The 7 Best Hikes In Shenandoah National Park

Explore some of the best trails in the South.

By: Elyse Clark
February 16, 2016

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Shenandoah National Park is Virginia’s only national park and encompasses about 300 square miles of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. With over 500 miles of hiking trails (101 miles of the Appalachian Trail are in the park), 10+ waterfalls, and scenic rocky summits with 360 degree views, there is no shortage of places to explore in Shenandoah National Park. Skyline Drive, which is the 105 mile-long road stretching from north to south with 75 scenic overlooks, will be the starting point for most of the day hikes in the park.

1. Old Rag Mountain

Photo: Elyse Clark

Arguably the most beautiful and difficult hike in the entire park, this 9 mile circuit offers an elevation gain of 2500’ and a difficult rock scramble for over a mile. Don’t let the elevation gain or rock scramble deter you, the 360 degree views from the summit are well worth the effort. Learn more.

2. Dark Hollow Falls

Photo: Elyse Clark

This is a short 1.4 mile out and back hike to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the park. This 70’ waterfall can be viewed from multiple viewpoints on the trail. Keep in mind that like most trails to waterfalls in Shenandoah, the trail descends very steeply and quickly, so you must climb back up on your way out. Learn more.

3. Blackrock Summit

Photo: Sarah Giek

Located in the South District of Shenandoah, Blackrock Summit is the easiest hike on this list, with very little elevation gain. At the summit you will find a field full of large, blocky boulders. Take some time to explore the boulders until sunset, where the expansive views from the summit are perfect for sunset photography. Learn more.

4. Compton Peak

Photo: Elyse Clark

At Compton Peak you will hike two short spur trails for a total of 2.4 miles round trip. One spur trail has beautiful views of the northern section of Shenandoah National Park, and the second spur trail leads to unique geologic features called columnar basalts, which formed as an ancient lava flow cooled and condensed. Learn more.

5. Bearfence Mountain

Photo: Elyse Clark

This short loop of 1.2 miles has an exciting rock scramble leading to some of the best views in the park. The trail is lined with wildflowers in the spring and summer, but the views from the summit are unrivaled in the fall. Learn more.

6. Whiteoak Canyon

Photo: Christin Healey

Whiteoak Canyon is one of the most popular hikes in Shenandoah National Park, and for good reason. This 4.8 mile round trip hike descends from the Skyline Drive 1200’ to a beautiful 86’ waterfall. Adding an additional 2.7 miles enables you to see five other cascades and to find a good swimming hole to cool off in during the summer. Learn more.

7. Hawksbill Mountain

Photo: Elyse Clark

Hawksbill Mountain is the tallest point in Shenandoah National Park at 4050’. This moderate hike has beautiful 270 degree views, and is the perfect spot to catch a sunset in the park without having to worry about a long hike back down to your car. Learn more.

Cover photo: Elyse Clark

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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.