HomeNewsCircuit Loops Make For Great Hiking at Shenandoah National Park

Circuit Loops Make For Great Hiking at Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park has over 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

Some trails lead to a waterfall or viewpoint; others penetrate deep into the forest and wilderness.

An out-and-back hike proceeds to its destination and then returns by the same route. A circuit hike proceeds to its destination and then returns, all or most of the way, by a different route. Circuit hikes tend to vary in degrees of difficulty, making for unique hiking experiences around the loops. Here is a short list of some popular circuit routes in Shenandoah:

Lewis Falls Trail is a 3.3-mile circuit hike from the Big Meadows amphitheater to the observation point, or 2 miles round trip from Skyline Drive. It boasts an 81′ waterfall, streams and more. The hike is moderate, with steep rocky areas and different variations of terrain throughout.

Limberlost Trail is often enjoyed by people with mobility challenges. The trail was originally constructed to meet ADA accessibility standards; however, the requirements have recently been revised. Shenandoah National Park has plans to upgrade Limberlost to meet the new standards. This circuit hike of 1.3 miles is for people of all ages and has a 5-foot-wide crushed greenstone walkway on a gentle grade with frequent benches, a boardwalk, and a bridge. The trail passes through forest and a stand of mountain laurel – stunningly beautiful when it blooms in early summer.

Old Rag Mountain is one of the most popular hikes in the Shenandoah National Park—it is also the most challenging and dangerous. Recommended for experienced hikers only, a day on the Old Rag is one of Shenandoah’s premier experiences. The circuit is approximately nine miles, with significant elevation changes and rock scrambles. Hikers should allot about 7-8 hours to complete the loop.

The Stony Man Mountain Trail is one of the most scenic circuits in Shenandoah National Park. Although Stony Man is the second highest peak in the park, the grades are not difficult. The trail offers outstanding panoramas of neighboring mountains and totals 3.4 miles in length.

Want to learn more? Free printable hiking maps from the park service are available online, and information about additional featured hikes is here.

There is a $15-per-car entrance fee to the park, good for seven days. For more information about planning a trip to Shenandoah National Park go to http://www.nps.gov/shen or call the park at (540) 999-3500.