Shenandoah National Park has over 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Some of the park’s trails lead to a waterfall or overlook while others are forested with incredible panoramas of wilderness.
Note: the most important information before you attempt any Shenandoah hiking trails is the difficulty rating. Here’s how to determine trail difficulty by listed numerical rating:
Easiest, Numerical Rating: less than 50, generally suitable for anyone who enjoys walking.
Moderate, Numerical Rating: 50-100, generally suitable for novice hikers who want a bit of a challenge.
Moderately Strenuous, Numerical Rating: 100 –150, generally be challenging for an unconditioned person.
Strenuous, Numerical Rating: 150-200, will challenge most hikers.
Very Strenuous, Numerical Rating : greater than 200, only well-conditioned and well-prepared hikers.
The Shenandoah Hiking Trails website includes a tremendous amount of helpful information and trail details. Here’s a summary of a few favorites:
You can still see evidence of former human habitation throughout many of the Shenandoah hiking trails, including here in Fox Hollow. The daffodils and periwinkle you see are gone-wild descendants of domestic plants and the cemetery offers an homage to early settlers.
The Shenandoah salamander—a rare and endangered species found only in this park—has never existed anywhere else in the world! It can live only in certain environments, such as the relatively cool, moist, high elevation of Hawksbill Mountain. A Federally Endangered species, its range lies entirely within the National Park.
The environment changes noticeably as you hike into the South River hollow. This hike takes visitors through a specific type of ecosystem: Appalachian Rich Cove Forest. Wet conditions and rich soils provide perfect habitat for the animals and plants that live there. The east-facing slopes get plenty of rain and protection from harsh winds. You can find this type of environment on other Shenandoah hiking trails, but you won’t see it outside the Appalachian Mountains.
Riprap (91.4) (Two Trail Options)
Whether you seek exercise, adventure, or a refreshing view of nature, you’ll find it on Riprap Trail. Two options allow you to explore the top of Chimney and Calvary Rocks or follow the creek as it cascades down the mountain. It’s a microcosm of the 500 miles of trails that crisscross Shenandoah National Park.
Hike #1: Riprap Loop (very strenuous)
Option 1: Riprap Loop
Here are directions according to the Shenandoah hiking trails website: Follow the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) north. Turn left on Riprap Trail. Continue past Calvary Rocks and Chimney Rocks. Turn left on Wildcat Ridge Trail. Turn left on the A.T. north to return to your starting point. Hike #2: Chimney Rock 3.4-mile roundtrip, moderate, 2½ hours hiking time, 830-foot elevation gain. Follow the Appalachian Trail north. Turn left on Riprap Trail. After a series of switchbacks, a viewpoint will appear to your right. Further on, Calvary Rocks will appear on the left. Chimney Rock will then appear on the right. Retrace your steps to return to your starting point.
Hike #2: Chimney Rock (moderate)
Option 2: Chimney Rock
Here are directions according to the Shenandoah hiking trails website Follow the Appalachian Trail north. Turn left on Riprap Trail. After a series of switchbacks, a viewpoint will appear to your right. Further on, Calvary Rocks will appear on the left. Chimney Rock will then appear on the right. Retrace your steps to return to your starting point.
Once you’ve decided which of the Shenandoah hiking trails you want to hike, you can download free maps here.