If you are looking for the best hikes in Shenandoah National Park, you’ve come to the right place!  Shenandoah National Park has over 500 hiking trails and I really had trouble looking for a list of relatively easy hikes, that had amazing viewpoints, and were relatively close to Washington DC!  

best hikes in shenandoah national park

These are the best hikes in Shenandoah I have done.  Most of these hikes are pretty easy day hikes in Shenandoah, but I have included one that is the hardest hike in Shenandoah! 

I’ve also included a beautiful waterfall hike in Shenandoah that’s in the Northern District of Shenandoah just about 1 hour outside of DC!

Where is Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is a park managed by the National Park Service in the State of Virginia.  It is a long and narrow park, running down the crest of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains for about 75 miles. 

It varies in width from less than one to about 13 miles, so the views from peaks and overlooks include not only the Blue Ridge itself but also the surrounding lands on each side. 

The park touches on Shenandoah Valley on the west side or the Piedmont Mountains on the east, but throughout most of its length, the park boundary is partway up the mountain slope.

The northernmost entrance is about a 1-hour drive from the Washington D.C. metro area.  So if you live in the DMV, Shenandoah National Parks makes a great day trip or weekend trip!

Because Shenandoah National Park is so long and narrow the mapping is divided into 3 parts, the Northern District, the Central District, and the Southern District.

Shenandoah National Park Entrances

Shenandoah National Park has 4 entrances:

Front Royal (North Entrance)

Near Front Royal, Virginia, off of Route 340 (also called Stonewall Jackson Highway).

21073 Skyline Drive, Front Royal, Virginia 22630

 

Thornton Gap

East of Luray, Virginia and west of Sperryville, Virginia. Off of Highway 211 (also called Lee Highway).

31339 Skyline Drive, Luray, Virginia 22835

 

Swift Run Gap

East of Elkton, Virginia off of US 33.

22591 Spotswood Trail, Elkton, Virginia 22827

 

Rockfish Gap (South Entrance)

A few miles east of Waynesboro, Virginia off of Highway 250.

282 Skyline Drive, Waynesboro, Virginia 22980

 

There are no other ways to enter the park by car except for these 4 entrances.

Shenandoah National Park Fees

There are fees to enter the park based on how you enter.

  • Car:  $30 
  • Motorcycle:  $25
  • Per Person:  $15

You can also buy an annual pass for $55, which provides unlimited entry for one year to the pass holder and passengers in the same vehicle, not to exceed 4 total adults. Children under 16 are admitted for free and are not included in this total.

You can purchase tickets at the entrances but pre-buying online will save you a lot of time when entering!  We pre-bought our passes and didn’t have to wait in a long line of cars trying to buy passes.  A car tried to pass us in line and was directed toward the longer line because they did not have pre-purchased passes!

The Main Road in Shenandoah National Park

There’s only one driving road in Shenandoah National Park:  Skyline Drive. 

virginia fall foliage

This scenic road has 70 overlooks and goes from the Front Royal Entrance to the Rockfish Gap Entrance!  If you are feeling particularly lazy and don’t want to hike, Skyline Drive has beautiful vistas for you to enjoy with no effort!

Best Hikes in Shenandoah National Park

Here are the best hikes in Shenandoah National Park with the best views:

  • Marys Rock
  • Little Stony Man
  • Stony Man
  • Hawks Bill
  • Overall Falls
  • Old Rag 
  • Bearfence

Marys Rock

  • Distance:  About 2.7 to 3.7 miles out and back depending on the approach
  • Difficulty:  Easy
  • Location:  Central District
  • Parking:  Marys Rock Summit Trailhead Parking or Meadow Spring Parking

Marys Rock is a relatively easy hike in Shenandoah National Park that leads to an incredible viewpoint!  This hike starts right next to the Thorton Gap Entrance.  

Marys Rock can be hiked 2 ways.  The first way is from Marys Rock Summit Trailhead.  This is the longer trail at 3.7 miles round trip.  The advantage of going this way is the plentiful parking, access to drinking water, and a bathroom at the trailhead.  This is the way we went and it was a great hike!  There are also some beautiful vistas along the trail!

The second way to hike to Marys Rock Summit is to park at the Meadow Spring Parking lot and take the Meadow Spring trail until it hits the Appalachian Trail, then take a right at the Appalachian Trail.  This is a shorter route coming in at 2.7 miles round trip.

The views at the top are stunning, you can even see Thorton’s Gap entrance from the summit!  For an even higher vantage point climb up the rocks that are at the summit!

Little Stony Man Hike

  • Distance:  1-1.5 miles out and back
  • Difficulty:  Easy
  • Location:  Central District
  • Parking:  Little Stony Man Parking or Stony Man Mountain Overlook

shenandoah national park little stony man

Little Stony Man hike is another easy hike in Shenandoah National Park that leads to an amazing overlook, which makes it one of the best hikes in the park!

Little Stony Man is a bit confusing when looking for the hike!  That’s because there’s also “Stoney Man” which is more popular, we’ll get to how you can do both later!

To hike to Little Stoney Man you can either park in the Little Stony Man Parking lot which is tiny and tends to fill up quickly or park in Stony Man Mountain Overlook.  This is a huge parking lot and easy to park in but will turn your total hike to about 1.5 miles out and back!  

We started the hike from the Stony Man Mountain Overlook parking lot because the Little Stony Man parking lot was beyond full.  To start the hike from the Overlook parking lot, while facing the parking lot go all the way to the left and you will see a trailhead, follow this trailhead and you will get to Little Stony Man overlook!  You may see a do not enter sign near the beginning of the trail, but that’s just for the shelter, not the trail.

Little Stony Man is such a great hike because you get a beautiful view of Skyline Drive from this outcrop.  It’s also not very crowded at all because it’s a lot less popular than Stony Man.

Stony Man Hike in Shenandoah National Park

  • Distance:  1.5 mile to 3 miles round trip
  • Difficulty:  Easy
  • Location:  Central District
  • Parking:  Stony Man Trailhead Parking

shenandoah national park stony man

Stony Man Hike is one of the best hikes in Shenandoah, it is also one of the most popular so the peak can be rather crowded.  Because it’s such an easy hike and right next to Skyland Resort, many people come here for sunset!  

If you want to snap an iconic photo then Stony Man is the best hike in Shenandoah National Park!  The overlook has a view of the winding Skyline driver that’s in many travel sites!

There are multiple ways to hike Stony Man in Shenandoah National Park, and I’ve done both!  The easiest and fastest way to get to this stunning viewpoint is to park at Stony Man Trailhead Parking and take the Appalachian National Scenic Trail to the summit.  This trail is 1.5 miles round trip.

The other way to get here is to park either at Little Stony Man Parking or Stony Man Overlook Parking and hike up from there including a stop at Little Stony Man viewpoint on the way!  This is how you can do both in one trip.  Just follow the signs to Stony Man Summit.  That totals to about 3  miles.

Hawksbill Hike in Shenandoah

  • Distance:  1.6 miles to 2.9  miles
  • Difficulty:  Easy
  • Parking:  Hawksbill Loop Trailhead Parking or Upper Hawksbill Trailhead Parking
  • Location:  Central District

best hikes in shenandoah national hawksbill

Another wonderful and short hike with incredible views is Hawks Bill in Shenandoah National Park!

This hike is super popular as well due to the ease and panoramic views!  Hawksbill Summit is Shanenandoah’s highest peak, which makes it one of the best hikes in Shenandoah National Park.

There are several ways to hike to Hawksbill Summit.  The easiest way is only 1.6 miles round trip, out and back.  For this route park at the Hawksbill Loop Trailhead Parking and take the Lower Hawksbill trail all the way to the summit.  While this is the easiest route, the parking lot only has space for a few cars.  We saw cars parked along the side of the road here as well.

Another way to hike Hawksbill Summit is to drive further south and park at the Upper Hawksbill Trailhead Parking.  This lot is less popular and bigger!

From this parking lot take the Upper Hawksbill Trail to Hawksbill Fire Road all the way to the summit.  This route is 2.1 miles out and back.  This is the way we took because we could not find parking at the Lower Hawksbill Trailhead parking lot, it was packed!

A third way to do the Hawksbill hike is to take the circuit trail which is 2.9 miles.  Here are the directions:

  1. From the north end of the Hawksbill Gap Parking Area (mile 45.5), take the short connector trail to the Appalachian Trail (A.T.).
  2. At the trail post, turn left onto the A.T. south.
  3. Continue on the A.T. south to the trail post indicating the Salamander Trail. Go left onto the blue-blazed Salamander Trail.
  4. At the next trail junction, turn left onto the Upper Hawksbill Trail. Be sure to take the short trail past the shelter to the viewing platform.
  5. To return to the parking area, be sure to take the blue-blazed Lower Hawksbill Trail, not the Upper Hawksbill Trail.

Overall Run Falls Hike in Shenandoah

  • Distance 5.1 miles out and back
  • Difficulty:  Moderate
  • Parking:  Matthews Arm Camp Ground Parking
  • Location:  Northern District

overall run falls

Overall Run Falls is the best waterfall hike in Shenandoah’s Northern District!  Most of the waterfall hikes in Shenandoah are in the central or southern district.  In general, this is my favorite hike in the Northern District.

You can hike Overall Run Falls in two ways.  The first route is from inside the park:

  1. From the trailhead at the Mathews Arm Campground registration parking area, take Traces Trail to the yellow-blazed Mathews Arm Road.
  2. The road becomes Mathews Arm Trail.
  3. Stay on the right at its intersection with Beecher Ridge Trail and continue on Mathews Arm Trail following it to the intersection with Tuscarora-Overall Run Trail.
  4. Go left and follow it about a tenth of a mile to a side trail. From here you can see the upper falls.
  5. Continue downhill on the main trail another 1,300 feet for views of the biggest falls in Shenandoah at 93 feet.

Another option is to start the hike from outside the park via Thompson Hollow Road in Virginia.  This route is about the same distance and this is the way we went because I wanted to take a dip in some secret waterfall swimming holes along the way!  For detailed directions on this route see this article:  Overall Run Falls Hike.

Old Rag Circuit Hike in Shenandoah

  • Distance:  About 10 miles
  • Difficulty:  Hard
  • Parking:  Old Rag Parking and Fee Station:  2577 Nethers Rd, Etlan, VA 22719
  • Location:  Central District

old rag circuit hike

The Old Rag Circuit loop is the best hike in Shenandoah National Park if you are looking for a challenge!  This is also one of the most popular and most difficult hikes in the park.  There are multiple ways to do this hike but each route is about 10 miles starting from the parking lot outside the park.  

old rag circuit

Hiking Old Rag takes a bit of planning because you need to reserve a ticket to hike in addition to paying the Shenandoah National Park Entrance fee.

The hike itself is totally worth it though!  There are incredible views along the way, fun jumping around rocks and some bouldering.

I’ve personally done this hike twice and would do it again. This hike takes a bit of explanation so I’ve written a complete guide for it here:  Old Rag Circuit Hike.

Shenandoah National Park Hiking Tips

Wear hiking shoes!  Though many of the hikes on this list are easy, hiking shoes will make your life so much easier.  The trails are full of rocks and mostly uneven.  I saw a bunch of people hiking wearing platform sneakers and other streetwear-type sneakers and they walked super slow because their footwear was unsteady.

Both my husband and I wear these affordable hiking boots:

Download Google Maps. Download the entire map of the Shenandoah National Park area because there is limited reception inside the park.  This will be helpful if you get off trail or when the trail splits!  

Download Trail Maps:  https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/maps.htm.  These are the official trail maps from the NPS.  It’s good to have so you can compare them to your Google Maps.

Bring plenty of water!  There’s not always water available at the trailhead so it’s best to have all the water you need for the day.  Remember to use refillable bottles!

Get a full tank of gas or fully charge your EV before entering the park.  There is only 1 gas station inside the park and if you are coming from the Northern entrance it is quite far:

  • Big Meadows Wayside (mile 51) (Gas pumps can be unreliable due to power outages)

There are also 2 charging stations:

  • Skyland (mile 41.7 and 42.5) | One Level 2 (J1772) connector and one Level 2 (Tesla) connector.
  • Byrd Visitor Center (mile 51) | One Level 2 (J1772) connector