Where: Shenandoah National Park (Skyline Drive, VA)
What: Hiking (trail, unpaved – wet)
Snacks: Before & After (Sperryville, VA)
I’m a little nostalgic for summer. I’m also angling to go back to Shenandoah – please Government shutdown don’t last long (ongoing as of this writing 🥺)
Skyline Drive is a vast expanse of road in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The 105 mile road is popular for its sweeping views. It is home to Shenandoah National Park. Enter the park from any four entrance points and pay the parking fee – $30 for the week at the time of this writing. Entrances from North to South are Front Royal, Thorton Gap, Swift Run Gap and Rockfish Gap. Directions to each entrance can be found on the corresponding National Park Service website. Cell service is spotty at best.
We chose our starting point based on the hikes we were interested in. We entered the park at Thorton Gap and headed south. I was in the mood for waterfalls and waterfalls I got – Oak Canyon, Rose River and Dark Hollow. Plus the added bonus of Hawksbill Summit – the highest peak in the park. It’s doubtful that I saw more than 10% of the park. There were stretches of Skyline Drive that we didn’t touch. Don’t be sad for me, it just means I have to go back.
In true National Park fashion, there is emphasis on horse trails. Why, I don’t know. Be wary, the closer a parking lot is to a viewpoint the more crowded it will be, further there will be more bad behavior. Dark Hollow falls was a crowded nightmare, people sobbing with blisters in inappropriate footwear, people climbing in and on the falls, garbage. The falls were about a mile from the lot but the terrain still required appropriate footwear.
On the flip side, the Rose River loop was mostly empty and very wet. But, it was perfect. We meandered, we scrambled, we took in the sites and just enjoyed.
Next it was time to tackle the tallest peak in the park. With a hike hovering around two miles, the trails were packed. Nice meandering climb to the summit with no technical factors. There was a guy at the summit trying to take the perfect social media photo – walking on his hands. Crowded summit but still felt serene.
Our goal was to leave for day after Hawksbill but we still had plenty of snacks and water. The parking lot for Oak Canyon caught our eye. Arguably the most difficult hike of the day, rocky but with little technical factors. Wet trail in some places. So many people passed us asking if the parking lot was far – it was about five miles round trip so that lot was never all that far. But, at the end of our hike, I felt what those people were asking. Fifteen miles for the day, in the early August sun will do that to a person. Goodness was this waterfall incredible. Incredible, and by far the tallest I’ve ever seen in person.
Feed the hike team! We went into Sperryville to Before & After Café for some hard earned croissant egg sandwiches and the best cappuccino I’ve had outside of Italy. The best coffee is in rural Virginia, folks.
See you on the trails,