climb, crawl, duck, and squeeze over, under, through, and around huge rocks and boulders. A few are perched precariously and seem to defy gravity. There are a few false summits along the way, but keep heading up and eventually you'll reach the top. With phenomenal views in all directions, this is a great place for a picnic to regain your energy after the strenuous climb up. To finish up the loop, continue hiking on Saddle Trail that leads steeply down, passing Byrds Nest Shelter and Old Rag Shelter and ending at Weakley Hollow Fire Road. Follow this road back to the trailhead.

    Old Rag View from Old Rag Rock Overhang at Old Rag Old Rag Old Rag
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    Little Stony Man

    by jmpncsu Written Aug 18, 2014

    Little Stony Man is a smaller mountain right next to Stony Man in the Skyland area of the park. With west-facing cliffs, this is one of the best places in the park to watch sunset. And reaching the cliffs is a very short hike, less than a mile round-trip. From the parking area at mile post 39 on Skyline Drive, turn left on the Appalachian Trail (southbound) and in about a quarter-mile, turn right at the split onto Passamaquoddy Trail. It's 0.1 miles to the view point at the base of the cliffs. There are fantastic views of the Shenandoah Valley to the west and looking north, you can see Skyline Drive snaking through the park. This is a fantastic place to watch the sunset. To get to the top of the cliffs, backtrack to the AT and go about a quarter-mile up the switchbacks. The trail comes right out at the top of the cliffs and there are more great views from up here. Just remember a flashlight or headlamp if you hike up for the sunset; it's a short hike back to the parking lot, but it can get dark quickly behind the mountains.

    Sunset from Little Stony Man Skyline Pool at Summit of Little Stony Man Little Stony Man Flowers at Little Stony Man
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    Little Devil Stairs

    by jmpncsu Written Aug 15, 2014

    Little Devil Stairs is a canyon south/east of Skyline Drive near Matthews Arm Campground and Elkwallow Wayside. Hiking through the gorge is a strenuous, but rewarding hike with lots of great views of the beautiful canyon. There is a parking area off Skyline Drive at mile post 19.4. From here, it's a 7.7 miles loop. Alternately, you can start from the parking area on the park's boundary at the end of Route 622 (Gid Brown Hollow Road) for a 5.5 mile circuit hike. Starting from Skyline Drive, hike about a mile down Keyser Run Fire Road to the fourway intersection, where Little Devil Stairs comes in from the left. Stay straight on the fire road for a few more miles as it gradually heads down, passing Bolen Cemetery on the way. The road will end at the parking area on Route 622. From here, pick up the Little Devil Stairs Trail, which crosses a creek and follows Keyser Run upstream into the canyon. At first, the trail is gradual, but becomes progressively more strenuous. There are many stairs to climb, numerous stream crossings going back and forth across Keyser Run, and a few places where you'll have to climb and scramble over big rocks. At the top of the canyon is a 12-foot waterfall just off the trail. Past here, the trail levels off and ends at the fourway intersection with Keyser Run Fire Road. Turn right to return to the parking lot.

    Little Devil Stairs Bolen Cemetery Gate Waterfall on Little Devil Stairs Little Devil Stairs Trail Little Devil Stairs
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    Fox Hollow

    by jmpncsu Written Aug 12, 2014

    Fox Hollow is an easy 1.2-mile circuit hike accessed from the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center near the northernmost portion of the park. The trailhead is right across Skyline Drive from the visitor center. This is a self-guided interpretive hike with brochures available at the visitor center or at the trailhead if you'd like to learn a little more about the history and nature of the area. Right at the trailhead, there is an open wildflower meadow and then the trail heads into the woods. Along the way, you'll see some signs of the area's past, including large rock piles, the remains of a homestead, and the Fox cemetery. A few of the graves here are for soldiers from the Civil War. The trail then loops around back to the trailhead. It's a nice easy hike for people who want to get out and see some of the park without a more strenuous endeavor.

    View from Dickey Ridge Visitor Center Wildflower Meadow Fox Hollow Cemetery Rock Pile on Fox Hollow Trail Tree on Rock Hollow Trail
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    Overall Run Falls

    by jmpncsu Written Aug 11, 2014

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    At 93 feet, Overall Run Falls is the highest waterfall in Shenandoah National Park. And it's less than 5 miles round trip to see the falls, so not too strenuous. If you're staying at Matthews Arm Campground, you can hike from the back of loop B on Matthews Arm Trail to Overall Run/Tuscarora Trail. It's about 4 miles round trip from here. If you're not camping, park at the entrance to Matthews Arm Campground and take Traces Trail to Overall Run/Tuscarora Trail for a 4.7 miles round trip. Alternately, if the campground's closed, you can park along Skyline Drive at mile post 21.1 and hike the Appalachian Trail southbound to Overall Run/Tuscarora Trail for a 6 mile round trip. The hike is mostly on old fire roads, so pretty easy with a few switchbacks as you approach the waterfall. Right before the main waterfall is a 29-foot cascade on Overall Run, but you likely won't mistake this for the big waterfall. There's a great cliff overlook to see the falls and the surrounding mountains with fantastic views. If you visit in the summer or dry times, there may not be much of a waterfall to see. We visited in the summer and it wasn't much more than a trickle. Fortunately, the hike was not in vain, as the views from the overlook were gorgeous. We will have to return when the weather is nicer, however.

    Overall Run Falls - Barely a trickle in the summer View from Overlook at Overall Run Falls View from Overlook at Overall Run Falls
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    Jones Run Falls

    by chewy3326 Written Jan 28, 2012

    Jones Run Falls is accessible by a 3.4-mile round trip trail starting from the Jones Run trailhead. I hiked to this waterfall as part of a 6.6-mile loop with the Doyles River Falls, which I would highly recommend; the trailhead for this hike is at Browns Gap. My previous tip, on Doyles River, describes the hike from Browns Gap to the confluence of Jones Run and the Doyles River; this tip is a hike description that will pick up from there.

    The confluence of the two streams is not visible from the trail. Follow the trail for Jones Run uphill from the trail intersection of the Jones Run and Doyles River trails; you'll soon make a stream crossing and begin ascending, sometimes steeply, along the cascading stream. Jones Run below the Jones Run falls is one of the liveliest streams I've seen in Shenandoah- at one point, the run cascades down a rocky incline, similar to a slide; numerous other small but pretty smalls can be observed as the the trail follows the rocky stream. There are also a number of large boulders and plenty of moss and ferns down in the Jones Run gorge, even in winter. The main Jones Run Falls is 0.7 miles above the Doyles River confluence and lies at the top of the Jones Run gorge. There's a nice rocky resting spot right below the falls, which drops perhaps 30 to 40 feet down a small rock face.

    Above Jones Run Falls, the trail flattens out, passes another small waterfall, and then ascends one last time to reach the Blue Ridge crest and the Jones Run parking. To return to Browns Gap to complete the loop, follow the AT north for 1.2 miles, a fairly nondescript section that follows the Drive but nonetheless has good views through the trees of Big Flat and Cedar during the winter.

    Jones Run Falls
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    Falls of the Doyles River

    by chewy3326 Written Jan 28, 2012

    The Doyles River is a wild and beautiful stream that plunges down the side of Big Flat Mountain near the Loft Mountain development in the South District. A hike along the river takes you to two major waterfalls, as well as numerous smaller plunges. A combined hike of this trail and Jones Run is easily one of the most spectacular waterfall hikes of the park, along with Overall Run and Whiteoak Canyon. It's possible to reach the falls from the Doyles River Trailhead; I hiked down from Browns Gap in order to do the Falls Loop with the Jones Run Trail.

    From Browns Gap, follow the fire road to the east of the drive downhill for 1.9 miles; this part of the hike is forested, with few views. At 1.9 miles, the fire road intersects the Doyles River Trail; turn right and follow that trail further downhill. The trail follows the stream, which begins to make many small falls as it heads downhill. 0.3 miles past the trail junction, the trail reaches Upper Doyles Falls, a multi-tiered drop that you can easily approach. The two lower drops of the falls are probably only each about 10-15 feet high, so there's a very personal feel about this waterfall.

    Continue downhill for another 0.3 miles, and the trail reaches the Lower Doyles Falls, a larger drop surrounded by a spectacular rocky gorge. The base of this waterfall is a little less accessible than the base of the higher falls, but two paths still take you to decent views of the falls.

    The lower falls is a good place to turn around for a round trip hike; to finish the loop with the Jones Run Trail, you can follow the river further downstream. The trail descends fairly steeply as the river makes numerous small plunges and passes through a few pools. On my winter hike, I could see and feel water pouring or dripping down from many different areas of the cliffs making the river's gorge; I have no doubt that this hike would be especially spectacular during a cold spell, when the cliffs would freeze, or during the spring, when there's bound to be lots of water spilling down both the falls and the nearby cliffs.

    Upper Doyles Falls Lower Doyles Falls
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    Furnace Mountain (from SR 663)

    by chewy3326 Written Jan 23, 2012

    An enjoyable hike that doesn't require driving on Skyline Drive is the trail to Shenandoah's Furnace Mountain. It's 4.2 miles round trip and requires an elevation gain of 1300 feet, and leads to a good rocky viewpoint near the summit of Furnace Mountain. The trail starts a hundred yards past the park entrance at the Madison Run Fire Road, leading off to the right, crossing Madison Run and then climbing along the west side of Furnace Mountain to a saddle. During the ascent, there are good examples of Skolithos, a trace fossil found in the Erwin Formation in this part of Shenandoah; there is also a quartzite talus slope that gives a good view of Shenandoah Valley. At the saddle, a spur trail leads half a mile to a rocky viewpoint a little beyond the summit of Furnace Mountain, from which there is a good view across Dundo Hollow to Austin Mountain and of the other peaks that branch off from the Rockytop ridge. When the leaves are down, you'll be able to spot a smaller rock to the right of the main viewpoint; a little bit of bushwhacking can get you to that rock, from which there is a better view of the hollow, including a view of Blackrock and Trayfoot.

    Austin Mountain from Furnace Mountain Trayfoot Mountain from Furnace Mountain
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    Rose River Falls

    by chewy3326 Written Dec 29, 2011

    A very good Shenandoah hike is the 2.7-mile, 720-foot elevation gain hike to Rose River Falls. From the trailhead, follow the sign toward Rose River Falls. The trail begins to descend, gently first, then more steeply through a fairly typical Shenandoah woods. At the bottom of the descent, the trail reaches and follows the Rose River for about 0.3 miles to the first major cascade, a very 20-foot waterfall with a fallen tree running across it. There is a large pool at the base of the falls that may be conducive to swimming at a warmer time of year. A hundred yards further on the trail, it's possible to see the second cascade, in which the Rose River plunges 25-30 feet down a narrow chute. An unmarked path leads to the base of the lower falls, which is situated in a pretty, rocky, two-tiered gorge.

    It is possible to make a loop out of this hike by taking Hogcamp Branch trail on the way back, but on my hike I did a round trip and returned the way I came.

    Rose River Falls- upper falls Rose River Falls- lower falls
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    Falls of Overall Run

    by chewy3326 Written Dec 24, 2011

    One of the most spectacular streams in Shenandoah is the Overall Run in the park's North District, which cascades down Twin Falls and a series of smaller waterfalls before dropping 93 feet into a deep, rocky gorge. Big Falls of the Overall Run is the highest waterfall in the park and one of the prettiest in the park.

    A good hike is a moderate 6.5-mile loop that starts from near the Hogback Overlook on Skyline Drive and visits both falls while wandering through the hilly upper parts of the Hogback-Mathews Arm area. The trail follows the Appalachian Trail south at first, until a junction with the Tuscarora-Overall Trail, which heads off the right and takes you all the way to the falls. On the way back, take the trail toward Mathews Arm, then merge onto a Fire Road and follow that until you reach the Traces Trail, then take a connector from Traces back to the Tuscarora-Overall Trail and return to the parking area.

    There are few views on the actual loop portion of this hike, but the final half mile descent into the gorge of Overall Run is what makes this hike. During that steep descent, you'll pass by 29-foot Twin Falls, which is already one of the prettier falls in the park. The trail continues to descend steeply from there, leading to a series of open rocky viewpoints above Big Falls that allow views not only of Big Falls and its gorge but also of Massanutten Mountain and Shenandoah Valley. A highly recommended hike.

    Big Falls of Overall Run Twin Falls Twin Falls View of Overall Run Gorge from Big Falls
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    Mary's Rock from Panorama

    by chewy3326 Written Dec 9, 2011

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    The slightly more difficult but probably more scenic route to the summit of Mary's Rock is from Panorama, at the Thornton Gap entrance. This route is also a good option in winter, as Skyline Drive may be closed but this trailhead is still easily accessible since it's close to 522. This trail is about 3.7 miles round trip, with an elevation gain of 1200 feet.

    From the far end of the Panorama parking lot, follow the AT south and you'll immediately start climbing; the trail switchbacks fairly gently back and forth across the rocky spine of the mountain. In the winter, there are constant views to the north and east of Oventop, Pass Mountain, and the Piedmont. The trail is fairly well maintained but is also fairly rocky; after about 1.8 miles, you'll reach a fork where a trail leads to the right to the viewpoint at Mary's Rock. This trail is probably fairly safe to hike after small snowstorms in the winter, as the grade is not too steep and it never strays more than 2 miles from the entrance station, which is staffed during the day. Check my older tip on Mary's Rock summit for information about the fabulous 360 view.

    View from Mary's Rock Along the AT Along the AT
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    Mary's Rock Summit

    by chewy3326 Updated Dec 9, 2011

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    From the viewpoint at Mary's Rock, an easy scramble up a couple of rocks puts you at the summit of Mary's Rock, which, at 3,514 feet, is the eighth highest peak in the park. The view from the summit is a full 360 degrees, and includes Pass Mt, the Peak, Mt Marshall, Hogback Mt, Neighbor Mt, Stony Man, Old Rag, the Three Sisters, Thornton Gap, and the town of Luray in Shenandoah Valley. This is one of the most spectacular views in the park; be sure not to miss it.

    You can follow the rocky spine of Mary's Rock to its end; some fun rock scrambling past the summit will put you back on the Appalachian Trail, which you can follow north for a tenth of a mile back to the viewpoint. I certainly recommend doing this if you're physically capable of doing it- the scrambling here is easily as good as that at Bearfence and provides views that are just as good, too. You can also find a tiny rock cave and all sorts of other fun things. Be careful, though, as there are steep dropoffs to the west.

    View south from Mary's Rock View from Mary's Rock
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    Mary's Rock via Meadow Spring

    by chewy3326 Updated Dec 9, 2011

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    For some of the best views in Shenandoah National Park, hike the moderate trail up Mary's Rock. From the Meadows Spring Trailhead, walk across Skyline Drive and head south a little bit to a wooden sign reading "no fires." From there, the blue-blazed trail starts and heads uphill. In the first section, there are many switchbacks, and parts of the trail are somewhat steep. At one point the trail passes the ruins of a cabin. After 0.7 miles, the trail meets up with the white-blazed Appalachian Trail. Turn right at the trail junction and the trail will soon reach the ridgetop and level out. Along this stretch, there will be many large rocks to your left where you can walk out to a great view; but don't mistake these for Mary's Rock. Soon afterward the trail passes a large pile of rocks and goes downhill for stretch. At 0.6 miles past the first junction, the Appalachian Trail makes a right turn. Take the left fork, which leads .1 mile through wildflowers to a viewpoint on Mary's Rock. The round-trip for this hike is 2.9 miles, and takes about 2.5 hours (you'll want to spend half an hour at the top, unless it's really hot or hazy). The trail gains 830 feet of elevation.

    View from Mary's Rock
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    Bear Den Mountain

    by chewy3326 Written Dec 7, 2011

    A short 1.2-mile round trip stretch of the Appalachian Trail leads from grassy Beagle Gap to the summit of Bear Den Mountain. This trail has a decent amount of views, but also has plenty of human-related artifacts, so it's not the best place to escape into the natural world. Nevertheless, it's a worthwhile jaunt, as the summit of Bear Den gives a unique view of Humpback Mt and the Blue Ridge peaks south of the Rockfish Gap.

    From Beagle Gap, the the trail cuts across a mowed grassy pasture before entering the forest and climbing gently; about a third of a mile from the trailhead, a spur trail cuts off to the left and enters a former pasture land. This spur trail gives some huge views of the Piedmont, as well as the summit of Bear Den and its radio towers. At the summit itself, there are the large and unsightly radio towers, but if you walk around a bit you'll also find a couple of tractor seats stuck in the ground, and a service road that leads to a decent view of Humpback. This view is fairly unique- there are few peaks with views to the south in this part of the park, so this is a view that you'll struggle to find elsewhere. On the return to the trailhead, you'll see the bare top of Little Calf Mountain across Beagle Gap.

    View south from Bear Den Tractor seats at Bear Den
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    Waterfall on Dry Run

    by chewy3326 Written Nov 25, 2011

    I'll spill another Shenandoah secret. This waterfall is fairly remote and unknown because no trail leads to it. Getting to this waterfall requires some nasty bushwacking- possibly a couple stream crossings, plenty of working through thorns and low branches, the potential for poison ivy and rattlesnakes during the summer, and a very steep, slippery drop into the bowl surrounding the waterfall at the end of the hike. So this is only for experienced hikers and people who have become fairly familiar with Shenandoah. If you get to it though, the reward is one of the park's prettiest waterfalls: at least a 60-foot drop into a bowl surrounded by low cliffs. There are few if any unobstructed views of the entire falls, but that's part of the charm of the place: knowing that you're in an incredibly beautiful part of Shenandoah where few things, if anything, have been altered by humans.

    How to get there? Well, it's off the Dry Run Fire Road and marked on most topographic maps- so if you want to see this hidden gem, you'll have to find your own route! Once again, this is only for experienced hikers!

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