Hike the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is a 2,181-mile public footpath that traverses some of America’s most scenic, wooded, pastoral, wild, and culturally resonant lands.

Shenandoah National Park includes a 101-mile portion of the Appalachian Trail. The trail traces the ridge of the Blue Ridge mountains, often following the same route as Skyline Drive. The trail crosses Skyline Drive numerous times in the park.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail can be a great adventure and it is open to walkers, hikers, and backpackers.  It is closed to motor vehicles and bicycles.  It is also closed to horses, except in certain limited sections where they are expressly allowed. Section hikers are encouraged to plan hiking in mid-July through mid-May (not in or near June) due to busy “thru-hiker season”.

Listed below are a few short hikes that cross, utilize, or are located nearby the Appalachian Trail. More detailed information, including maps and trail guidebooks, is available from Appalachian Trail Conservancy at (304) 535-6331 or contact our local resource, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) for trip planning assistance.

Hike Name: Compton Gap to Compton Peak

Closest Town: Front Royal
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Distance: 2.4 miles round trip
Features: Good views, basalt formation, Compton’s Peak
Directions: Parking area for Compton is located south of Front Royal, at Skyline Drive MP 10.4

Hike Name: Mary’s Rock

Closest Town: Luray
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Distance: 4 miles round trip
Features: Panoramic views, wildflowers in most seasons, 360-degree view
Directions: The trailhead is located next to Panorama in Thornton Gap, at the intersection of US 211 and Skyline Drive (9 miles east of Luray).

Hike Name: Hawksbill Loop

Closest Town: Luray
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Distance: 2.7 miles round trip
Features: Highest mountain in Shenandoah National Park, views
Directions: The hike begins from the Hawksbill Gap Parking Area at Skyline Drive MP 45.6. This is about 15 miles south of US 211 in Thornton Gap

Hike Name: Lewis Spring Falls

Closest Town: Harrisonburg/Shenandoah
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Distance: 3.3 miles round trip
Features: Views, waterfalls, cliffs at Blackrock
Directions: Start from Big Meadows Lodge amphitheater parking, near Skyline Drive MP 51

Hike Name: Blackrock

Closest Town: Harrisonburg, VA
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Distance: 2 miles round trip
Features: Outstanding views from Blackrock
Directions: The Jones Run Parking Area is a Skyline Drive MP 83.8

Hike Name: Bear Den Mountain

Closest Town: Waynesboro, VA
Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate
Distance: 2.2 miles round trip
Features: Panoramic views, hawks during the annual fall migration
Directions: There is a small dirt parking lot in Beagle Gap at Skyline Drive MP 99.3