Shenandoah National Park may not be the most well-known of the national parks in America, but it certainly is worth visiting. Situated in the state of Virginia, this park has an unusually long and narrow shape. This is because the park protects a section of the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which is traversed by the absolutely spectacular Skyline Drive. In addition to driving this phenomenal road, there are a couple of other highly popular things to do, including doing some of the scenic Shenandoah National Park day hikes.
The park is crisscrossed by more than 500 miles (800 kilometers) of hiking trails, which includes just over 100 miles (160 kilometers) of the iconic Appalachian Trail. The vast majority of the trailheads lie off Skyline Drive. Some trails lead to a viewport or beautiful waterfall, while other runs down into the valley or deep into the wilderness—40% of the park’s surface area is designated as wilderness.
Hiking is one of the most popular activities in Shenandoah National Park, along with driving, cycling and wildlife watching. I will write many more posts about this particular national park in the upcoming weeks and months, but let’s start off with 5 Shenandoah National Park day hikes.
5 Great Shenandoah National Park Day Hikes
Hawksbill Mountain Summit
The Hawksbill Mountain Summit Trail climbs up to the peak of Shenandoah National Park’s highest mountain at 4,049 feet (1,234 meters). This fabulous hike can be done as a 1.7-mile (2.7-kilometer) there-and-back hike or a 2.9-mile (4.7-kilometer) loop hike. The trail is lined with rare red spruce, balsam firs and mountain ash. The panoramic views from the top are unforgettable.
Dark Hollow Falls
Although it is only a 1.4-mile (2.3-kilometer) roundtrip from the trailhead off the Skyline Drive, the rocky terrain could make this a more challenging hike than you’d expect. The trail ends at the base of Dark Hollow Falls, a 70-foot (21-meter) series of cascades. Black bears and timber rattlesnakes are occasionally spotted along this trail.
The Overall Run Trail is one of the greatest Shenandoah National Park day hikes, leading to the park’s tallest waterfall. These falls are 93 feet high (28 meters). A 5.1-mile (8.2-kilometer) roundtrip, this superb hike is strenuous at times, but so, so rewarding. The views of the valley are extraordinary.
A 2.4-mile (3.9-kilometer) so-called T-hike, the Compton Peak Trail leads to both the western and eastern peaks of Compton Peak. The views from both peaks are exceptional and look out over a section of the Shenandoah River and a part of the Skyline Drive.
1.6 miles (2.6 kilometers) long, The Stony Man Trail is one of the most scenic Shenandoah National Park day hikes. This is a fairly easy hike to a rocky ledge, but that doesn’t mean that the views are inferior. In contrary; they are nothing short of spectacular.