The brilliant flames of the sassafras trees in their fiery shades of red, gold and yellow means that autumn has finally arrived in Shenandoah National Park. The Skyline Drive takes you through 105 miles of vibrant sumacs and hickories, as well as majestic views from the Blue Ridge Mountains. At various mile markers, there are different viewpoints, trailheads, dining options and grocery runs.
I recommend starting your day early because the Skyline Drive is extremely popular and chances are you might be waiting behind a long line of cars.
Stony Man Trail
Mile Marker: 39.1
The Stony Man Trail is one of Shenandoah’s most popular trails. The 1.6 mile long trail (through the Appalachian Trail) takes hikers entirely through the forest. With the trees standing bare naked and the forest floor a carpet of vibrant colors, it is a beautiful and easy hike to the summit.
Upon reaching the summit, you may have to battle for standing space to soak in the gorgeous panoramic views. Fall means Shenandoah National Park receives peak volumes of visitors and locals.
Pollock Dining Room
Mile Marker: 41.7
The Pollock Dining Room is located in Skyland Lodging and a stone throw’s distance from the Stony Man Trail. It was the perfect place for me to grab lunch at Shenandoah after hiking Stony Man.
Vegetarian food tip when visiting Shenandoah National Park. I had the Portabella Sandwich that consisted of a ciabatta bread stuffed with grilled mushrooms and red peppers, together with a spinach garlic spread. It was super filling and the side of fries made me a very happy national park nerd! 🙂
Dark Hollow Falls Trail
Just north of the Byrd Visitor Center is the Dark Hollow Falls Trail. This 1.4 mile long trail is Shenandoah’s shortest hike to a waterfall. If you are short on time and have strong legs, then this hike is for you.
The trail descends sharply and leads you to the base of the waterfall, where Dark Hollow Falls tumbles more than 70 feet. People tend to be crowded around the base of the waterfall and with everyone trying to grab a selfie, it’s easy to slip on the rocks or drop your phone.
In addition, the return trip upward is a steep climb. Remember to pace yourself.
Bearfence Mountain Trail
Mile Marker: 56.4
This 1 mile long trail in Shenandoah is not for the faint hearted, for those afraid of heights or suffering from vertigo. The rock scramble involved is dangerous. The steep and often precarious nature of the rocky surfaces means that you will have to pull yourself over using your arms, legs and body. For example, I successfully snagged my pants while sliding down one surface. 😜
The sheer drop on the side of the rocks means that there is no room for error. There was a point when some of us were perched precariously on the rocks as one hiker tried to slowly navigate his way around the rock scramble. While it is mostly a patience game, this can be unnerving for some.
Bearfence Mountain Trail showcases some of the best fall colors in Shenandoah National Park. Hence, the panoramic views from the summit makes it worth the hike.