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7 Best Short Hikes of the Shenandoah National Park

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We absolutely love hiking, but there is not always time to spend a day on the trails. Though the Shenandoah has many amazing hikes, most of them are long and strenuous. These can be quite difficult if you are only in the park for a day or two. So, we’ve picked out 7 of our favorite short hikes in the Shenandoah National Park for those who want to get out of the car, but can’t do the longer hikes.

If this is your first time visiting the park, we also recommend reading our Beginner’s Guide to Exploring the Shenandoah National Park.

Best Short Hikes of the Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

All hikes included in this guide take less than two hours and are of easy to moderate difficulty.

Most trails in the Shenandoah National Park have good signage. Cement posts with a metal banding typically point the way. Other trails use trail blazes, paint splotches on rocks and trees. Blue paint is for hiking trails and yellow indicates a horse trail.

The Appalachian Trail runs for 101 miles in the park, crisscrossing Skyline Drive, the park’s main road. You will often see signage with an AT or a white painted trail blaze, marking the Appalachian Trail. Many of the hikes in the park use portions of the Appalachian Trail.

Let’s jump straight into 7 of the best short hikes in the park. Hikes are listed from north to south.

Limberlost trail marker in the Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Stony Man Trail

Stunning view at the end of a gradual uphill trail.

Most known for its sunset views, this trail stays busy most of the day. Stoney Man Mountain is the second highest peak in the park at over 4,000 feet.

The parking lot for the trail is located just off Skyline Drive in the Skyland complex. Take the Appalachian Trail for .4 of a mile until you see the Stony Man Trail. Take either way at the fork as it loops around on itself.

  • Milepost: 41.7
  • Distance: 1.5 miles
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Route Type: Out and back
  • Elevation change: 350 feet
  • Map: Skyland Area

Millers Head

A hidden gem in the center of the park. The first section of the trail is unremarkable, but don’t worry, a stunning view awaits you at the end.

The short hike starts off from the Skyland amphitheater. Park in the grass and head up the maintenance road. The trail will come to a T-junction. Take the trail left and you should almost immediately see the large communication dishes. Just past this, you will find the first lookout.

From here, the trail becomes a little steep as switchbacks wind over rocky terrain. Therefore, we classify this trail as easy to moderate, despite the park’s classification of easy. It is a short trail, but if you have walking sticks, this would be a good trail to use them on.

We also want to note, though dogs are allowed on this trail, puppies and older dogs are likely to struggle.

  • Milepost: 42.5
  • Distance: 1.6 miles
  • Time: 1.5 to 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Route Type: Out and back
  • Elevation change: 450 feet
  • Map: Skyland Area
Millers Head Trail Viewpoint at the Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
View from Millers Head Viewpoint

Limberlost Walking Trail

The Limberlost Trail is by far the easiest and most accessible trail in the Shenandoah National Park. More a walking path than hiking trail, there are plenty of benches along the way to relax.   

Despite this trail having no viewpoint, it is a spectacular walk through the forest. Plus, it is a great place to watch the wildlife. Deer, birds, and other small critters frequent the area. Bear sightings are also common.       

  • Milepost: 43.0
  • Distance: 1.3 miles
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Route Type: Loop
  • Elevation change: 98 feet
  • Map: Skyland Area

Dark Hallow Falls Trail

Being the closest waterfall to Skyline Drive, makes the hike one of the most popular in the park.

You will come across two viewpoints. One is near the top of the 70-foot waterfall. The better view is from the bottom.

The decent to the waterfall is steep, but you really notice it on the return to the car park. There are plenty of boulders to sit on and catch your breath on the way up.

On a busy weekend we honestly recommend skipping this trail. It gets very overcrowded, which can spoil the scene. If you are there during a quieter time, then this short hike is worth the effort.

  • Milepost: 50.7
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Route Type: Out and back
  • Elevation change: 440 feet
  • Map: Big Meadows Area

Big Meadows Walking Trails

Across from the Byrd Visitor Center in the heart of the park, lies Big Meadows.

Though not officially a hiking trail, hundreds of little paths crisscross the open field. Alternatively, the Rapidan Fire Road provides an easy route through the middle.

If you are keen to see wildlife, this is one of the best places in the park. Around dawn and dusk, deer fill the field to graze. Even black bear forage around the wooded perimeter.

Bearfence Mountain Viewpoint Hike

This fun short hike gives an incredible 360-degree view but is not for everyone and not for wet days.  

Probably even more memorable than the view, is the rock scramble and ledge walking. Though it starts off relatively easy, don’t be fooled, this trail has a few doubt yourself moments awaiting you.

Make sure you are wearing shoes with a good grip. We also recommend clothes you don’t mind getting dirty, you may find yourself scooting along on our bum like us (well, just me).

Do the trail clockwise. Follow the blue paint markers (blue blazed trail) on the rock scramble. There are two viewpoints, the best one is the 360 at the top of the rocks. Return via the Appalachian Trail.

Final word of caution. Rattlesnakes are often seen in the area, especially in summer. Take note of where you are putting your hands as you make your way along the rocky areas.

  • Milepost: 56.4
  • Distance: 1.2 miles
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Route Type: Loop
  • Elevation change: 305 feet
  • Map: Bearfence Area

Blackrock Summit

Our favorite of the short hikes in the Shenandoah National Park is the hike to Blackrock Summit.

The ocean of rocks at the viewpoint make this short hike quite memorable. Bonus, you also get to follow a rather easy section of the Appalachian Trail.

To make the loop for the return trip, follow the path around the mound of rocks at Black Rock summit. Not long after re-entering the wooded area, you will see Blackrock Hut Road. Make a left and follow this back to the parking lot.

  • Milepost: 84.8
  • Distance: 1.0 mile
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Route Type: Loop
  • Elevation change: 175 feet
  • Map: Loft Mountain Area
Jeremy Blackrock Summit
View from Blackrock Summit

What’s your favorite short hike in the Shenandoah National Park?

More Information on the Shenandoah National Park

Books and Maps on the Shenandoah National Park

If you plan to spending more time in the Shenandoah National Park you may want to consider picking up a book or map on the area.

Where to Stay for the Shenandoah National Park

  • To stay within the park, Big Meadows Lodge (mile 51) and Skyland (miles 41.7 and 42.5) offer traditional rooms and have a few detached cabins. Lewis Mountain Cabins (mile 57.5) is another option in the park. Visit GoShenandoah.com to make reservations.
  • Hampton Inn Waynesboro – Great location for the South District of the Shenandoah National Park
  • If you’re looking for something with a bit more character, consider staying in one of the area’s many Bed and Breakfasts, like Hopkins Ordinary Bed, Breakfast and Ale Works in Sperryville. 
For more suggestions on where to stay, see our Beginners Guide to the Shenandoah National Park.
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