Northern Virginia Dayhikes

Here you'll find a list of my favorite dayhikes within about 2 hours drive of Northern Virginia. When possible, they're described as circuit hikes.

You can follow the links to more detailed descriptions, but for most of these trails you should get detailed information and maps if you decide to hike them. Some references are given at the bottom of this page and I've also made a few comments on the climate.

View from Old Rag
Go here to see more of my photos of Shenandoah National Park.

Distance - 5.5/1780 means a 5.5 mile round trip with a climb of 1780 feet. All distances are round trips, either circuits or out-and-back, unless enclosed in []s. Elevation change, in almost all cases, is the same for both gain and loss. When possible, these values come directly from descriptions in the references listed below. Unfortunately, some of the references disagree and occasionally the elevation change given doesn't match what the contour map shows. When there is some doubt or I had to calculate values myself, the distance will be qualified with approx in the detailed description. The detailed descriptions frequently contain more options than those shown on this first page.

Drive - estimated hours and minutes from the intersection of Interstate 66 and 495 (about a mile south of Tysons Corners, VA)

Rating - my own personal rating on a scale of 1 (good) to 5 (great). The rating is based mostly on scenery, feeling of remoteness, and the presence of interesting destinations. Lack of crowds is a plus, but the presence of crowds was not used to lower a rating (go early and in the middle of the week and it isn't usually an issue). Proximity and convenience to home was not considered as part of the rating. + designates special seasonal interest; * designates an area with items of interest other than the hiking. Remember, these are all my favorites, so even a 1 can still be a great hike!
Shenandoah National Park - North section
Trail Distance Rating Drive Attractions
Big Devils Stairs 5.5/1900 4 1:15 bushwhack up rocky gorge
Little Devils Stairs 5.5/1780 -
4 1:00 rocky gorge
Jeremys Run 12/2600 4 1:20 long section of scenic stream
Mount Marshall 13/1960 3 1:20 views
Overall Run Falls 9.2/2300 -
3 1:25 waterfall, stream
Lands Run Falls 8.5/2000 2 1:00 small falls, views
Shenandoah National Park - Central section
Trail Distance Rating Drive Attractions
Old Rag 7.1/2200 5 1:25 great views, rock scramble
White Oak Canyon 5.3/1670 -
5 1:35 many waterfalls, views
Rose River Loop 3.7/860 -
3 1:40 waterfalls, very scenic stream
Rose River 8.7/1700 -
3 1:35 bushwhack along river
South River Falls 4.3/820 -
3 1:40 impressive waterfall
Robertson Mountain 5.2/1200 -
3 1:35 view, stream
Rapidan Camp 6.8/1000 -
3 1:40 historic interest, small falls
Lewis Falls 3.7/1200 2 1:40 waterfall
Buck Hollow 6.5/1800 2 1:00 stream
George Washington National Forest
Trail Distance Rating Drive Attractions
Big Schloss 5.8/1400 -
4 1:55 large rock formation w/great view
Duncan Knob 3.1/1200 -
3 1:35 rock scramble w/good view
Little Schloss 5.5/900 -
3 1:55 rock formation and views
Signal Knob 10.6/1600 2 1:10 good view
Veach Gap 6/1000 2 1:20 view, stream
Kennedy Peak 9.4/900 2 1:35 view from low tower
Buzzard Rock 5/700 -
2 1:10 views
Other Trails
Trail Distance Rating Drive Attractions
Maryland Heights 6/1300 2* 1:00 civil war history, good view
Sugarloaf Mountain 8.1/1700 2 0:40 very good view
Catoctin Mountain 8.7/1200 -
2 0:55 waterfall, views, rock formations
Prince William Forest Park 6.1 to 15.6 1 0:45 streams, forest
G. Richard Thompson WMA 7.2/1300 1+ 0:50 (wildflowers)
Cascade Falls 5.1/400 1 0:50 waterfall, stream, forest
Inside or near the Beltway
Trail Distance Rating Drive Attractions
Billy Goat Trail 4/100 4* 0:20 mather gorge, boulder scrambling
Great Falls/Difficult Run 5 to 7 1* 0:20 mather gorge, historic interest
Potomac Heritage Trail [up to 10+] 1 0:15 river, streams (wildflowers)
Manassas Battlefield Park [up to 10+] 1* 0:20 civil war history
Bull Run/Occoquan Trail [up to 18] 1+ 0:20 stream (wildflowers)
Fairfax Cross-County Trail [up to 38] 1 0:10 streams
Washington, DC - Trails you decide 1* 0:15 streams, historic sites
Washington, DC - Walks you decide * 0:15 monuments, museums, etc.

Web sites:
Potomac Appalachian Trail Club - Has many good links and detailed descriptions of some of the trails listed above. Has a bulletin board where you can get an answer to any question about hiking or camping in the area. Also includes updates to their trail guides.
Guide to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive has a mile-by-mile description of the Skyline Drive with small maps and hike descriptions, along with other excellent information about the park, along with other excellent information about the park.
National Park Service site for Shenandoah National Park
DC online has excellent descriptions of trails in DC and many links for parks and other activities in the area.
Forest service site for GW National Forest
Fairfax Trails & Streams, and the West Fairfax Trail
Places to hike in Maryland

Recommended Books:
The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) publishes a number of small books with maps and detailed descriptions of hikes. They also publish detailed maps showing the trails for many of these areas. For info on the trails listed here see the following:
Circuit Hikes in Shenandoah National Park - describes almost all of the SNP hikes listed above
Guide to Massanutten Mountain - includes most of the GWNF hikes
Circuit Hikes in VA, WV, MD, and PA - includes many of the other hikes
Henry Heatwole Guide to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive
Paul Elliot 60 Hikes within 60 Miles - Washington, DC
Karin Wuertz-Schaefer Hiking Virginia's National Forests - covers Big and Little Schloss hikes, as well as describing many hiking areas a bit further out.
Allen de Hart The Trails of Virginia - brief descriptions of over 1000 trails in Virginia, including many of the smaller trails in the parks in the Northern Virginia area.
Kevin Adams Waterfalls of Virginia and West Virginia - includes descriptions for several of the hikes listed here.
Bob Bruton Exploring Washington on Foot - good suggestions for walks through DC with lots of useful information

Further afield:
Kevin Myatt and the Roanoke Times provides excellent information for hiking in Southwest VA.
National Park Service page for the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs between Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks.
National Park Service page for the Great Smoky Mountains and a travel guide at
TrailPixie will help get you motivated to explore some of the nearby hiking areas in West Virginia. Also has pictures and descriptions of the Big Schloss area.
Virginia State Parks - in particular, check out Breaks Interstate, Douthat, and Grayson Highlands State Parks.
Links to more web sites from American Trails and Yahoo.
On-line topo maps from TopoZone

Leonard M. Adkins Walking the Blue Ridge - no trail maps, but good descriptions of all the hiking options, both long and short, on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Copyright 2008 by Robert Cantor