If you love the outdoors, then Shenandoah National Park hiking should be high on your priorities list when you visit the region. When you venture out into Shenandoah, there seem to be endless possibilities: trails to follow, sounds to hear, vistas to view, nature to experience.
Here are a few of the best sights and sounds you’ll experience while enjoying Shenandoah National Park hiking…
Choose Your Own Adventure
Shenandoah National Park has over 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail (nps.gov/appa). Follow some trails and you’ll hear the destination before you get there: the park is home to several stunning waterfalls. Numerous overlooks provide panoramic views of wilderness you just don’t see anywhere else.
Check out the Shenandoah National Park Hiking Trails website to review the trail options and get insider tips on where to venture. (https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/hiking-safety.htm)
Once you’ve decided which of the Shenandoah National Park hiking trails you want to explore, you can download free maps here (https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/maps.htm).
Old Rag Mountain
Definitely one of the more challenging hikes, Old Rag Mountain is worth the effort. The view from the top is unparalleled. On the way to the summit, you’ll encounter the park’s geology on a challenging rock scramble. You’ll see the terrain from various elevations. You’ll hear the sounds of the birds and animals that make the wilderness their home. If you’re after solitutde, consider a midweek hike.
Always check the conditions and recommended safety measures before a hike, which is possible on the park’s Old Rag Mountain web page: https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/old-rag-hike-prep.htm
Shenandoah Fall Foliage
If you’re planning a Shenandoah hike in the fall, you’re in for a treat. The park offers one of the most spectacular shows in the region, in the form of its fall foliage. If you have some flexibility in your schedule, there are several ways to keep track and pick your moment. To follow the turning season, the National Parks Service website provides dedicated tracking of Shenandoah fall color starting in September. https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/fall-color.htm
The Rocks and the Rills
According to its website, the youngest rocks in Shenandoah National Park are over 500 million years old. The Chilhowee Group rock formation is best exposed in the South District of the Park. The spectacular white quartzite cliffs and boulderfield of the Erwin Formation can be had along Skyline Drive at Rockytop Overlook (milepost 78) and through most of the South District, and by short hikes at Blackrock South (milepost 85) and Calvary Rocks (milepost 90).
If water is where your heart is, Shenandoah National Park is the origin of the headwaters of three river drainages; the Shenandoah River, the Rappahannock River and the James River. The various watershed basins throughout the park yield about 90 small streams that feature pools interspersed with riffles, rapids, cascades and falls. Most streams are heavily shaded and cool or even cold in the summer, and they are typically clear.
A Multi-Sensory Experience
Hearing, touching, and smelling are just as much of the park hiking experience as the sights. The songs and calls of bird, tthe rush of water, the rustle of parched leaves of the fall and the wind create a stunning soundscape most of us aren’t used to.
Consequently, the park staff members do their best to preserve soundscapes for your wilderness experiences. By agency policy and legal requirements of the Wilderness Act, specific measures are taken to eliminate or greatly reduce the opportunity for visitors to encounter the sounds of motorized equipment while in the wilderness.
Bookend your Shenandoah adventure with a stay at Prospect Hill. Our celebrated breakfast can prepare you for the exertions ahead, and our comfortable, historic rooms provide a charming, relaxing retreat at day’s end. Don’t forget to download our free area vacation guide to help you plan your trip!