Shenandoah National Park in Northwest Virginia sits in the Blue Ridge Mountains and runs along a north-south axis. On the western side of the park lies the Shenandoah River and its broad valley. On the eastern end you’ll find the Piedmont region of Virginia.
It’s the perfect time to start planning a trip to any of these spectacular Shenandoah National Park camping options. And we promise, this park is sure to please. Shenandoah is one of the jewels of the national park system. Outdoors lovers, naturalists, and history buffs will not be disappointed by the gorgeous vistas and abundant wildlife in this eastern park.
The Best Shenandoah National Park Hikes
One of the biggest attractions in the park is the main road, named Skyline Drive. Hawksbill Mountain is the park’s highest peak at a little over 4,000 feet tall. Around 40% of the park—just under 80,000 acres—is designated as wilderness by the National Wilderness Preservation System.
From the stark wilderness of the southern district, the crashing cascade of Overall Runs Falls, to the luxury of the Skyland Lodge—Shenandoah shines as an outdoor destination. And you’re able to catch the best Blue Ridge Mountains sights while you’re on any one of these Shenandoah National Park hikes.
The northern district of this park, which includes the tallest waterfall and the serene Fox Hollow Trail, has something for everyone. The northern part of Shenandoah covers the Front Royal Entrance Station to the Thorton Gap Entrance Station on U.S. Route 211.
Elkwater Wayside provides sundries as well as some hot food. Facilities are generally open from spring until fall and closed for winter. Mathews Arm Campground is the only camping area in this part of the park.
Fox Hollow Hike combines the natural splendor of the Blue Ridge Mountains with the historical homestead of the Fox family, who used to call this part of the park home.
To hike Fox Hollow, start at the trailhead located across Skyline Drive from the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center. The trail loops around 1.2 miles and is relatively level with an elevation gain of 310 feet. It weaves through the forest, past rock walls and the Fox family cemetery.
Overall Run Falls is the highest cascade in the park. From Mathews Arm Campground registration area, take Traces Trail to the yellow blazes of Mathews Arm trail, which leads to the falls in 2.6 miles. After viewing the falls, circle back to complete the full 5.1 miles of the loop.
Traversing the upper falls to the lower falls and back puts the elevation gain at 1,291 feet, but the view is well worth it.
The central district of Shenandoah National Park has it all, from short excursions into the forest to more challenging hikes to breathtaking peaks and astounding cascades.
This district covers from Route 211 at the Thorton Gap entrance to the Swift Gap Entrance Station. Facilities are generally open from spring to fall, but it’s always wise to check the weather and trail conditions before visiting.
There are a lot of dining options at Big Meadows Lodge and Skyland Resort. Plus, you can also choose from either the Lewis Mountain Campground or the Big Meadows Campground.
Stony Man Mountain is one of the icons of Shenandoah National Park and is very accessible, via a 1.6-mile hike. It is relatively level at only 450 feet of elevation gain. Moreover, it is classified as an easy hike, so kids with any amount of hiking experience should be able to manage it. Also, The Passamaquoddy Trail from the Stony Man parking lot loops around the mountain.
Mary’s Rock, classified as moderately difficult, takes hikers through the forest to a stark rocky outcrop with extensive views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the plains beyond.
Follow the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) south out of the Panorama parking lot on a short connector trail and look for signs to Mary’s Rock. The loop is 2.9 miles long from start to finish, and the elevation gain is a hefty 1,210 feet to the peak.
The southern part of the park is the most remote and has hikes that span the gamut of abilities. Loft Mountain Wayside sells supplies to visitors and camping areas include Loft Mountain campground and Dundo Group campground.
Blackrock Summit is the easiest hike in this district at just 1 mile long and 175 feet of elevation gain. Although not the most difficult, it does offer some spectacular views from a steep angular slope that hikers will pass just a short distance from the trailhead. It’s also included in the Kids in Parks Program, and has been labeled as doable for children with some hiking experience.
The trail starts at mile marker 84.4 on Skyline Drive, at the Blackrock parking lot. The Appalachian Trail southward takes you to a post. Make a right turn to head into a boulder field with stunning views. You may even be lucky enough to run into some white-tailed deer and a host of birdlife. This trail is open year-round.
Riprap-Wildcat Ridge Loop is the most challenging hike in this region. And for any hikers that are willing to take on that challenge, they’ll be rewarded with spectacular views, cascades, and interesting rock formations along the route. This 9.8-mile loop includes 2,365 feet of elevation, so it’s not for the faint of heart. Start at either Riprap parking at Skyline Drive mile marker 90, or at Wildcat Ridge parking at mile 92.1. Either way, come prepared and ready for a serious hiking challenge.