Virginia is known for many things. Birthplace of the US, home to some of the nation’s best seafood sources, and host to arguably some of the East coast’s best wineries, Virginia has a long history that has been beautifully painted by its resources over time.
With so many distinguishable features, many non-natives are surprised to find that Virginia is also one of the best places to go hiking! There’s a reason Virginia’s State Parks have roughly 10 million visitors each year, and those reasons are below… Happy hiking!
Hikes For Everyone
Sky Meadows State Park – This 1,860-acre park has scenic views, woodlands and the rolling pastures of a historic farm that captures the colonial through modern life of the Crooked Run Valley. Nature and history programs are offered year-round. Hiking, picnicking, fishing and primitive hike-in camping for families and groups are favorite activities in this peaceful getaway on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The park has 10.5 miles of bridle trails, 22 miles of hiking trails, 9 miles of bike trails and Appalachian Trail access.
Great Falls National Park – At Great Falls, the Potomac River builds up speed and force as it falls over a series of steep, jagged rocks and flows through the narrow Mather Gorge. The Patowmack Canal offers a glimpse into the early history of this country. Great Falls Park has many opportunities to explore history and nature, all in a beautiful 800-acre park only 15 miles from the Nation’s Capital.
Stony Man Trail – This short, 3.7 mile hike has some of the best vistas in the Shenandoah National Park. Little Stony Man, just below the main peak, has a popular rock wall with local climbers. Make sure to pick a haze free day, because you don’t want to miss all the views along the the ridge!
Shenandoah River State Park – This park is on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River and has more than 1,600 acres along 5.2 miles of shoreline. The park opened in June 1999. In addition to meandering river frontage, the park offers scenic views of Massanutten Mountain to the west and Shenandoah National Park to the east. A large riverside picnic area, picnic shelters, trails, river access and a car-top boat launch make this a popular destination for families, anglers and canoeists. Ten riverfront tent campsites, a campground with water and electric sites, cabins, camping cabins and a group campground are available. With more than 24 miles of trails and a new zipline, the park has plenty of options for hiking, biking, horseback riding and adventure.
Seven Bends State Park – This park is under construction and has no parking, restrooms or other facilities. Pedestrians are allowed during daylight hours. The park, which is in the geographically unique “seven bends” area of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, will provide access to the river’s north fork once facilities are built. The park will support water and land based outdoor recreation and educational opportunities. It will also feature spectacular scenery and tell the story of the area’s natural and cultural resources.
Hawksbill Mountain – Hawksbill Mountain is known for hosting the highest peak in Shenandoah National Park, complete with a gorgeous 270 degree view of the surrounding Blue Ridge mountains. This hike has two options: the trail to the right of the parking lot is moderate but provides very scenic sights, while the center trail (Lower Hawksbill Trail) is very steep but provides the most direct path to the summit. The Lower Hawksbill Trail climbs directly up the mountain, making it the moderately challenging hike that it is. For emphasis: you ascend 800 feet in 0.85 miles!
McAfee Knob – This is one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail. The Knob has an almost 270 degree panorama of the Catawba Valley and North Mountain to the West, Tinker Cliffs to the North and the Roanoke Valley to the East. If you are going to do this as a backpack and plan on camping at the Pig Farm campsite or Campbell Shelter, the total distance will be 9.5 miles.
Old Rag – If you’ve lived in the Shenandoah region for any amount of time (or have a friend who lives here), then you’ve heard of this legendary hike! The Old Rag Mountain hike in the Shenandoah National Park is one of the most popular hikes in the mid-Atlantic region. With many spectacular panoramic views, and one of the most challenging rock scrambles in the park, this circuit hike is a favorite of many hikers.
Strickler Knob – This challenging hike has some of the best vistas in the mid-Atlantic. The Strickler Knob Trail is a challenging rock hopping/scramble with beautiful views of New Market Gap, the Luray Valley, and a 360 degree picture perfect panorama from the Strickler Knob summit. This is a challenging hike with a great little rock scramble on the ridge. Camp at any of the ridge campsites and enjoy great sunsets and sunrises over the Shenandoah Valley. Since the hike is not an “official” trail, it is not maintained. For this reason, it is not suitable for kids or dogs.
White Oak Canyon Trail – White Oak Canyon Trail is a great hike with lots of waterfalls. The path is narrow, with lots of rocks and fallen leaves. As a result, it is a bit slippery, so you should wear hiking boots or shoes with good traction. The upper falls are quite large and feature small pools to swim in. Upper White Oak falls is the last waterfall along the trail although you can hike on further if you want. If you’re interested in swimming, the biggest swimming holes are close to the lower falls and the White Oak parking lot and are more crowded.
Whatever hike you choose; whatever trail you trek, make sure to share your experience with us! Follow us on Instagram at @goblueridgetrav or tag us in your pictures for a chance to be featured!