Northern Virginia Dayhikes

Shenandoah National Park, North Section

These hikes are listed roughly in order from north to south. The trails are usually best accessed from the edge of the park (when possible) so that you can hike up and then down, rather than the reverse. The north section of the park runs from Front Royal to Thornton Gap. Mile markers on the Skyline Drive start at 0 from the north end.

photo Some of the interesting shorter hikes not listed here include the Fox Hollow Trail, Fort Windham Rocks, Compton Peak, and the Pass Mountain Overlook Loop. The length of the Skyline Drive through this section of park is 32 miles (w/ 35mph speed limit) and provides nice views of the rolling hills to the east and the Shenandoah Valley to the west.

On-line References
Guide to Shenandoah National Park contains good detailed descriptions of trails and small area maps.
The National Park Service has good information and a large park map in PDF (Adobe Acrobat) format.
The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club has more good info and slightly smaller JPG images of the park map.

Lands Run Falls
down and back - 1.3/325
loop - 8.5/2000 (rough estimate)

Location: the loop can be accessed from the west edge of the park near Browntown. It can also be accessed from the Skyline Drive around mile 10, which is where you would start to just go to the falls and back.

Details: Description of down and back trip from Guide to SNP. See also park references.

Description: The highlight of this trail is an 80 foot series of cascades at the head of a small ravine, but it usually doesn't have much water flow and it requires a bit of scrambling to actually see it. Scramble up the other side and you'll find some nice rocks with views down the ravine. The loop also takes you by the interesting Fort Windham Rocks and to the view on Compton Peak.

Notes: I haven't hiked the loop, so I can't comment personally on it. It requires some bit of walking on roads to complete the circuit. The walk down to the falls is on a fire road, but the forest still provides good shade.

last hiked: 1999

Mount Marshall
Distance: photo
loop - 13/2100 (add about 1.2/600 to Big Devils Stairs overlook)
one way shuttle - 5.5/1300
up and back to S. Marshall and N. Marshall - 2.4/400

Location: Skyline Drive miles 15-17

Details: Description and maps from Guide to SNP (see "Bluff Trail and AT"). See also park references.

Picture: Looking west from North Marshall

Description: On the west side of the loop, the Appalachian Trail climbs to nice overlooks on both the south and north peaks of Mount Marshall. On the east side, the fairly level Bluff Trail goes through a nice section of forest with some pleasant winter views.

Notes: A parking lot on the Skyline Drive provides easy access to North Marshall, so you can expect to see some foot traffic here, but not nearly as bad as the more popular trails in the park.

last hiked: 1999

Big Devils Stairs
Distance: about 5.5/1900

Location: Skyline Drive at Gravel Springs Gap, mile 17.6

Details: Description and maps from Guide to SNP. See also park references.

Description: This circuit takes you down along the rim of Big Devils Stairs and then climbs back up the center. On the way down, it passes an excellent overlook of the impressive canyon. The real fun, however, is bushwhacking back up. There was a trail here once, but it is long gone now. When the water is low, you can walk right in the streambed most of the way. There are only a few sections which actually require crawling up rocks and I think you can go around these if you really want to. There is a nice waterfall at the head of the canyon and beyond that are some very large hemlocks which appear to have been spared from both woolly adelgid and humans. The hike gets more difficult after that point, since the rest of the bushwhack goes through forest clogged with fallen trees and greenbrier.


last hiked: fall, 1999

Little Devils Stairs
Distance: photo
short loop - 5.5/1780
medium loop - 8.2/2200
long loop - 11.6/2920
longer loop - 13/3200

Location: accessed from edge of park at Washington, VA. Longer options can also be accessed from the Skyline Drive around mile 20 to 22.

Details: Description and maps from Guide to SNP. See also park references.

Picture: The Bolen Cemetery

Description: The highlight of this trail is a section of about one mile through Little Devils Stairs, a steep, narrow canyon filled with cascades and cliffs. The trail requires a little bit of rock scrambling through this section and can be a bit treacherous when wet. On the longer loops, you climb up to the Skyline Drive and then follow the Appalachian Trail to several viewpoints. All but the short loop follows Piney Branch back down the mountain, passing a small waterfall near the bottom. A short climb from there takes you past the old Bolen cemetery and then it's back down a fire road to the starting point.

last hiked: 2001

Overall Run Falls
Distance: photo
9.2/2300 or 9.6/2600
add if starting from (approx):
 Hogback Overlook - 1.2/240
 Mathews Arm entrance road - 1.6/120
 Elkwallow Wayside - 4.0/100
 Thompson Hollow - 1.5/200

to the falls and back:
 Hogback Overlook - 6.5/1850
 Mathews Arm Campground - 3.8/1140

Location: Mathews Arm Campground (mile 22). This is closed in winter, thus the other possible start points listed above. It can also be accessed from the west edge of the park near Bentonville (Thompson Hollow access).

Details: Description and maps from Guide to SNP. NPS has map of Mathews Arm area.

Picture: Doe and fawn on the Tuscarora Trail

Description: Although these are the highest falls in the park, you cannot really see the entire falls at once. The viewpoints are all partially obstructed and you may have to do a little off-trail scrambling to actually see the falls (keeping in mind that some sources claim this to be a likely place to find rattlesnakes). It's probably best in spring when the water is high and the trees are still relatively bare. Nevertheless, it's still a nice sight and the view west from the top of the falls is quite good. At the bottom of Thompson Hollow, Overall Run has a very pretty series of pools, and the forest is very nice throughout most of the loop.

last hiked: spring, 2000

Jeremys Run
loop with Neighbor Mountain - 14/2600
loop with The Knob - 12/2600

Location: Elkwallow Picnic Area (mile 24) or, for Neighbor Mountain, around mile 26.5. Maps show a trail coming in from the west edge of the park, but I don't know if there is access from that point.

Details: Description and maps from Guide to SNP. See also park references.

Description: The Jeremys Run trail features a long section of trail through one of the largest valleys coming off of the main ridge within the park. The trail crosses the stream 14 times; be prepared to get your feet wet on the lower crossings if the water level is high. Neighbor Mountain provides some obstructed views; the Knob does not, but it does go through a nice isolated section of forest. The mellow beauty of the stream valley and the feeling of remoteness give this hike a high rating.

Notes: Most sources I've seen describe the loop as going down Jeremys Run and then up the other portion of the circuit, but I think it works much better saving the gentle ascent of Jeremys Run for the last part of the hike.

last hiked: 2002

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