5 Best Hiking Spots in VirginiaBookmark this
Since much of the state consists of hills and mountains, it’s no surprise Virginia has plenty of top-notch hiking. We’ve narrowed it down to five great hiking spots. So grab your hiking boots, maps, and water bottles and use these sure-to-please suggestions as your guide.
5. Humpback Rocks
Photo: Peter Hamel - National Parks Service
This is a short, steep hike, but worth the trek. The 1.6-mile out-and-back trail is at the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s extremely popular, especially on weekends. The climb is tough, but the reward at the top is the spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park. You can add a few miles and make it a loop hike by coming down the Appalachian Trail. Before or after your hike, check out the visitor center museum and the 1890s historic mountain farm.
4. Crabtree Falls
Photo: Tony Glenn
Crabtree Falls is the tallest waterfall in Virginia, with its tallest drop of 400 feet, making this another popular hike. It’s in the George Washington National Forest 45 miles north of Asheville and 6 miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The moderate hike is a scenic 2.5-mile loop, but you don’t have to go that far to see the falls. The first viewpoint is several hundred yards from the parking lot on a paved path. Continue along the trail for four more overlooks of the falls and great views of the Tye River Valley.
3. Hawksbill Mountain
When you reach the summit of Hawksbill Mountain, you’ll be at the highest point in Shenandoah National Park (4,050 feet). You’ll also find 360-degree views that are especially stunning at sunrise or sunset. There are two routes to the summit from the Hawksbill parking area. One is an easy-to-moderate 2.9-mile loop trail. The other is a steeper 1.5-mile out-and-back route. Note: the last 2.5 miles of the gravel road to the parking lot is bumpy and not recommended for cars with low clearance.
2. McAfee Knob
Photo credit: patrickyagow on Visualhunt.com / CC BY
Chances are good you’ve seen a picture of McAfee Knob, as it’s one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Roanoke, it’s a bucket list hike for people around the world and ranks as one of the best hikes in the United States.
McAfee Knob is a natural ledge jutting off the summit of Catawba Mountain (elevation 3,197 feet). It’s a moderately challenging 8.8-mile out-and-back hike. Start at the gravel parking lot on Route 311, where the road crosses the Appalachian Trail. Parking is limited here so arrive early or visit on a weekday. It’s a steady uphill climb with an elevation gain of 1,700 feet. Bring a sandwich and take time to enjoy the breathtaking views at the top.
1. Old Rag Mountain
This is one of Virginia’s most popular hikes with staggering 360-degree views at the summit. It’s also one of the most dangerous because of its treacherous rock scramble near the top. It’s a 9-mile circuit hike in Shenandoah National Park (park entry fee required).
The hike starts at the Old Rag Fee Station. Parking is free, but the lot fills up early, especially on busy weekends. From there, it’s a 0.8-mile walk to the trailhead (the small parking lot at the trailhead isn’t open to the public). There are several ways to hike Old Rag Mountain. The most popular is a circuit using Ridge Trail on the way up. The trail is wooded for the first 2 miles before reaching the ridgetop. You then cross the rock scramble, making your way over, across, around or through giant boulders to reach the summit. The trail can bottleneck with hikers in narrow spots. Avoid the crowds by starting early or hiking during the week. The way down follows Saddle Trail to Weakley Hollow Fire Road back to the parking lot.
When you’re hiking Virginia’s trails, be sure to bring the essentials and leave no trace. Consider these five trails your starting point: Once you’ve hiked them you’ll want to explore and conquer many more.