National Parks Trip Planning

Shenandoah Hiking Trails

Shenandoah National Park has no shortage of hiking trails. The trails of Shenandoah range from very easy, ADA-accessible to day-long, strenuous hikes. Since we stay at the Skyland resort, we tend to complete the hikes in about a ten-mile range between our rooms and Big Meadows.

Our party consisted of 5 children from ages 2 to 10, six adults between 35 and 45 and eight adults between 60 and 85. With such a wide range of ages and abilities, each person joined in on the hikes s/he was most interested in or comfortable with.

We completed these hikes in various groupings:
Limberlost
This was the only hike we were able to complete with the whole group. One member of our party is in a wheelchair and two others are unable for steeper, more strenuous hikes. I don’t think pushing the wheelchair was completely easy in some sections, but overall it was doable. Different people took turns so no one got too tired.  Benches are placed at regular intervals so hikers that need a rest don’t need to go too far. The trail also has an activity booklet for kids. This counts as an activity if they are trying to earn a Junior Ranger badge.

Stony Man
This trail is perfect for hikers who want a beautiful view without a difficult hike. All but three of our party was able to hike this trail, even the smallest children. The trail gets its name from the outcrop of rocks visible from other parts of the park. Viewed at the right angle, the rocks seem to form the face of a man looking up at the sky.

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We hiked this on a clear, sunny day and it was perfect. The temperature was comfortable and view was glorious.

Miller’s Head
This hike has the virtue of its trailhead being a few hundred feet from our rooms at Bushytop. It also has a stone vista perfect for viewing sunsets. Even though this trail is listed as “fairly easy” there are steep sections that do make it difficult. Further complicating the hike is the fact that we always time this hike to coincide with sunset. This makes the way back very dark and scary. There’s a ghost story associated with this trail, but I haven’t heard it. Maybe that’s better.

We started this hike with 16, but only 9 finished. The rest turned back early on due to the steepness of the trail and ticks. This particular trail is much narrower than the others we hike. As a result it’s a lot easier to brush up against plants and grasses.

We made it up to the viewpoint in time for sunset. While it was pretty, some may think it not worth the steep, rocky dark hike back. There are lots of places to see the sunset if you’re one of them.

 

Upper Hawksbill

Another hike that offers a gorgeous view, this trail ends at the highest summit in the park. There are several hikes that end at Hawksbill peak. The Upper Hawksbill is a lot less strenuous (though still listed as a moderate hike). The same party that hiked Stony Man was able to reach this summit.

Blackrock viewpoint

This is walking distance from the dining room at Big Meadows. It’s listed as a one-mile hike, but for some reason I remember it being more like 0.4 miles. It was a quick hike, though a little rocky. Totally worth the beautiful view!

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Passamaquoddy

My husband and I hiked this trail our last morning in the park. It was meant to be a quick 30-45 minute hike before breakfast. The plan was to hike for twenty minutes, then hike back.  However, my husband kept wanting to go further. After almost 2 hours we ended up near the Skyland Lodge dining room. While there were some really pretty parts, it was definitely more difficult than our other hikes.  Like Miller’s Head, many parts were not as wide and the trail was much less level. Not having eaten before the hike made it that much harder.

At the very beginning of the hike, we heard rustling in the grass. After few moments, a small bear’s head popped up. It seems that we had disrupted its nap. It sank back down into the grass and presumably went back to sleep.

Dark Hollow Falls
We didn’t complete Dark Hollow Falls on this trip, but did last year. After Passamaquoddy, it was the most strenuous we attempted as a group. The falls as the bottom are beautiful. It’s definitely worth the effort, but was difficult to complete with a toddler in a hiking carrier. With completely mobile children it can be a lot of fun.

Trails for next time:

The Fox Hollow Trail looks easy and interesting.  It’s located in the park’s North District and a good 35 miles south of where we stay. But, it would be a great trail to do heading in or out of the park. I’m intrigued by the ability to see evidence of the original mountain communities.

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