Explore the Backcountry


in Shenandoah National Park

Go for a hike in the backcountry

Go for a Hike! With more than 500 miles of trails, Shenandoah National Park is a hiker’s paradise. Enjoy the rewards and challenges of hiking to mountain summits and cascading waterfalls, while reconnecting with family, friends and yourself.

Remember, always check current weather conditions before setting off on a hike. Hikers should wear appropriate footwear and clothing for the season and bring food and plenty of water for all hikes and a trail lunch for the advanced hikes.

Skyline Drive provides easy access to most trails. Explore these featured hikes:

Mile 10.4 – Compton Peak

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Distance: 2.4 miles round trip

This loop hike has an 835-foot elevation change hike to a lovely view. Park on east side of the Skyline Drive, trail begins on the west side of the Drive. Two miles of the hike is on the Appalachian Trail, with a branching off to the peak itself of .2 mile each way.

Mile 21 – Sugarloaf-Keyser Run Fire Road – Hogback Mountain

Difficulty Level: Easy to moderately strenuous
Distance: 4.9 miles

It is a circuit (not round trip), park on west side of Skyline Drive, just south of Hogback Overlook, at mile 21; hike begins at south end of parking lot, at trail head marker (cement post), start with blue-blazed Sugarloaf Trail. Spectacular views, interesting geology, and gorgeous views.

Mile 41.7 – Stony Man to Skyland to Big Meadows

Difficulty Level: Strenuous
Distance: 7+ miles

This hike will stay high along the ridgeline and take hikers to two of the best peaks in the park!

Mile 51.2 – Lewis Falls Trail

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Distance: 3.6

Leaving from the Big Meadows amphitheater, this hike leads to an observation point over a beautiful 81′ waterfall. 

Mile 52.8 – Mill Prong Loop

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Distance: 4 miles

This moderate out and back hike with 800 feet elevation change will take you to the Rapidan Camp, President Hoover’s summer retreat on the Rapidan River.

Mile 45.6 – Hawksbill

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Distance: 3 miles

This hike puts you on the highest peak in the park and offers outstanding views!

Mile 49.4 – Rose River Loop

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Distance: 4 miles

This hike offers a waterfall and several smaller cascades along the trail.

Mile 41.7 – Stony Man Summits and Lower Cliffs

Difficulty Level: Easy
Distance: 3.5 miles

This is a short and pleasant hike with a moderate 500 foot elevation change, yet offers some of the best vistas in Shenandoah National Park.

Mile 81.1 – Doyles River Falls

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Distance: 2.7 miles

Doyles River Parking Area, on east side of Drive, to two very pretty waterfalls, one 63′ and one 28′. If you wanted to make it a loop and quite a bit longer and more strenuous, you could park at Browns Gap Parking.

Mile 83 - Browns Gap

Difficulty Level: Difficult
Distance: 6.5 miles

On west side of Skyline Drive, get on the Appalachian Trail (AT) and head south; pick, up Jones Run Trail and head east, past the 42′ Jones Run Falls, on to the Doyles River Trail, north to Browns Gap Fire Road, west on Browns Gap Fire Road back to Browns Gap Parking.

Mile 90 – Riprap Trail

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Distance: 3.4 miles

Two very nice west-facing views from Calvary Rocks and Chimney Rock.

For a much longer and more strenuous hike, continue south on the Riprap Trail to Wildcat Ridge Trail, then head east to the AT; north on the AT back to Riprap Trail Parking.

There’s so much to see!

So,  what should I do first?

We know there is a lot to see and do in the Park.  So we decided to create a seasonal top 10 lists for those who have only limited time. We asked park rangers to give us their best recommendations. Learn more about what they suggested: the Top 10 Things to Do in Shenandoah National Park.