Dark Hollow Falls – Shenandoah National Park

Jarod GoennerHiking, Outdoor, Shenandoah National Park0 Comments

Lower Dark Hollow Falls Trail

After our quick hike earlier in the morning up to Hawksbill Summit we decided to add the very popular Dark Hollow Falls Trail. When I stated it was popular I mean it. It seems like every person in the park was on this trail. 

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DarkHollowFalls
Kids Dark Hollow FallsStream DarkHollowFalls

The hike was nice enough. A little steep and not much wildlife due to the amount of human sound and traffic. It would be a nice beginner hike for a family with the hike being steep in some parts. I definitely recommend getting on this trail very early in the morning if you would like to enjoy it, and maybe in the spring when the water is flowing a little better. Dark Hollow falls wasn’t what I had been expecting but it was still a fun trail.

Swallowtail Butterfly DarkHollowFallsDark Hollow Falls Trailhead

Trail Notes from Virginia Trail Guide

  • Distance – 1.4 miles round-trip
  • Elevation Change – 440 feet
  • Difficulty – 2.75.   Like most waterfall trails, you typically hike down to see them and hike up to return.  While it is only .7 mile to see the falls, coming back will definitely make you break a sweat.  The way down is more like a 2 and the way back is more like a 3.
  • Trail Conditions – 4. Since this is a well-traveled trail, the trail is maintained often.  Mostly small gravel on the trail, but due to the steepness of the trail and erosion fro heavy foot traffic, there are often muddy areas.
  • Views – 1.  Views are only of the waterfalls and streams below.  Wooded trail doesn’t lead to overlooks.
  • Waterfalls/streams – 4.  Great waterfall view at the end of the trail and  the Hogcamp Branch is in view along the much of the trail.
  • Wildlife – 2.  You would be likely to see deer that have visited here from Big Meadows area.  Chipmunks are everywhere.  Bears tend to stay away due to the human traffic.  Many bird species in the trees.
  • Ease to Navigate – 5.  Trail is easily marked and it would be nearly impossible to get lost.
  • Solitude – 1.  Due to the trail’s popularity, you will not get a lot of solitude there.  Early morning visits will get the highest possibility of solitude.

Directions to trailhead: On Skyline Drive.  Parking lot is located around mile marker 50.7 in the Central District of Shenandoah National Park.  Trail begins near signs on the north end of the parking lot.

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Jarod Goenner

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Husband and Father of 3 boys and 2 dogs. I have a passion for marketing, a drive for music, love of craft beer and a need to get outdoors with my family.

Hawksbill Summit Loop – Shenandoah National Park

Jarod GoennerHiking, Outdoor, Shenandoah National Park0 Comments

Hawksbill Mountain Summit Keagan

We parked at Hawksbill Gap parking and headed up Lower Hawksbill Trail. Hawksbill Summit Loop is a short and fairly easy 2.9 mile circuit hike with some great views. 

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Had I read the trailmap better we would have headed for the Salamander Trail side first but instead we embarked on a the Lower Hawksbill Trail which was a pretty quick ascent to the summit.

Hawksbill Trailhead FamilyLower Hawksbill Trail
Hawksbill Trail Champions

We reached the summit early and were the first ones up there that morning giving us some time to spend alone. The views were amazing and I did catch site of a peregrine falcon swooping around below us which was brief but what I had been most excited for on this trail. 

Hawksbill Summit

After spending quite some time at the top we headed out down Salamander Trail. Salamander Trail was fun and connects to a great part of the Appalachian Trail. You cross a couple of  talus slopes that would be great to catch a few more glimpses of the falcons.  No more falcons for me though. Just some deer and butterflies. Overall a great hike and highly recommended for a family. 

Distance: 2.9-mile circuit
Difficulty: moderate
Duration: 2 hours
Elevation Gain: 860-feet

At the north end of parking lot, take the short connector trail to the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). At the trail post, turn left onto the A.T. south. Continue on the A.T. south to the trail post indicating Salamander Trail. Go left onto blue-blazed Salamander Trail and follow to the summit. Descend via blue-blazed Lower Hawksbill Trail to starting point.

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Jarod Goenner

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Husband and Father of 3 boys and 2 dogs. I have a passion for marketing, a drive for music, love of craft beer and a need to get outdoors with my family.

Riprap Trail Circuit Hike – Shenandoah National Park

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Riprap Trailhead

The Riprap Trail Circuit hike is a pleasant 9.8 miles through Chimney Rocks, down some bubbling streams to a nice swimming hole. Up Wildcat Ridge trail and a nice stretch of the Appalachian Trail. 

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Accompanying me on this journey was my youngest Liam (5) and one of the twins Rowan(8). We hit the trail by 830am. 

Riprap Trail Calvary Rocks
Riprap Trail Calvary Rocks View

The views from Calvary Rocks and Chimney Rocks were both very good. This was a great part of the hike and it was still early morning so very few hikers were on the trail.

Riprap Trail Chimney Rocks Tree
Riprap Trail Chimney Rocks

After a short bagel and apple break we started our way down the trail.I picked up the bagels along with 3 sandwiches from Bodo’s Bagels in Charlottesville Virginia on the way to the hike. They were delicious. On the way down we passed some small caves with a couple of frogs inside but not much wildlife apart from the blueberry filled bear scat. Eventually the trail starts to follow a stream. And after a river crossing we found a great place to stop for lunch and swim.

Riprap Trail Waterhole
Liam Riprap Trail
Liam and Rowan Riprap Trail Swimming

There were some Brook Trout in the water and it was fairly deep. I also might note it was far too cold even on this warm July day.  The kids loved it but it soon begam rather crowded and we decided to pack up and head on down. Not before Rowan had a short visit from a butterfly though. 

Riprap Trail Swallow Tail

Shortly down the trail RipRap intersects with Wildcat Ridge Trail. 

Riprap Trail Wildcat Ridge Circuit
Riprap Trail Wildcat Ridge Marker

Wildcat Ridge Trail was largely uneventful except for an enormous fishing spider. We followed it up to the top and met up with the Appalachian Trail to get back to the Riprap Trailhead. Very good hike but the best parts were the views from the rocky outcrops in the beginning.

Wildcat Ridge Trail Fishing Spider

The hike was a little long for the kids but they had a ton of fun. When we do it again I think we will start from the Wildcat Trailhead and head down from there saving the views at Chimney Rocks for the end.

Riprap Loop

Distance: 9.8-mile circuit
Difficulty: very strenuous
Hiking Time: 8¼ hours
Elevation Gain: 2,365-feet

Follow the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) north. Turn left on Riprap Trail. Continue past Calvary Rocks and Chimney Rocks. Turn left on Wildcat Ridge Trail. Turn left on the A.T. north to return to your starting point. Hike #2: Chimney Rock 3.4-mile roundtrip, moderate, 2½ hours hiking time, 830-foot elevation gain. Follow the Appalachian Trail north. Turn left on Riprap Trail. After a series of switchbacks, a viewpoint will appear to your right. Further on, Calvary Rocks will appear on the left. Chimney Rock will then appear on the right. Retrace your steps to return to your starting point.

Full Album Riprap Trail Loop

  • Riprap Trail

    Riprap Trail

  • Riprap Trail

    Riprap Trail

  • Riprap Trail

    Riprap Trail

  • Riprap Trail

    Riprap Trail

  • Riprap Trail

    Riprap Trail

  • Riprap Trail

    Riprap Trail

  • Riprap Trail

    Riprap Trail

  • Riprap Trail

    Riprap Trail

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Jarod Goenner

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Husband and Father of 3 boys and 2 dogs. I have a passion for marketing, a drive for music, love of craft beer and a need to get outdoors with my family.

Skyline Drive – Shenandoah National Park

Jarod GoennerHiking, Outdoor, Shenandoah National Park0 Comments

Byrd Visitor Center - Skyline Drive

Somewhere between Virginia and Heaven is Shenandoah National Park. I am in love with this National Park and Skyline Drive is just a beautiful road that takes you through it. 

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We have so far only traversed about half of Skyline Drive.  We’ve mostly driven down the South side of the drive and halfway through the central area of the park

Lucky for us today after our Bearfence Trail Hike. I drove past the Trailhead for our Rapidan Camp hike distracted by the summer buck that was running along side our minivan for a good while. 

I decided to take a detour to the Harry F Byrd Visitor Center. Heading into the visitor center we saw a doe right next to the entrance, that was also a nice addition to the day. The visitor center has a great gift shop and nice history of Shenandoah National Park. I got my National Park Passport book stamped, because I am still a kid when it comes to nature. 

After we left the visitor center we headed North for a bit and on our way back saw the greatest thing I could have expected to see that day. 

Doe near Big Meadows
Shenandoah National Park - Mama Black Bear and 2 cubs
Virginia Black Bear Cub
Shenandoah NP Virginia Black Bear Cub

We stopped our car in the middle of the road to take some pictures of the 3 bears not more than 10 feet from the roadside. It was great. As soon as we developed a healthy crowd we moved along so others could enjoy them. Definitely take a spin on Skyline Drive. 

Blackbear Shenandoah National Park

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Jarod Goenner

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Husband and Father of 3 boys and 2 dogs. I have a passion for marketing, a drive for music, love of craft beer and a need to get outdoors with my family.

Rapidan Camp – Shenandoah National Park

Jarod GoennerHiking, Outdoor, Shenandoah National Park0 Comments

Millam Gap Trailhead

Just up the road from Bearfence Trail is Milam Gap just before you hit the Byrd Visitor Center in Shenandoah National Park. Milam Gap will be the trailhead you should leave from to hike down to Rapidan Camp. We did Bearfence and Rapidan in the same day.

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We were still reveling from seeing a mamma bear and her two young cubs just up Skyline Drive a short ways when we parked at the trailhead sometime around 11am on a Sunday in July. We paired this hike with Bearfence earlier that morning. 

The trail starts across Skyline Drive and you’ll want to head down Mill Prong Trail.  We were not more than 500ft down the trail when we spotted a nice sized black bear not far off the trail about 50 feet. Our first time seeing a bear on the trail was both thrilling and scary at the same time. The bear gave our group a snort and wandered on its way. 

Another group came down the trail a minute or two later and I’m not sure they believed us when we told them how close the bear was to the trail.

Keagan Rowan Liam Rapidan Stream
Mill Prong Trail Stream Crossing

There are 3 stream crossing and the hike is all downhill to Rapidan Camp. Mushrooms and Millipedes line the trail and there are more people on it then I traditionally like to see but it is mid day. There are some nice stream spots and looks as though some good fly fishing to be had. 

The trail ends at the retreat for President and Mrs. Hoover from 1929-1932.  Unfortunately for me I had exhausted the kids by this time and did not get to take in all the history. We did take a short tour of the Prime Minister’s cabin and the grounds before heading back up to our lunch spot. 

Rapidan Camp History

We enjoyed some lunch and a swim right off trail before heading back up. Overall the hike wasn’t difficult. We saw a bear, millipedes and a butterfly. It was a nice way to end the day. More like a walk through the woods. 

Rapidan Camp Swimming Hole
Kids at Rapidan Falls
Swallowtail Butterfly - Shenandoah National Park

Full Album

Mill Prong-Rapidan Camp

Distance: 4-mile round trip
Difficulty: moderate
Duration: 2¾ hours
Elevation Gain: 870-feet

Go left on the Appalachian Trail south, and cross Skyline Drive. Go left on blue-blazed Mill Prong Trail. Turn right on Mill Prong Horse Trail. Explore the camp, and then retrace your steps to Milam Gap parking.

  • Backcountry National Park Sign

    Rapidan Camp – Shenandoah National Park

  • Orange Mushrooms

    Rapidan Camp – Shenandoah National Park

  • Waterfall at Rapidan Camp

    Rapidan Camp – Shenandoah National Park

  • Water Crossing Rapidan Camp

    Rapidan Camp – Shenandoah National Park

  • Historic Rapidan Camp

    Rapidan Camp – Shenandoah National Park

  • Waterfall Playing

    Rapidan Camp – Shenandoah National Park

  • Water Fall Rapidan Camp SNP

    Rapidan Camp – Shenandoah National Park

  • Rock Sculpture Rapidan Camp

    Rapidan Camp – Shenandoah National Park

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Jarod Goenner

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Husband and Father of 3 boys and 2 dogs. I have a passion for marketing, a drive for music, love of craft beer and a need to get outdoors with my family.

Bearfence Trail – Shenandoah National Park

Jarod GoennerHiking, Outdoor, Shenandoah National Park0 Comments

Bearfence Trailhead Sign

We headed out last Sunday from Portsmouth Virginia very early and reached the Bearfence Hike Trailhead around 830am through the Swift Run Gap entrance of Shenandoah National Park. We were the second car in the parking area but didn’t see anyone at all on the trail for the whole hike. We knew this was going to be the most challenging hike for the kids so far and my wife was a little more than apprehensive about the climb. I however was ready to tackle it as I planned the day all week long.

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Bearfence Trail Start

Perfect weather for this hike, although the surrounding cities were reaching high temperatures in the 90s we had just barely hit 70 degrees on the mountain.

The beginning of the hike is a fairly easy climb with plenty of easy stairs. 

The Bearfence Hike doesn’t start to get difficult until you cross the Appalachian Trail.

Bearfence Trail Rock Scramble Marker
Appalachian Trail North and South Marker
Rowan Pointing to millipede on Bearfence Trail
Rowan pointing to mushrooms
Millipede on Bearfence Trail

Millipedes and mushrooms are all over the trail causing frequent stops for the young ones. I would add an extra half hour to the hike for millipedes alone.

Start of the Rock Scramble on Bearfence Trail

About a quarter mile into the hike we leave behind the dirt staircase and hit the rocks. This was the fun part. The trail on the rocks is very well marked with blue blazes and you get your first views very quickly.

Keagan on Bearfence Trail
Rock Scramble Bearfence Trail
Rock Scramble Bear Fence Trail
Rock Scramble Bearfence Mountain

Like I said, the views come quickly and its easy to miss all of them. I found myself wishing I had spent more time enjoying the top then figuring out where to go next. The trail is marked very well with blue blazes across the rocks. But every few yards you can stop  to take it in and wonder if this is the best view of the hike.

Honestly its hard for me to remember my favorite view spot of the hike because the trail had so many. 

Bearfence Rock Scramble

Bearfence Trail was our families first rock scramble. Although it was challenging in the beginning it was incredibly fun once everyone got the hang of it.

Since most of my previous hiking experience has been in the mountains of New Hampshire I was unfamiliar with the “rock scramble” term. Its not that there weren’t rock scrambles up there, we just referred to them as “hiking.”

Bearfence Trail hop down

My wife, Katie had a particularly hard time feeling at ease at the beginning of the hike. 

Bearfence Trail Nerves
Bearfence Trail Slide

The only disappointing thing about this hike is that we did not see a ton of wildlife sans some birds and millipedes. It was quiet first thing in the morning and quite the adventure! At the top you’ll be treated to some of the parks only 360 degree views and the feeling of a major accomplishment for such a short hike. 

Katie and the kids at the top of Bearfence Rock Scramble

Bearfence Trail, Rock Scramble, Hike whatever you want to call it is a great time. We had conquered the trail in an hour and a half.  The kids have not stopped talking about it since we got off trail and I recommend it to any family. I would rate this trail a 5 out of 5. Its challenging without being exhausting, fun, fast and beautiful.  Pair it with another hike in the park. For this hike we paired it with Rapidan Camp. 

  • Keagan and Rowan at the top of Bearfence
  • View from the top of Bearfence Rock Scramble
  • Rowan at Bearfence
  • Katie and Keagan Bearfence Victory
  • Keagan and Rowan in a cave at Beafence
  • Keagan on Bearfence
  • Coming down Bearfence
  • Liam on top of Bearfence
  • Scrambling up Beafence Rock Scramble
  • All smiles at Bearfence

Bearfence Rock Scramble

Distance: 1-mile lariat
Difficulty: moderate
Duration: 1 hour
Elevation Gain: 311-feet

This hike includes a rock scramble, which means you’ll be pulling yourself up, over, and between boulders, using your feet and hands. Cross Skyline Drive and climb the stairs up the bank. At the trail post, continue straight ahead on Bearfence Loop Trail. After the rock scramble, turn right onto the connector trail. Go right on the Appalachian Trail north. At the intersection, turn left and return to the parking lot.

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Jarod Goenner

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Husband and Father of 3 boys and 2 dogs. I have a passion for marketing, a drive for music, love of craft beer and a need to get outdoors with my family.