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Discover the 10 Best Easy Hikes in Shenandoah National Park

Nestled in the rolling hills of Virginia, Shenandoah National Park is a haven for nature enthusiasts and hikers alike. Renowned for its breathtaking vistas, cascading waterfalls, and the serene beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this park offers a natural tapestry that changes with each season.

With over 500 miles of trails, including a portion of the famous Appalachian Trail, the park caters to adventurers of all skill levels. However, it’s the ‘easy hikes’ that make Shenandoah a truly special destination. These trails are perfect for families, beginners, or those looking for a leisurely way to experience the great outdoors without the challenge of a strenuous hike.

Whether you’re planning a family outing, a peaceful solo trek, or a gentle adventure with friends, these hikes promise to offer stunning views, gentle terrain, and an unforgettable experience in one of America’s most beautiful national parks.

So, lace up your hiking boots, grab your water bottle, and let’s discover the gentle side of Shenandoah’s wilderness together!

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With a history dating back to the 1860s and luxurious amenities, including a full gourmet breakfast and access to a seasonal pool, spa, and fitness room, Glen Gordon Manor ensures a delightful complement to your hiking adventure.


1. Blackrock Summit Trail

Distance: 1 mile / Elevation Gain: 175 feet / Time to Complete: 45-60 minutes

A delightful, family-friendly loop leading to stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley and Massanutten Mountain. This trail boasts an easy rock scramble and is a paradise for birdwatchers and sunset chasers. Perfect for a quick, yet rewarding outdoor experience, it’s a TRACK Trail with engaging activities.

  • Most enjoyable from April to October, but accessible year-round.
  • Expect company due to its popularity, especially during sunsets and fall season.
  • Be prepared for narrow sections on the trail.
  • The rock scramble adds a touch of adventure without being too challenging.
  • Don’t miss the sunset views – they’re often described as breathtaking.

2. Stony Man via Appalachian Trail

Distance: 1.6 miles round trip / Elevation Gain: 340 feet / Time to Complete: 1 hour

Embark on a scenic journey to Stony Man’s summit for breathtaking views of the Shenandoah Valley and Massanutten Mountain. This trail, beloved for birding and hiking, offers a rewarding experience with a manageable incline and well-marked paths.

  • Prepare for an uphill trek; the effort is rewarded with stunning hideaway views.
  • Well-defined and easy for beginners, though proper hiking shoes are recommended due to rocky terrain.
  • Trail is slightly steep but manageable, with a smoother descent.
  • Can be crowded at the summit, especially during peak seasons.

3. Bearfence Mountain Trail

Distance: 1.1 miles round trip / Elevation Gain: 305 feet / Time to Complete: 45 minutes

Bearfence Mountain Trail offers an exhilarating hike with a rewarding 180-degree view of the Shenandoah Valley, featuring a unique rock scramble. This trail promises an adventurous experience with captivating scenic beauty.

  • Prepare for a fun rock scrambling adventure, suitable for those seeking a bit of a challenge.
  • Offers fantastic views, making the climb well worth it.
  • The first half of the trail involves free climbing and can be challenging but is manageable with some athleticism.
  • Not recommended for those uncomfortable with rocky conditions.
  • Bring shoes with good grip for the rocky portions.
  • The latter part of the hike is easier, perfect for jogging or a relaxed descent.

4. Hawksbill Summit via Upper Hawksbill

Distance: 2.1 miles round trip / Elevation Gain: 520 feet / Time to Complete: 1 hour 30 minutes

This trail leads to a breathtaking 360-degree view of the Shenandoah Valley, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Virginia Piedmont, making it a must-visit destination.

  • Offers a relatively easy hike with a gradual, steady incline towards the summit.
  • The trail is well-maintained, wide, and not overly rocky, suitable for families.
  • Perfect for experiencing stunning views, especially during the fall color season.
  • While labeled easiest, some parts can feel a bit more strenuous due to elevation gain.
  • Be mindful of trail splits if hiking the loop clockwise to avoid getting off track.

5. Turk Mountain Trail

Distance: 2.2 miles round trip / Elevation Gain: 690 feet / Time to Complete: 2 hours 15 minutes

Embark on an adventure to the summit of Turk Mountain, offering splendid views to the west. This hike, balancing ease and a touch of challenge, is perfect for families and those seeking a moderate scramble.

  • Family-friendly, with manageable steepness and an exciting rock scramble towards the end.
  • Generally well-maintained with scattered elevation changes.
  • Short but steep, prepare for a rewarding effort leading to beautiful summit vistas.
  • Suitable for those accustomed to rocky paths.
  • Offers good views for relatively low effort, and less crowded than other popular trails in the park.
  • Extra caution is advised during fall due to leaves and twigs on the trail.

6. Fox Hollow Trail

Distance: 1.2 miles circuit / Elevation Gain: 310 feet / Time to Complete: 45 minutes

This hike, enriched with historic rock walls, a cemetery, and remnants of past residents, offers a unique peek into the park’s past.

  • Located conveniently across from the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center, perfect for a quick leg-stretch.
  • Wooded and roomy, with the Fox Family Cemetery as a key highlight.
  • Trail elevation might feel more challenging than expected; prepare for some incline.
  • Opt for the left path at the trailhead for a more gradual ascent on the way back.
  • For a shorter route, consider visiting the cemetery and returning the same way to avoid thicker brush and creek crossing.

7. Millers Head Trail

Distance: 1.6 miles round trip / Elevation Gain: 450 feet / Time to Complete: 2 hours

Millers Head Trail, leading to the site of a former fire tower, offers hikers a chance to enjoy spectacular views of the Shenandoah Valley. This trail, with its rocky terrain and rewarding viewpoint, is a hidden gem in the park.

  • A less crowded alternative to more popular trails, providing a peaceful hiking experience.
  • Offers two beautiful views, one at the beginning and another at the trail’s end.
  • Challenging for beginners with a mix of straightaways and steep rock climbs.
  • Parking available at the Skyland Amphitheater, though spaces are limited.

8. Limberlost Trail

Distance: 1.3 miles / Elevation Gain: 130 feet / Time to Complete: 1 hour 30 minutes

Limberlost Trail, known for its accessible path and tranquil forest setting, is a delight throughout the year. This easy loop is adorned with mountain laurel in spring and features unique columnar jointing geological formations. It’s a favorite for birdwatching and offers an engaging TRACK Trail experience.

  • Ideal for those seeking a peaceful stroll through nature’s beauty.
  • Wheelchair and elderly-friendly, with a paved, level path.
  • Exceptional in the fall for its vibrant colors and fairy-tale-like ambiance.
  • Abundant wildlife sightings, including deer and various bird species.
  • Benches along the trail provide restful spots for contemplation or rest.
  • Great choice for families with strollers, senior visitors, or those with limited mobility.

9. Story of the Forest Trail

Distance: 1.8 miles round trip / Elevation Gain: 290 feet / Time to Complete: 1 hour 30 minutes

This easy hike passes the Big Meadows Air Quality Station, offering a blend of nature’s beauty and scientific significance, adorned with wildflowers and butterflies.

  • The trail has rocky paths through the forest and a paved walkway along the main road.
  • The forested section provides shade, while the sidewalk section is more exposed.
  • Not stroller-friendly due to step-drops, rocks, and roots on the forest path.
  • Well-maintained and marked, with benches available along the route.
  • Combine with the Blackrock Trail for a fuller hiking experience, as they are close and offer different views.

10. Fort Windham Rocks Trail

Distance: 0.8 miles round trip / Elevation Gain: 130 feet / Time to Complete: 30 minutes

This easy trail along the Appalachian leads to impressive, deeply split boulders rising majestically from the earth.

  • A quick and easy stroll through lovely, flat woodland to a unique rock formation.
  • Keep an eye out for a side trail to climb atop the rocks for a different perspective.
  • The path to the rocks can be easily missed; look for a spur trail leading to the rock outcropping.
  • Partly overgrown and may have bugs, but the shaded hike remains pleasant.
  • While the rocks are interesting, some find them less spectacular than expected.

Pick the Perfect Package

Make the most of your outdoor adventure with our Take a Hike Package! You’ll venture out with your own lightweight and durable GGM backpack with everything you could possibly need for the perfect picnic for two. Plus, the backpack is yours to take home with you!

Massage

What’s better than a post-hike spa treatment? Treat yourselves to a well-deserved 60 or 90 minute massage in our Tack Room Spa! We also have a couple massage packages to help you fully unwind, indulge, and relax after your big adventure. You deserve it!

Book your favorite room at Glen Gordon Manor today and get ready to reach new heights during your Virginia getaway.


What makes a hike ‘easy’?

When we talk about ‘easy’ hikes, what exactly do we mean? Understanding this can help beginners and families choose the perfect trail to ensure an enjoyable experience in Shenandoah National Park.

  • Accessibility: Easy to reach trailheads with clear signage and well-maintained paths.
  • Gentle Terrain: Manageable inclines and declines, suitable for all ages and fitness levels.
  • Shorter Distances: Typically under 5 miles, ideal for leisurely walks.
  • Natural Beauty: Scenic views along the trails, including meadows, streams, and panoramic vistas.
  • Safety Features: Well-populated and patrolled trails with fewer hazards, ensuring a secure experience.
  • Rest Areas: Benches and spots for breaks, allowing for a relaxed and enjoyable hike.

Practical Advice for Hikers

Embarking on a hike in Shenandoah National Park, even on the easier trails, calls for some practical planning. Here’s some advice to help ensure your hiking experience is both enjoyable and safe.

Gear Recommendations for Easy Hikes

  • Comfortable Footwear: Even on easy trails, good hiking shoes or boots are essential. Look for footwear with good support and grip.
  • Weather-Appropriate Clothing: Layered clothing is key. Shenandoah’s weather can change quickly, so be prepared with a waterproof jacket and breathable fabrics.
  • Hydration and Snacks: Always carry enough water – a hydration pack or water bottles are ideal. Energy-boosting snacks like trail mix or fruit are also a good idea.
  • Sun Protection: Even in wooded areas, sun exposure can be significant. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.
  • Basic First Aid Kit: Include items like plasters, antiseptic wipes, and any personal medications.
  • Map and Compass/GPS: While the trails are well-marked, a map or GPS can be invaluable, especially if you wander off the main path.

Safety Tips

  • Stay on Marked Trails: This keeps you safe and protects the park’s fragile ecosystem.
  • Check Weather Forecasts: Be aware of the weather conditions before you start your hike.
  • Inform Someone of Your Plans: Always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
  • Bears: Maintain a minimum of 150 feet distance from bears, stay grouped, make noise to alert bears of your presence, avoid surrounding them, and retreat slowly if a bear approaches. Store food properly to avoid attracting bears.
  • Ticks: Ticks are common in the Park and can transmit diseases. Visitors should take precautions against tick bites.
  • Snakes: The Park is home to venomous snakes like timber rattlesnakes and copperheads. Be cautious, especially when walking through leaves or near rocks, and use a flashlight at night.
  • Slips, Trips, and Falls: To avoid injuries, hikers should be cautious in wet, slippery, or icy conditions, avoid walking atop waterfalls due to slippery rocks, and always stay on Park-maintained trails.
  • Food Storage: Proper food storage is crucial to prevent attracting and habituating wildlife, particularly bears, which can lead to dangerous situations.
  • Lightning Storms: Avoid high places during storms, minimize ground contact if caught in the open, stay away from metal objects, and turn off electronic devices.
  • Driving Skyline Drive: Drive carefully watching for animals, especially at a reduced speed limit of 35 mph. In winter, ensure a full gas tank, carry warm clothing, and be cautious of icy patches.

Best Times of the Year to Hike These Trails

  • Spring (April to June): Enjoy wildflower blooms and milder temperatures. Be mindful of occasional rain showers.
  • Summer (July to Early September): Ideal for lush greenery and full waterfalls, but prepare for warmer temperatures and more crowded trails.
  • Fall (Late September to November): A favorite time for many due to the spectacular autumn foliage. Cooler temperatures make for pleasant hiking conditions.
  • Winter (December to March): Some trails are accessible in winter, offering a serene hiking experience. However, be prepared for cold weather and check for trail closures due to snow or ice.

With the right preparation and mindfulness of these practical tips, your hike in Shenandoah National Park is sure to be a memorable and enjoyable experience.

Additional Resources

Below are links to official park maps and guides, which are invaluable for both first-time visitors and seasoned hikers.

By utilizing these resources, you can plan your hike with confidence, knowing you have the most current and comprehensive information about Shenandoah National Park at your fingertips.

Happy hiking!