AMCand39;s Best Day Hikes in The Shenandoah Valley  by Jennifer Adach and Michael R. Martin

AMC's Best Day Hikes in The Shenandoah Valley Guide Book

by Jennifer Adach and Michael R. Martin (Appalachian Mountain Club Books)
AMCand39;s Best Day Hikes in The Shenandoah Valley  by Jennifer Adach and Michael R. Martin
Home to Presidents, cradle of Colonial America, battleground during the Civil War, and crucible for the United States’ recovery from the Great Depression, Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley is one of the iconic landscapes of the American outdoors. Stretching from Harpers Ferry in the north, where the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers meet, to the James River in the south, the peaks and ridges of the Blue Ridge march into the characteristic blue mists produced by the mountains’ lush and deep foliage. Between these ridgelines lie the fruitful valleys of the Shenandoah River, divided into its north and south forks, home to prosperous agriculture, rich horse land, and, more recently, promising vineyards.

© 2015 Jennifer Adach and Michael R Martin/Appalachian Mountain Club Books. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "AMC's Best Day Hikes in The Shenandoah Valley" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 50.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 50.

This hike, past the 200-foot cascade of Apple Orchard Falls, is justifiably one of the most popular in Jefferson National Forest. On a warm summer’s day, catch the very striking Apple Orchard Falls and then stroll down the beautiful and verdant Cornelius Creek, which also offers an especially inviting swimming hole or two. At the trailhead, orient yourself by looking to up the trails and away from the road. The trail to the left is Apple Orchard Falls Trail, while the one coming more directly down the mountain, to the right, is Cornelius Creek Trail.
Roanoke, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.7
From Skyline Drive descend into the steep canyon of Big Devils Stairs and peer into the hollow from the cliffs high above. This fairly straightforward out-and-back hike is complicated slightly by the web of trails that weaves around the Appalachian Trail (AT) and the Gravel Springs Hut, a first-come, first-served AT shelter; in summer, these shelters are more commonly used by AT thru-hikers. In the parking lot, orient yourself by noting that the AT crosses Skyline Drive in the gap. You will not be walking on the AT for this trip.
Front Royal, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.7
Reachable only by circuitous routes, Big Run’s most picturesque pools, cascades, and falls are hidden gems of Shenandoah National Park.
Ruckersville, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 9.3
On the border between Virginia and West Virginia, climb to a spectacular view of Trout Run Valley from the dramatic cliffs of Big Schloss. From the parking lot, walk through the Wolf Gap Recreation Area and locate the orange blazes of Mill Mountain Trail on the north side of the campground. (If you crossed VA 675 instead, you’d find the trail to Tibbet Knob [Trip 36].) The trail here is broad and well worn and proceeds north along Great North Mountain, essentially following the border between Virginia and West Virginia. Over the next 0.8 mile, the trail gains about 650 feet, switching back periodically as it climbs the westward face of the mountain.
Wardensville, WV - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.4
This gentle and short hike leads to one of the most compelling vistas in Virginia, an awe-inspiring 360-degree view of the south district of the Shenandoah
Ruckersville, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.2
This easy ramble takes walkers on a tour of nineteenth-century Virginia history: an old mill, an icehouse, and a family cemetery.
Broad Run, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2
The dramatic knife-edge ridge of Buzzard Rock offers a commanding view of Fort Valley and the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.
Front Royal, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 9
Cold Mountain’s alpine meadows and balds are not especially large, but they are an interesting change of pace from the Mid-Atlantic’s more expected ridgelines and forests. As you wander across the bald fields of Cold Mountain (4,020 feet), sometimes also referred to as Cole Mountain, you might imagine yourself strolling through the alpine meadows of New Hampshire, Colorado, Alaska, or Switzerland. Take special care to stay on the path in these areas; alpine vegetation is particularly fragile. The climb to these meadows is not especially steep, but the views at the top are well worth the easy grade, and the unusual ecosystem at the top makes for a singular Mid-Atlantic hike.
Buena Vista, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.1
A short hike along the Appalachian Trail brings you to western views and a geology lesson. The trail up to Compton Gap is short, but the rocky path may demand a slower pace as you ascend nearly 500 feet to gain views of the surrounding area. From the parking lot, cross Skyline Drive and start to follow the white-blazed Appalachian Trail (AT). The trail climbs steadily as it makes its way up to the peak. While it is a well-defined path, the trail can be rocky at times. Keep an eye out for a tricky left turn at just 0.5 mile. The trail ascends up the ridge and eventually levels out as it closes in on the summit.
Front Royal, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.2
A steep climb rewards you with near-constant views of one of Virginia’s prettiest waterfalls. Crabtree Falls is often listed as a “must-see” hike for anyone traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s a hike that invites lingering with its multiple overlooks and great views of the falls. With five major cascades and falling a total distance of 1,200 feet, Crabtree Falls is the highest vertical-drop cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. It is well worth the short hike. Despite its elevation gain, the trail itself is an easy one to follow—well maintained and well marked with guardrails and stairs to help with the steeper portions. You may find yourself idling away the day here as you wander up and down the trail, enjoying the views of the falls and the surrounding valley.
Raphine, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.8
Very atypical for Virginia, these giant marble boulders look like they’ve been imported from the Andes or the Himalaya. You’ll hardly believe your eyes as you emerge from the forest to scramble up this gigantic boulder field, filled with marble rocks sometimes as large as cars or buses. From the parking lot, cross a bridge over Belfast Creek to begin hiking in on blue-blazed Belfast Trail. Initially, the trail is wide, flat, and sandy. Pass by the stone foundations and ruins of an old summer camp, intersect and cross over Glenwood Horse Trail, cross a creek or two, and then intersect once again with the horse trail at 0.2 mile.
Natural Bridge, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.2
Located close to the park’s northern entrance, this hike takes you on a tour of the park’s history as you pass remnants of Shenandoah’s family farms. This easy-to-moderate hike keeps it simple, following a well-marked trail past ruins of the Fox family farm on the first loop and the Snead Farm on the second loop. From the visitor center parking lot, cross Skyline Drive and head for the large sign to the trailhead. Follow the path to your left, which quickly intersects with blue-blazed Dickey Ridge Trail (marked by a concrete post). Head to your left and follow Dickey Ridge Trail for 0.3 mile to its intersection with Fox Hollow Trail, then take a right.
Front Royal, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.9
In springtime, the falls along Doyles River and Jones Run may make for the most attractive waterfall walk in Virginia.
Ruckersville, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 8
A rock scramble leads you to one of the more striking rock formations you’ll see—jagged rocks that tower over the valley and provide good views from the base or the top. Dragon’s Tooth makes up the final third of Virginia’s Triple Crown (Tinker Cliffs [Trip 46] and MacAfee Knob [Trip 47] are the other two), and it is an adventure to get there. An easy walk through the woods yields to rock scrambling as you make your way up Cove Mountain; Dragon’s Tooth, however, offers the route’s most impressive sights. From the parking area, head toward the information kiosk and start to follow blue-blazed Dragon’s Tooth Trail. It’s a relatively flat walk for the start of the hike.
Catawba, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.7
Scramble to reach an impressive vista of south Massanutten Mountain, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and Shenandoah Valley. The rocky top of Duncan Knob (2,803 feet) is one of the most dramatic perches in the region. To the south stretches Massanutten Mountain itself. In the east, the ridges of Shenandoah National Park are visible; in the west, the Alleghenies. In between are the valleys belonging to the forks of the Shenandoah River. Add to these glorious views the excitement of the final scramble to the summit, and you have an ideal short hike introducing you to the area.
New Market, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.5
For children, for the childlike at heart, or really for anyone with a hankering for ice cream (soft serve and blackberry!), the gentle hike from Mathews Arm down Elkwallow Trail will be a trip to remember.
Sperryville, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.8
Catch nice views from a peak less traveled—and taller—than its cousin, Sharp Top. The hike to Flat Top’s summit is a pure and demanding climb—1,600 feet over 1.8 miles. While the view isn’t quite as grand as the one you’ll see from neighboring Sharp Top, you’re more likely to have this trail to yourself. Starting from the trailhead parking lot, look to the right. The trail, which is not blazed but is never difficult to follow, heads to the right out of the parking lot, following a flat grade. It soon veers to the left and gets to business, following the mountain to its summit. Though blissfully short, the next part of the trail is a relentless climb.
Buchanan, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.7
While this short hike is a steep climb for some, the views at the top are well worth the effort. On Frazier Discovery Trail, you’ll sample all that Shenandoah has to offer in just over a mile: a quick and steep climb, excellent views, and reminders of the people who once lived in these mountains. This quick loop gets down to business with an uphill climb on Loft Mountain but then eases out once along the ridge before dipping back down the mountain.To start the hike, cross Skyline Drive and head up the paved path that runs alongside the entrance to the campground.
Ruckersville, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.3
Climb high to enjoy an eagle’s eye of Trout Run Valley from the north, taking in Big Schloss and Tibbet Knob. The trickiest part of this hike is certainly the beginning. From the sign marking the start of Bucktail Trail, walk into the woods a few yards on an orange-blazed forest road. The trail broadens into a clearing, but follow the blazes, which lead left. Keep your eyes peeled for the pink-blazed footpath on your right at 0.2 mile: this is Bucktail Cutoff Trail, which heads east along the foot of Halfmoon Mountain for about 2.5 miles.
Wardensville, WV - Hiking - Trail Length: 8.9
Challenge yourself with a short, steep climb to Shenandoah’s highest peak. The reward: great views and a return route that’s all downhill. The distance may be short, but the first mile of this hike is certainly a challenge as you gain more than 600 feet to reach the summit of Shenandoah’s highest peak. Small parking lots are on either side of Skyline Drive, but the trailhead is on the western side, marked by an informational sign.
Sperryville, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.8