Home to a significant section of the Blue Ridge Parkway and beautiful Shenandoah National Park, Virginia is a haven for hiking enthusiasts. The iconic Blue Ridge Mountains cut across the state’s western part, while other regions are home to wonderful state parks and other natural areas. If you’re spending some time in Virginia and you’re looking for something to do besides visiting Civil War battlefields, beautiful cities and historic sites, consider strapping on some sturdy shoes and doing some of the day hikes in Virginia listed below.
A Dozen Wonderful Day Hikes in Virginia
A pretty easy and short hike near the northern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway is the Humpbacks Rocks. It doesn’t take much longer than 30 minutes to reach the top, a prominent rocky outcrop that offers amazing (sunset) views.
The highest mountain in Shenandoah National Park, Hawksbill Mountain is reached along a number of trails, ranging from a 1.7-mile out-and-back trip to a 2.9-mile circuit. The summit offers one of the most jaw-dropping views in the national park.
Arguably the greatest collection of waterfalls in Virginia, Crabtree Falls is the tallest cascade east of the Mississippi River. The trailhead lies on the Crabtree Falls Highway in Nelson County. While the falls lie only a few hundred feet from the trailhead, hikers are encouraged to continue on for about 3 miles for some spectacular overlooks.
Rock Castle Gorge
Rock Castle Gorge makes for a magnificent 10.3-mile round trip that begins at milepost 167 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The loop consists of a 3-mile descent into the lush gorge and a 7.3-mile climb back out of it.
Old Rag Mountain
The hike up Old Rag Mountain is a full-day outing, an 8.8-mile challenge in the beautiful wilderness of Shenandoah National Park. The trailhead lies on Route 600 close to Nethers. It’s considered to be one of the greatest day hikes in Virginia, even on the entire U.S. east coast.
Overall Run Falls
The tallest waterfall in Shenandoah National Park, Overall Run Falls is accessed along a trail that runs through pristine wilderness, is lined with swimming holes, and offers regular black bear sightings. A popular hike is the Beecher Ridge-Overall Run loop, which is 8.5 miles long.
The most photographed spot on the entire Appalachian Trail, McAfee Knob is a protruding rocky ledge offering truly phenomenal vistas—it also makes for a great spot for posed photographs. The hike is rather strenuous, but there is plenty of fine scenery to be enjoyed on the way.
Whiteoak Canyon is possibly one of the most rewarding hikes in Shenandoah National Park, the trail running past no fewer than six waterfalls. Dotted with swimming holes, this canyon is a great place for refreshing swims on a scorching hot summer’s day.
The Stony Man Trail starts off the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. It’s a fairly short and definitely pleasant hike—a 1.6-mile loop—but the views are absolutely breathtaking.
This challenging hike in George Washington National Forest features quite a bit of rock scrambling and ends with amazing panoramic views. It is 5.5 miles long and perhaps one of the toughest day hikes in Virginia, but the views are superb.
Spy Rock is reached after a 2-mile hike up the Appalachian Trail starting at the Montebello Fish Hatchery in Nelson County. It is widely considered to be one of the greatest viewpoints in the central Blue Ridge Mountains—its summit offers awe-inspiring 360-degree views.
Peaks of Otter
Peaks of Otter are three mountain peaks—Harkening Hill, Flat Top and Sharp Top—that dominate this area along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s also a historic area, previously noted by Native Americans, naturalists and significant historical people such as Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jefferson. There are picnic areas, wildlife exhibits, information panels and a campground.