Shenandoah National Park is home to some of the greatest hiking trails for experiencing the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We have hiked several of these trails numerous times, yet there is always something new to see and experience. Here, we highlight for you 4 of our favorite Shenandoah hiking trails, should you have the opportunity to visit.
I went to college in the Shenandoah Valley and had always heard about this hike (Shout out JMU Dukes!). Originally, I misheard the name of the trail and for the longest time remembered the name as “Old Hag”. I have since been corrected.
We have climbed Old Rag a number of times and it never gets old. I am particularly fond of the rock scramble where there is no defined path. You kind of just find your own way, hopping from rock to rock, pulling yourself up and then crawling back down through crevices. It is by no means a rock climbing adventure requiring special equipment or exceptional strength. With just a bit of agility, anyone can complete this portion of the hike. The challenging rock scramble followed by the incredible view, make for one rewarding hike.
Although it is one of my favorites, it is also unsurprisingly one of the most popular hikes in the Blue Ridge. It is not uncommon for a long line of hikers to be waiting for their turn to go through the rock scramble. My best advice is to go early, or if you are feeling particularly adventurous, make it into a sunrise hike for a view you won’t forget.
Duration: Approx. 5.5 hours
Distance: About 9 miles (loop)
Elevation Gain: 2,415 ft
This hike is a bit more challenging with a rock scramble, a small rock wall, and several ups and downs. The trail leads up to Strickler Knob summit, a 360 degree overlook of Luray and New Market. While I am not generally a fan of “out-and-back” hikes, this one still makes my list of favorite hikes for its challenging and fun aspects.
Duration: Approximately 5 hours
Distance: 5.4 miles (out-and-back, distance can be shortened)
Elevation gain: 2,140 ft.
Mary’s Rock – Buck Hollow/Mary’s Rock loop (about 9 miles) can actually be broken down into two separate hikes. Scott took me here the morning after my birthday. You can imagine I was not in the best condition for a hike, so to make a long story short, we opted to take one of the shorter individual hikes.
Starting from Jewell Hollow Overlook, we hiked along the trail passing the remains of an old homestead and several outlooks. Following the lead of some hikers in front of us, we stopped at Pinnacle overlook to enjoy a spectacular view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The trail to Mary’s Rock also overlaps with the Appalachian Trail, so about half way up you will run into the hiker hut (Byrd’s Nest #3). Feel free to check it out.
The summit is a great place to enjoy a snack or lunch, but don’t stop there. Most hikers crowd this area as they stake out a spot on the rock for lunch, but if you keep climbing upward toward the back, you can escape the crowds for a moment of solitude. This is where we had our most rewarding moment, alone with the gorgeous view.
Distance: Approximately 6 miles (out-and-back from Jewell Hollow Overlook)
Duration: 4 hours
Elevation Gain: 1,000 ft.
White Oaks Canyon / Cedar Run Loop
Last but certainly not least is White Oaks Canyon, the hiking and water adventure all wrapped up in one. Combining two out-and-back trails to make one big loop, this hike is a little over 8 miles, some of which are switch backs. (Everybody loves switch backs.)
Unlike the other hikes included on this list, the White Oaks Canyon Trail does not feature grand mountain top views. Instead, it is known for its many waterfalls, smaller cascades, natural swimming holes and even a water slide! Don’t be shy! Take off your boots, plop your bum on the top of the rock slide, push off and enjoy your way down. It is definitely cold, but also refreshing.
Duration: Approximately 5 hours
Distance: 8.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,450 ft
The Shenandoah only makes up one part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Across the valley, you can also find the George Washington and Thomas Jefferson National Forests. These mountains also contain a wealth of trails, rock climbing opportunities, and swimming holes, so go out, explore, and find your next adventure!
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