Top 10 Things to Do in Shenandoah National Park

Updated on March 28, 2019
ercramer36 profile image

My family and I love to travel and explore new places. We have been blessed to travel across the United States.

Sunset off of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park
Sunset off of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park | Source

For our family vacation in 2017, we drove out to Virginia on a week-long road trip. We spent the first three days in Virginia Beach and another two in the Washington D.C. area. On the final day of our trip, we headed to Shenandoah National Park in western Virginia. It is amazing. There is so much to see and do there. Here is a look at the top 10 things to do in Shenandoah National Park.

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Amazing sunset off of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National ParkAmazing sunset off of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National ParkGreat view from Skyline Drive with the Charlottesville Reservoir down below in Shenandoah National ParkFog off the mountains near Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National ParkSkyline Drive in Shenandoah National ParkView from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National ParkView from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National ParkView from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park
Amazing sunset off of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park
Amazing sunset off of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Amazing sunset off of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park
Amazing sunset off of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Great view from Skyline Drive with the Charlottesville Reservoir down below in Shenandoah National Park
Great view from Skyline Drive with the Charlottesville Reservoir down below in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Fog off the mountains near Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park
Fog off the mountains near Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park
Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park | Source
View from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park
View from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Source
View from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park
View from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park | Source
View from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park
View from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park | Source

1. Drive Skyline Drive

Driving Skyline Drive is incredible. It is 105 miles long and cuts the park in half from north to south. Visitors drive along a mountain ridge kind of like Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park or Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park but nowhere near as high. The four entrance stations (Front Royal Entrance Station, Thornton Gap Entrance Station, Swift Run Gap, and Rockfish Gap Entrance Station) to Skyline Drive cut the park into quarters. There are ample places to pull out and take in the beauty of God's creation. Skyline Drive is home to many of the park's trailheads. Many of the trails connect to the famous Appalachian Trail.

When we were there, we entered the park at the Front Royal Entrance Station and drove the full length of Skyline Drive. We pulled over many times to enjoy the views as well as take a few short hikes. We also pulled over and watched an incredible sunset that was amazing.

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Sunrise overlooking Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National ParkOld Rag Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National ParkOld Rag Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National ParkOld Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National ParkOld Rag Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National ParkOld Rag Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National ParkRidge Trail at Old Rag Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National ParkSign Post of Old Rag Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National ParkParking lot at Old Rag Mountain Trailhead in Shenandoah National Park
Sunrise overlooking Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park
Sunrise overlooking Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Old Rag Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National Park
Old Rag Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Old Rag Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National Park
Old Rag Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park
Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Old Rag Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National Park
Old Rag Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Old Rag Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National Park
Old Rag Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Ridge Trail at Old Rag Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National Park
Ridge Trail at Old Rag Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Sign Post of Old Rag Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National Park
Sign Post of Old Rag Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Parking lot at Old Rag Mountain Trailhead in Shenandoah National Park
Parking lot at Old Rag Mountain Trailhead in Shenandoah National Park | Source

2. Hike to Old Rag Mountain

The Hike to Old Rag Mountain is one of the best hikes in Shenandoah National Park and also one of the most difficult. The trail is a 9-mile loop and climbs over 2,400 feet. The difficulty comes with the challenging rock scramble through narrow passages with some hand over hand climbing required. Hikers that want to avoid the rock scramble can hike the loop counterclockwise and then return the same way. Or choose to keep going and descend over the rock scramble where it may be a little easier. The views are incredible from the summit.

Insider Tips for Hiking to Old Rag Mountain

Allow seven to eight hours to complete the hike. It is best to make this hike during the week because it is usually packed on the weekends when the weather is nice. Visitors who decide to hike on weekends should plan on starting before 7 am. Be sure to take at least two quarts of water per person as dehydration can be an issue on this hike. Also, check the weather as it is dangerous to attempt this hike when there are wet or icy conditions.

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Dark Hollows Falls at Shenandoah National ParkDark Hollows Falls at Shenandoah National ParkDark Hollows Falls at Shenandoah National ParkOwl along the Dark Hollows Falls Trail at Shenandoah National ParkOwl along the Dark Hollows Falls Trail at Shenandoah National ParkOwl along the Dark Hollows Falls Trail at Shenandoah National ParkButterfly by some wildflowers along the Dark Hollows Falls Trail at Shenandoah National ParkDark Hollows Falls Trail at Shenandoah National ParkDark Hollows Falls Trailhead
Dark Hollows Falls at Shenandoah National Park
Dark Hollows Falls at Shenandoah National Park | Source
Dark Hollows Falls at Shenandoah National Park
Dark Hollows Falls at Shenandoah National Park | Source
Dark Hollows Falls at Shenandoah National Park
Dark Hollows Falls at Shenandoah National Park | Source
Owl along the Dark Hollows Falls Trail at Shenandoah National Park
Owl along the Dark Hollows Falls Trail at Shenandoah National Park | Source
Owl along the Dark Hollows Falls Trail at Shenandoah National Park
Owl along the Dark Hollows Falls Trail at Shenandoah National Park | Source
Owl along the Dark Hollows Falls Trail at Shenandoah National Park
Owl along the Dark Hollows Falls Trail at Shenandoah National Park | Source
Butterfly by some wildflowers along the Dark Hollows Falls Trail at Shenandoah National Park
Butterfly by some wildflowers along the Dark Hollows Falls Trail at Shenandoah National Park | Source
Dark Hollows Falls Trail at Shenandoah National Park
Dark Hollows Falls Trail at Shenandoah National Park | Source
Dark Hollows Falls Trailhead
Dark Hollows Falls Trailhead | Source

3. Hike to Dark Hollow Falls

Dark Hollow Falls is a great hike. It is a little less than a mile and a half roundtrip and is beautiful. The trailhead is right off Skyline Drive near mile marker 50.7. The trail descends 440 feet to the base of the falls and is well marked. The falls is a cascade falls and about 70 feet high. The return trip is a little more strenuous because it is uphill on the way back. Dark Hollow Falls is beautiful.

We enjoyed our hike to Dark Hollow Falls. The trail is in the shade and a few degrees cooler than Skyline Drive. The falls were refreshing and well worth a stop. We saw several butterflies among the wildflowers on the trail. The most memorable part of the hike was on the way back when we saw an incredible owl on the side of a tree. It was amazing.

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Bearfence Mountain Sunset at Shenandoah National ParkBearfence Mountain at Shenandoah National ParkBearfence Mountain at Golden Hour int Shenandoah National ParkBearfence Mountain looking west in Shenandoah National ParkBearfence Mountain at Shenandoah National ParkBearfence Mountain at Shenandoah National Park
Bearfence Mountain Sunset at Shenandoah National Park
Bearfence Mountain Sunset at Shenandoah National Park | Source
Bearfence Mountain at Shenandoah National Park
Bearfence Mountain at Shenandoah National Park | Source
Bearfence Mountain at Golden Hour int Shenandoah National Park
Bearfence Mountain at Golden Hour int Shenandoah National Park | Source
Bearfence Mountain looking west in Shenandoah National Park
Bearfence Mountain looking west in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Bearfence Mountain at Shenandoah National Park
Bearfence Mountain at Shenandoah National Park | Source
Bearfence Mountain at Shenandoah National Park
Bearfence Mountain at Shenandoah National Park | Source

4. Hike to the Top of Bearfence Mountain

The hike to Bearfence Mountain is beautiful especially during the peak of fall colors. It is a 1.2-mile loop trail with an elevation change of 380 feet. There is a rock scramble after the first quarter mile, but it is not too difficult to pass. After that, the trail is an easy hike the rest of the way. The Bearfence Mountain Trail meets up with the Appalachian Trail and offers incredible views. I highly recommend this quick hike.

5. Hike the Appalachian Trail

Hiking on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park is an adventure. The portion that runs through the park is 101 miles long. The Appalachian Trail first intersects with Skyline Drive at Compton Gap (2,415 feet) and generally follows it through the rest of the park and exits the park at Waynesboro, Virginia. Many trails in Shenandoah National Park intersect the Appalachian Trail so hikers can choose the portion that they most want to hike. The Appalachian Trail offers visitors incredible viewpoints and access to wildlife in their natural habitat. I cannot recommend it enough.

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Sunset at Sklyand in Shenandoah National ParkView from Sklyand in Shenandoah National ParkView from Sklyand in Shenandoah National ParkView from Sklyand in Shenandoah National ParkView from Skyland in Shenandoah National ParkBlack bear near Skyland in Shenandoah National ParkBlack bear near Skyland in Shenandoah National ParkCabin at Skyland Report in Shenandoah National ParkSkyland Drive in Shenandoah National Park
Sunset at Sklyand in Shenandoah National Park
Sunset at Sklyand in Shenandoah National Park | Source
View from Sklyand in Shenandoah National Park
View from Sklyand in Shenandoah National Park | Source
View from Sklyand in Shenandoah National Park
View from Sklyand in Shenandoah National Park | Source
View from Sklyand in Shenandoah National Park
View from Sklyand in Shenandoah National Park | Source
View from Skyland in Shenandoah National Park
View from Skyland in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Black bear near Skyland in Shenandoah National Park
Black bear near Skyland in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Black bear near Skyland in Shenandoah National Park
Black bear near Skyland in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Cabin at Skyland Report in Shenandoah National Park
Cabin at Skyland Report in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Skyland Drive in Shenandoah National Park
Skyland Drive in Shenandoah National Park | Source

6. Visit Skyland

Visiting the Skyland area in Shenandoah National Park is a must. It is the highest elevation (3,680 feet) on Skyline Drive and offers incredible views, lodging, a gift shop, and more. I highly recommend checking this area out.

Go Horseback Riding at Skyland

Skyland is a great place to go horseback riding. They offer rides daily that leave from the Skyland Stables, which is near mile marker 42.5 on Skyline Drive. Call 877-847-1919 for reservations as they are required.

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Rose River Falls in Shenandoah National ParkRose River Falls in Shenandoah National ParkRose River Falls in Shenandoah National ParkIcy Rose River Falls in Shenandoah National Park
Rose River Falls in Shenandoah National Park
Rose River Falls in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Rose River Falls in Shenandoah National Park
Rose River Falls in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Rose River Falls in Shenandoah National Park
Rose River Falls in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Icy Rose River Falls in Shenandoah National Park
Icy Rose River Falls in Shenandoah National Park | Source

7. Hike to Rose River Falls

Hiking to Rose River Falls is worth it. Park at the Fisher's Gap Overlook (mile marker 49.4). The trail starts on the other side of Skyline Road. It is about 3.7-mile loop trail with an elevation change of about 900 feet. Rose River Falls is a two-tiered waterfall that drops a total of 45 feet. It is most impressive when the water is running high, not so much when the water is low. Either way, it is a beautiful hike.

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Thorton Gap from Mary's Rock on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National ParkThorton Gap from Mary's Rock on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National ParkView from Mary's Rock on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National ParkThorton Gap from Mary's Rock on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National ParkMary's Rock in Shenandoah National ParkMary's Rock in Shenandoah National ParkMary's Rock Tunnel in Shenandoah National ParkMary's Rock Trailhead in Shenandoah National Park
Thorton Gap from Mary's Rock on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park
Thorton Gap from Mary's Rock on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Thorton Gap from Mary's Rock on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park
Thorton Gap from Mary's Rock on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park | Source
View from Mary's Rock on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park
View from Mary's Rock on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Thorton Gap from Mary's Rock on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park
Thorton Gap from Mary's Rock on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Mary's Rock in Shenandoah National Park
Mary's Rock in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Mary's Rock in Shenandoah National Park
Mary's Rock in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Mary's Rock Tunnel in Shenandoah National Park
Mary's Rock Tunnel in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Mary's Rock Trailhead in Shenandoah National Park
Mary's Rock Trailhead in Shenandoah National Park | Source

8. Hike to Mary's Rock Summit

Hiking to Mary's Rock Summit is spectacular. It offers incredible 180-degree panoramic views of Shenandoah National Park and the valley down below. Mary's Rock Summit is one of the best places to watch a sunset in Shenandoah National Park. The views are amazing.

I recommend parking at the Meadow Spring Parking area, which is at mile marker 33.6 on Skyline Drive. It is the closest parking area to Mary's Rock Summit and is only a 2.8-mile hike in and out. The hardest part of the trail is the first half mile or so as the trail climbs 1,000 feet. After that, it is relatively flat with several viewpoints. There are two other trailheads (Panorama Parking Area - 3.7-miles roundtrip and Jewell Hollow Overlook - 6-miles roundtrip) that lead to the summit, but both require a longer hike.

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View from Hawksbill Mountain Summit at Shenandoah National ParkHawksbill Mountain Summit at Shenandoah National ParkHawksbill Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National ParkView of Old Rag Mountain from Hawksbill Mountain in Shenandoah National ParkView from Hawksbill Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National ParkView Hawksbill Mountain in Shenandoah National ParkView Hawksbill Mountain in Shenandoah National ParkBlack Rock looking toward Hawksbill Mountain in Shenandoah National Park
View from Hawksbill Mountain Summit at Shenandoah National Park
View from Hawksbill Mountain Summit at Shenandoah National Park | Source
Hawksbill Mountain Summit at Shenandoah National Park
Hawksbill Mountain Summit at Shenandoah National Park | Source
Hawksbill Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National Park
Hawksbill Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National Park | Source
View of Old Rag Mountain from Hawksbill Mountain in Shenandoah National Park
View of Old Rag Mountain from Hawksbill Mountain in Shenandoah National Park | Source
View from Hawksbill Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National Park
View from Hawksbill Mountain Summit in Shenandoah National Park | Source
View Hawksbill Mountain in Shenandoah National Park
View Hawksbill Mountain in Shenandoah National Park | Source
View Hawksbill Mountain in Shenandoah National Park
View Hawksbill Mountain in Shenandoah National Park | Source
Black Rock looking toward Hawksbill Mountain in Shenandoah National Park
Black Rock looking toward Hawksbill Mountain in Shenandoah National Park | Source

9. Hike to Hawksbill Mountain

Hawksbill Mountain is the highest point in Shenandoah National Park. The trailhead is at mile marker 45.6 on Skyline Drive. The most direct route is the Lower Hawksbill Trail, which is very steep. It is 1.7 miles out and back. It climbs 800 feet in less than a mile. The views at the summit are panoramic and amazing! Visitors can see 270-degrees of mountains and valleys. It is an excellent spot to watch the sunset. The Hawksbill Mountain hike is an absolute must.

Dickey Ridge in Shenandoah National Park
Dickey Ridge in Shenandoah National Park | Source

10. Hike to Dickey Ridge

Hiking to Dickey Ridge is one of the most northern hikes in Shenandoah National Park. This hike uses a combination of the Fox Hollow Loop, Snead Farm Loop, and Dickey Ridge Trail. The trailhead leaves from the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center. It is about a 5.3-mile hike and gains a little less than a 1,000 feet of elevation. It offers views of Snead Farm ruins, an FAA tower, and incredible views of the Massanutten Range to the southwest. This hike a great for watching sunsets as well.

Don't Miss a Chance to Visit Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is incredible. It is well worth spending a few days exploring. There is so much to see and do there. My family and I loved our quick visit. We cannot wait to go back and attempt more of the summit hikes.

Map of the Top 10 Things to Do in Shenandoah National Park

A
Skyline Drive:
Skyline Dr, Virginia, USA

get directions

B
Old Rag Mountain:
Old Rag Mountain, Robertson, VA 22743, USA

get directions

C
Dark Hollow Falls:
Dark Hollow Falls, Robertson, VA 22743, USA

get directions

D
Bearfence Mountain:
Skyline Dr, Elkton, VA 22827, USA

get directions

E
Appalachian Trail:
Compton Gap, Wakefield, VA 22630, USA

get directions

F
Skyland:
Skyland, Skyland Upper Loop Mile 41, Luray, VA 22835, United States

get directions

G
Rose River Falls:
Rose River Falls, Robertson, VA 22743, USA

get directions

H
Mary's Rock Summit:
Marys Rock Summit, 2, East Luray, VA 22835, USA

get directions

I
Hawksbill Mountain:
Hawksbill Mtn, Robertson, VA 22835, USA

get directions

J
Dickey Ridge:
Front Royal, VA 22630, USA

get directions

© 2019 Eric Cramer

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    • ercramer36 profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Cramer 

      6 months ago from Chicagoland

      Thanks Liz!

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      6 months ago from UK

      This is a really useful and interesting article, with top class illustrations.

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