10 Best Hikes in Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park lies draped along the top of a section of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The park is perhaps most well-known for the Skyline Drive, the road that runs the entire length of the park, along the top of the ridge. 

There are certainly great views from the scenic drive’s overlooks, but to really get the most of the park, you need to hit the Shenandoah National Park trails. 

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Most of the best Shenandoah hikes fall into two general types – hikes to see waterfalls and hikes to overlooks with breathtaking views over the mountains and valleys of the national park and beyond.  So, I’ve included the best hikes with views in Shenandoah National Park as well as some of the best waterfall hikes in Shenandoah National Park.   

The other way of thinking about these top hikes in Shenandoah National Park is to think about where they are located.  Broadly, there are the best hikes on Skyline Drive (which is most of them, since Skyline Drive is the focal point for the park) and top Shenandoah hikes in other areas of the park. 

Before we look at each of the Shenandoah National Park best hikes, a few practical things to know.

What to Pack for Hiking at Shenandoah National Park 

There are some things I recommend taking with you. 

  1. The best Shenandoah day hikes are hilly, so hiking poles are essential – they really make a difference.  I find they save a lot of stress on my knees when going downhill and help pull me uphill.   I use these Foxelli ones – they are light, grippy, and shock absorbent.   
  1. A good day hike pack is also essential.  I always take snacks, an extra layer of clothing on case the weather changes suddenly and, of course water. I have this Osprey daypack which I love.  It comes in 24-, 34-, 36- and 50-liter sizes.  The 24-liter is fine for the hikes here.  There’s also a women’s version here.  
  1. Water, of course.  I love this hydroflask. Always take more water than you think you’ll need – especially for the longer and more strenuous hikes. 
  1. The other thing I really recommend not skimping on is a good pair of hiking boots or shoes.  I’ve written a detailed Guide to the Best Hiking Shoes and Boots if you’re looking to buy some.  My top picks are Salomon Men’s X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots and Salomon Women’s X Ultra 3 MID GTX W Hiking Boots
  1. There are a few extra things you should take.  Read my Day Hike Essentials list for a full list.
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Best Hikes in Shenandoah National Park

Tips for the Shenandoah Hiking Trails

Before we look at the best hiking trails Shenandoah National Park has, a few tips and things to know: 

  1. The trailheads are not always marked very well from the road, so you should make sure you know exactly where they are.  Read my list of Skyline Drive Mile Markers and check the location for each hike below.  
  1. Parking is limited at the trailheads and the parking lots can fill, especially on weekends.  When I was there midweek at peak fall time in October, I always managed to get a parking space, but this can be very different on the weekends.  If you’re there on weekends, I recommend getting there early.  
  1. Take water and snacks
  1. Don’t rely on cell service; it is very patchy in the park.  Download or have a printed Shenandoah hiking map. National Geographic has a set of topographic trail maps you can buy here.  
  1. Wear sturdy hiking boots or shoes.  The terrain is often uneven and solid hiking shoes/ boots make a huge difference.  If you need to get some, be sure to read my Guide to the Best Hiking Shoes/ Boots.  
  1. Take binoculars.  I always take binoculars when I’m hiking.  You never know when you’ll see birds, animals or geographic features in the distance that are interesting to see in more detail. I think they’re so important that I wrote a Guide to Finding the Best Binoculars For the Money.  Be sure to check it out. 
  1. Make sure you have everything you need.  Check my Day Hike Packing List to make sure you don’t end up on a hike without the essentials. This includes a sunhat and sunscreen. If you’re hiking with a baby, you can carry them in a baby hiking carrier

The Best Skyline Drive Hikes 

The first nine hikes described here are all Skyline Drive hiking trails. They are easy to access and to combine with a stay in one of the lodges or campgrounds inside the park and a drive along the scenic road.  Hikes that are not on Skyline Drive need to be accessed from direct routes to the trailhead from outside the park. 

Many of these hikes are along part of the Appalachian Trail.  Shenandoah National Park lies right across the Appalachian Trail and while hiking every day for eight months may not be appealing, walking on part of this legendary through-trail is lots of fun.  


Let’s further divide the best hikes along Skyline Drive into those with views and those to waterfalls. 

Best Hikes – Shenandoah National Park – With Views

Most of the best day hikes Shenandoah National Park has end up at viewpoints with expansive views over the valley and/ or along the Blue Ridge Mountains. While it is possible to see many vistas from the overlooks along Skyline Drive, all the views here that you need to hike to are even better! 

1. Stony Man Trail, Shenandoah 

Bended roads surrounded by mountains of trees with colorful leaves under blue skies in Shenandoah National Park
View from Stony Man

Length: 1.6-mile round trip | 1 hour 

Difficulty: Easy 

Trailhead: Stony Man parking area (Mile 41.7). To get to the parking area, take the turnoff to Skyland – it is not right off Skyline Drive. There is a good-sized parking lot, though it can still fill in the busy times.  

This is a short, easy trail, but nonetheless is some of the best hiking in Shenandoah National Park.  From the trailhead, you’ll walk along a section of the Appalachian Trail (AT).   

At the four-way intersection, the AT turns left, but you should continue straight following the blue blazes on the Stony Man Trail.  When you come to a fork in the path, take the right trail to loop around.  There is some elevation change in this section. You will eventually come to a four-way intersection.  Go right to end at the summit.   

From the summit there are wonderful views down the length of the park and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the north.  You can also see a section of Skyline Drive winding its way north.  If you look carefully, you may even see hikers at Little Stony Man. 

When you’re ready to return, go right at the four-way intersection to get to another viewpoint looking southwards. Then retrace your steps back to the trailhead.  

Pro Tips:  

Pets are not allowed on this trail.


  • Incredible views from the summit 
  • Hike part of the Appalachian Trail 

2. Hawksbill Loop, Shenandoah 

Rocks and mountains of trees with colorful leaves under blue skies in Shenandoah National Park
View from Hawksbill

Length: 2.9-mile loop | 2 hours 

Difficulty: Moderate 

Trailhead: North end of the Hawksbill Gap Parking (Mile 45.5) 

Hawksbill Mountain is the highest peak in Shenandoah National Park.  There are several ways to get there, but this moderate loop is the most interesting and consequently one of the best hikes at Shenandoah National Park.   

From the Hawksbill Gap Trailhead, take a short connector trail to the Appalachian Trail (AT).  Turn left at the trail post and walk along the Appalachian Trail until you get to the Salamander Trail. This section of the AT climbs steadily but gradually and crosses a couple of rock slides where there are opening in the trees with partial views.    

Take the left fork to join the Salamander Trail, which continues to climb steadily.  At the next junction, you’ll reach the easy and wide Upper Hawksbill Trail.  Turn left towards the summit.  Soon after, you come to another junction – go left again for the short side spur to the summit.   

You’ll soon come to the Byrds Nest 2 Shelter, a day use hut that can provide some shelter in inclement weather.  Continue past it to get to the summit, where there are wonderful 300° views.  

Take the short summit trail back to the main trail and turn left to follow the steep blue-blazed Lower Hawksbill Trail back to the trailhead.   

Pro Tips:  

Take the loop in a counterclockwise direction for a more gradual elevation change.   

There is an easier (but less interesting) alternative if your goal is just to get to the summit.  You can take the Upper Hawksbill Trail from the Upper Hawksbill Trail Parking (Mile 46.5).  This is an easy 2.1-mile round trip out-and-back trail (1.5 hours). 

Pets (on a leash no longer than 6 feet) are permitted on this trail. 

The parking space at Hawksbill Gap is small, but there is a larger parking area across the road at the trailhead for the Cedar Run Trail that you can also use. 


  • Incredible views from the summit 
  • Hike part of the Appalachian Trail 

3. Mary’s Rock Summit, Shenandoah 

Two huge Rocks and behind are mountains of trees with colorful leaves under blue skies in Shenandoah National Park
View from Mary’s Rock

Length: 3.7-mile round trip | 3.5 hours 

Difficulty: Moderate 

Trailhead: The back of the Panorama parking area (Mile 31.6) 

Mary’s Rock is most famous for the tunnel carved through part of the mountain here, limiting the size of vehicles that can travel the full length of Skyline Drive.  However, Mary’s Rock is also one of the top Shenandoah National Park hikes with incredible views.   

From the far end of the parking lot, a short connector trail takes you to the Appalachian Trail.  Turn left and follow the trail for most of the hike as it skirts around edge of mountain.  There are occasional views along the way.  There are few switchbacks, but nothing too steep.   

Near the top, take a short side spur to the right to the summit. From the summit, there are wonderful views of Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains.   

Return the way you came back to the trailhead. 

Pro Tips:  

An alternate route to the summit leaves from the Meadow Spring parking area at Mile 33.5. 

There is a good-sized parking lot and bathrooms at Panorama. 

Pets (on a leash no longer than 6 feet) are permitted on this trail. 


  • Incredible views from the summit 
  • Hike part of the Appalachian Trail 

4. Bearfence Mountain Rock Scramble, Shenandoah 

A man standing on the rock and behind a mountain full of trees and a blue sky in Shenandoah National Park
Top of Bearfence Mountain

Length: 1.4-miles round trip | 1 hour 

Difficulty: Moderate 

Trailhead: Bearfence parking area (Mile 56.4) 

A fairly easy rock scramble and amazing 360° views make this one of the most popular trails in the park. 

From the parking lot, cross the road and head up the trail.  Look carefully for a post indicating a trail off to the right (you can take this for a shorter and easier hike).   

Keep going straight and you’ll soon find yourself clambering up rock scramble.  This is widely considered some of the best hiking Shenandoah National Park has.  The rock scramble has one short open section with a steep drop off in a vertical scramble, but overall, this is not the scariest rock scramble you can find. 

From the top, there are 360° views over the national park and surrounding valleys.   

Continue along the trail, which loops back to the right along a short connector trail, going along the Appalachian Trail for part of the way.  For a longer loop, you can keep going instead of taking the first connector trail.  You’ll then come to Bearfence Viewpoint, where there is a 180° view.  This trail soon hits the Appalachian Trail, which you can take back to the parking lot.  

Pro Tips:  

An easier alternative takes you to Bearfence Viewpoint with a 180° view.  If you choose to do that trail, turn right at the first trail marker post then left at the connector trail then right again to a 180° view. 

If you’re afraid of heights, or if it is wet or ice, skip the rock scramble and do the easier Bearfence Viewpoint hike instead, as the rock scramble can be dangerous in wet conditions.  

The parking area is quite small, especially considering how popular this hike is, so get there early. 


  • Rock scramble. 
  • 360-degree views over the national park and Shenandoah Valley. 
  • Hike part of the Appalachian Trail 

5. Blackrock Summit, Shenandoah 

Mountains full of trees with colorful leaves in Shenandoah National Park
View from Blackrock

Length: 1-mile loop | 45 minutes 

Difficulty: Easy 

Trailhead: Blackrock Summit Parking (Mile 84.4) 

This short trail is one of the Shenandoah best hikes for families.  The easy hike ends at a viewpoint on top of a rocky slope with amazing views of the Shenandoah Valley, Massanutten Mountain, and the Blue Ridge Mountains.  

From the Blackrock parking area, follow the Appalachian Trail south, then turn right at the first trail marker post until you get to a boulder field.  Here, you can see patterns in the rocks and enjoy stunning views over Shenandoah Valley.  Turn left at the next intersection and follow the Blackrock Hut Road-Trayfoot Mountain Trail back to the parking lot.  This is one of the best hikes in southern Shenandoah National Park. 

Pro Tips:  

This hike is a designated TRACK Trail.  Informational signs and a brochure help make this trail a fun adventure for kids. Visit the Kids in Parks website for more information. 


  • Great views 
  • Family-friendly TRACK trail 
  • Hike part of the Appalachian Trail 

6. Dickey Ridge Loop, Shenandoah 

A chair under the huge tree surrounded by fog in Shenandoah National Park
Near Dickey Ridge Visitor Center

Length: 4.9 miles loop | 3 hours 

Difficulty: Moderate 

Trailhead: Dickey Ridge Visitor Center 

If you’re looking for the best hikes in northern Shenandoah National Park, this figure ‘8’ loop trail is one of the best hikes near Front Royal, VA. It takes you past an old farm cemetery and a barn from the historic Snead Farmstead to a lovely view of the Browntown Valley. 

From the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center, cross Skyline Drive and go left to walk through a meadow along the Dickey Ridge Trail.  Continue along the Fox Hollow Trail through a forest until it reconnects with the Dickey Ridge Trail until you reach the Snead Farm Loop Trail.  This part of the loop takes you to the historic Snead Farm.  

Back on the Dickey Ridge Trail, you’ll reach the Browntown Valley overlook, where there are wonderful views. The trail then loops continues back to the Visitor Center and the Dickey Ridge picnic area. 

Pro Tip:  

Dogs are not allowed on the Fox Hollow Front Royal hiking trail.  You can skip this section by turning right instead of left at the intersection after you cross Skyline Drive and skip the ‘left’ side of the figure ‘8’.    


  • Historic farms 
  • View of Browntown Valley 

7. The Point Overlook, Shenandoah 

A man is sitting on a huge rock, and in front of Him are trees and mountains in Shenandoah National Park
View from Point Overlook

Length: 0.1 miles | 5 minutes 

Difficulty: Easy 

Trailhead: The Point Overlook (Mile 55.3) 

At about 0.1 mile, this barely rates as a Shenandoah National Park hike.  However, most people visit this overlook without realizing that there is, in fact, a short trail that leads down from the official overlook to a small rocky ledge where you can sit and enjoy much better views than those from the overlook above. The trail is fairly steep, but short.  

Pro Tip:  

Look for a break in the wall to find the start of the trail.


  • Views 

READ MORE: 25 best overlooks on Skyline Drive 

Best Waterfall Hikes – Shenandoah National Park 

Shenandoah National Park is famous for the spectacular views over the surrounding valleys, the beautiful woods of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Skyline Drive and its waterfalls.   

You need to hike to reach all of the waterfalls. For even more information about hiking Shenandoah waterfalls, read my Guide To The Best Waterfalls in Shenandoah

8. Dark Hollow Falls, Shenandoah

Water Falls surrounded by rocks and tress in Shenandoah National Park
Dark Hollow Falls

Length: 1.4-mile loop | 1 hour 15 minutes 

Difficulty: Moderate 

Trailhead: Dark Hollow Falls Parking (Mile 50.7) 

This is one of the most popular hikes in Shenandoah National Park. A steady downhill trail takes you to one of the waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park that doesn’t rely on snowmelt or recent rain to flow. 

Dark Hollow Falls is a beautiful 70-foot waterfall that cascades over several tiers, splitting in the bottom section.  It ends in a large, calm – and picturesque – pool. 

You first arrive at the brink of the falls, but it is worth continuing another 1,000 feet or so down a steep, narrow path to the bottom, where you’ll get the classic view of the falls.   

The return trip is entirely uphill, so take it slow.  For the main part, this is one of the easy waterfall hikes in Shenandoah National Park, but the return trip does make it more challenging.  

Pro Tip:  

The parking lot is quite large and is at the bottom of the hill soon after Big Meadow Campground 


  • Waterfall 
  • Pretty walk 

9. Lewis Falls, Shenandoah

Lewis Falls Shenandoah National Park
Lewis Falls [Photo Credit: NPS]

Length: 3.3-mile loop | 4 hours 

Difficulty: Moderate 

Trailhead: Big Meadows amphitheater parking area (Mile 51) 

This is one of the best hikes near Big Meadows Campground and one of the best hiking trails in Shenandoah National Park if you’re looking for a moderate waterfall trail.  

From the Big Meadows amphitheater parking area, you’ll start on a short section of the Appalachian Trail before turning right on to the Lewis Falls Trail. Follow the blue blazes down a steep, rocky trail until you get to a viewing platform where you have clear views of the 81-foot Lewis Falls.  These are the fourth-tallest falls in Shenandoah National Park.  

To finish the loop, return back to the main trail (which is less steep for the rest of the way) and take the Appalachian Trail back to the start.  

Pro Tip:  

The descent is steep and rocky, so using trekking poles is really helpful.  I use these Foxelli ones


  • Waterfall 
  • Hike part of the Appalachian Trail 

Best Hike in Shenandoah National Park Not On The Skyline Drive 

While most of the hikes here are along Skyline Drive, there is one classic Shenandoah hike that can only be reached from outside the national park.   

10. Old Rag Mountain Circuit, Shenandoah 

Pile of rocks, and behind are mountains of trees with colorful leaves under blue skies in Shenandoah National Park
View from Old Rag

Length: 9.4-mile loop | 7 – 8 hours 

Difficulty: Very Strenuous.  This is arguably the hardest hike in Shenandoah National Park. 

Trailhead: Old Rag parking area 

The Old Rag hike (Shenandoah) is one of the hardest hikes in Shenandoah National Park, but also one of the most rewarding.  

Hiking to Old Rag is an all-day adventure.  The trail is long and steep, but it includes adventurous rock scrambles and rewards you with absolutely stunning 360° views from the top. 

For the classic circuit, enter the park at the Old Rag parking area via Nethers.  Take the blue-blazed Ridge Trail, which switchbacks a little as it climbs towards the summit.   

Near the top, there is a challenging rock scramble.  You will then get to the summit where you can enjoy views second to none.  There is a Byrds Nest 1 Shelter – a day use hut to shelter from inclement weather. 

To return, descend along the Saddle Trail and the yellow-blazed Weakley Hollow Fire Road. 

Pro Tips:  

From March 1 – November 30, you need to get a day-use ticket for Old Rag (in advance).  This is in addition to a park entrance pass.  Visit the NPS Old Rag ticket page for more details.  

There are several routes to Old Rag.  Alternatives include via Berry Hollow from the Whiteoak Entrance or a longer route via Nicholson Hollow. 

If you hike Old Rag in winter, be sure to have microspikes.  I love my Kahtoola Micro Spikes. Check them out here if you’re interested in getting some too or read my Guide to The Best Microspikes for Hiking for more options. 

At the main Old Rag parking area, there are two main parking lots and an overflow area a little down the road.  


  • Rock scrambles 
  • Amazing views 

Shenandoah National Park Hiking Map

Travel Insurancefor Shenandoah Trails 

When you hike the best trails in Shenandoah National Park, I strongly recommend having travel insurance for your trip.  Whether it is for unexpected trip cancelation, emergency repatriation or medial help, or to replace something lost or stolen, having travel insurance will give you piece of mind and help you when you need it.   

A great insurance option is Travelex.  It has coverage for all you’ll need. You can swap this link for  either compare Travel Insurance plans here or get a quote right now:

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Enjoy the best trails Shenandoah has! 

What are your favorite Shenandoah National Park hiking trails?  Best choices can be different for everyone, and I’d love to hear what your is.  Join my private Facebook group National Parks Collectors and comment and let me know (you can also pick up extra planning tips, share your photos and stories with other National Park lovers and more).

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About the Author

James Ian Yosemite

James Ian is a national park, camping and hiking expert.

He has dedicated his life to travel, visiting more than 80 countries, all 7 continents and all of the main national parks in the United States. With over 35 years experience in the travel industry, James has worked on cruise ships, at resorts and hotels, and as a travel planner who’s helped hundreds of people plan successful trips to US national parks. 

Based on his experience visiting our national parks multiple times, in-depth research and expertise as a travel planner, James has published detailed itineraries for most of the major national parks in the US. These itineraries, as well as in-depth park guides, comprehensive camping and hiking gear reviews and buying guides, and helpful packing lists and gift guides will help you have your own incredible trip to US national parks without stress and hassle.

As a national park expert, James has contributed to many publications, including Time Business News, Savoteur, Best Trip, and Wired.

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