Top Trails: Shenandoah National Park: 50 Must-Do Hikes for Everyone

Top Trails: Shenandoah National Park: 50 Must-Do Hikes for Everyone

by Johnny Molloy


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Hike, backpack, bring the kids—there’s a trail for you in Shenandoah.

With its roaring waterfalls, secluded canyons, diverse plant and animal life, and rich cultural history, Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park offers boundless outdoor adventures. Now in its second edition, Top Trails: Shenandoah National Park describes the classic destinations and lesser-known jewels in 50 must-do hikes.

This updated guide by acclaimed outdoors writer Johnny Molloy offers new hikes, such as the Bearfence Mountain Rock Scramble and the remote Trayfoot Mountain Loop, that explore the heart of the park. Each trail entry includes expert commentary, easy-to-follow maps, and GPS waypoints, as well as trailhead directions, trail-feature charts, and “don’t get lost” milestones. So you will always know where you’re going and what to expect.

Hundreds of miles of trails run like veins through Shenandoah National Park. Save the time and frustration of finding the perfect hikes to suit you. Whether you’re looking for a scenic stroll to stretch your legs, a full-day adventure, or a rewarding backpacking trip into the back of beyond, Top Trails: Shenandoah National Park puts the backcountry majesty of Shenandoah at your fingertips.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780899978789
Publisher: Wilderness Press
Publication date: 07/03/2018
Series: Top Trails
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 316,192
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Johnny Molloy is a writer and adventurer based in Johnson City, Tennessee. His outdoor passion was ignited on a backpacking trip in Great Smoky Mountains National Park while attending the University of Tennessee. That first foray unleashed a love of the outdoors that led Johnny to spend more than 4,000 nights backpacking, canoe camping, and tent camping throughout the country over the past three decades. If you put the days of camping all together, that is nearly 11 straight years of camping out. Friends enjoyed his outdoor adventure stories; one even suggested he write a book. He pursued his friend’s idea and soon parlayed his love of the outdoors into an occupation. The results of his efforts are more than 60 books and guides. His writings include hiking guidebooks, camping guidebooks, paddling guidebooks, comprehensive guidebooks about a specific area, and true outdoor adventure books covering all or parts of 26 states. Though primarily involved with book publications, Johnny also writes for magazines and websites. Furthermore, he is an outdoors columnist and feature writer for his local paper, the Johnson City Press. He continues writing and traveling extensively throughout the United States, endeavoring in a variety of outdoor pursuits.
Johnny is an active member of First Presbyterian Church in Johnson City, Tennessee. He is also a Gideon. His non-outdoor interests include reading, Christian studies, and University of Tennessee sports.

Read an Excerpt

TRAIL 19: Central District

Stony Man Loop

Day Hiking, Pets Prohibited

3.4 miles, 2–3 hours




N38° 35.581'
W78° 22.548'

Autumn Colors
Great Views
Historical Interest
Geological Interest

Nearby Skyland Resort

This hike traverses some of the highest terrain in the park. First you cruise a high-country nature trail and make a side loop to the summit of Stony Man Mountain, where cliffs rise 3,000 feet above the Shenandoah Valley and present superlative panoramas. You then take the Little Stony Man Trail to the peak of Little Stony Man, where more overlooks await. Your return trip is along the Passamaquoddy Trail, with still more views. Hike along the North Slope of Stony Man Mountain to reach Furnace Spring, which once was used in a copper-mining operation. Climb through mixed evergreens and hardwoods back to the trailhead, completing this highlight-laden loop.

Best Time

This high-country hike will be cool even in summer. Yet you can best enjoy the views whenever the skies are clear, primarily spring and fall. Be apprised that the loop is busy on fair-weather summer weekends.

Finding the Trail

This hike starts near the north entrance to Skyland Resort off Skyline Drive. At the turn you will see a sign indicating that this is the highest point on Skyline Drive; this turn is located at milepost 41.7. Immediately after turning toward the Skyland Resort, turn right into the parking area for the Stony Man Trail.

Trail Description

The beginning of this hike can be a little confusing. [1] Here, a sign indicates the path as the Stony Man Trail; this, however, is also the Appalachian Trail (AT)—the two run in conjunction here. You can purchase an interpretive booklet at the trailhead to enhance your nature-trail experience. Walk a pleasant pea-gravel path amid fern gardens overlaid by hardwoods. Preserved hemlocks add a touch of evergreen to the woods. Later you will also see a few spruce trees.

At 0.4 mile, come to an intersection. [2] This is the highest point on the AT in Shenandoah National Park—3,837 feet. But you are fixing to get even higher. Turn left, still ascending to make the subloop to the summit of Stony Man, staying with the nature trail. Split right ahead, following the sequence of the interpretive posts. Note the squat, wind-sculpted haw trees as you climb.

At 0.7 mile, reach a four-way trail intersection. Turn right toward the summit of Stony Man. Incredible panoramas open ahead. [3] To your left, you can see the Skyland Resort. Ahead lay Shenandoah Valley and the town of Luray, Massanutten Mountain running parallel to the Blue Ridge, and beyond that, North Mountain forming the Virginia–West Virginia state line. To your right, northerly, look below at the upthrust cliffs of Little Stony Man and at Skyline Drive and the park’s North District. The name Stony Man derives from this peak, the park’s second highest point, looking like the face of a bearded man. The Stony Man’s face can be clearly seen from the north on milepost 38.9 of Skyline Drive at Stony Man Mountain Overlook.

Return to the AT, and then resume a northbound direction. The trail drops steadily through northern hardwoods, including cool-climate specialist yellow birch, on the east slope of the Blue Ridge. Reach the tan cliffs of Little Stony Man at 1.7 miles. [4] More grand views open before you. Look up to Stony Man for Shenandoah visitors milling about and looking ant-sized. The jagged cliffs have an especially rugged appearance as they emerge from the surrounding forest. The squared-off fields of Shenandoah Valley below contrast with the craggy mountains to your right.

Return to woods beyond the cliff, switchbacking downhill to make another trail junction at 1.9 miles. [5] Leave the white-blazed AT, and turn left on the Passamaquoddy Trail, blazed in blue. Soon pass beneath the cliffs of Little Stony Man on a path constructed with considerable effort from native stones. Open onto a lower outcrop that avails yet another overlook from which the west side of the Blue Ridge and Lake Arrowhead opens below. The rising slope of Stony Man Mountain is especially impressive. Begin meandering the northwest side of the peak on a steep slope; the well-constructed trail makes hiking a breeze. Walk beneath cliffs. Come to a rock overhang and dripping spring at 2.4 miles. At 2.5 miles, reach your low point of 3,200 feet, then begin a gentle uptick. Fire cherry trees rise where hemlocks once stood. Pass beneath a transmission line at 2.8 miles.

Reach Furnace Spring at 2.9 miles. [6] You can hear the water flowing behind a locked door. The old copper mine was in this vicinity and used the spring, but the shaft has since been filled in and no trail leads to it. Come to an intersection with Skyland Fire Road and the Furnace Spring Trail. Make a hard left here, joining the yellow-blazed Furnace Spring Trail, passing directly above Furnace Spring on a doubletrack. The path then narrows and reenters deep woods. Snake your way uphill in rocky forest. The trailbed is fainter here. Look for yellow blazes on the trailside trees amid more preserved hemlocks. Meet the Stony Man Horse Trail, and turn left, tracing it a short distance to reach the Stony Man Trail Parking Area and the hike’s conclusion. [7]

1. 0.0 Stony Man Trail Parking Area at milepost 41.7
2. 0.4 Left toward Stony Man Summit
3. 0.8 Stony Man Summit
4. 1.7 Little Stony Man Summit
5. 1.9 Passamaquoddy Trail
6. 2.9 Left on Furnace Spring Trail
7. 3.4 Stony Man Trail Parking Area at milepost 41.7

Table of Contents

Shenandoah National Park Map

Shenandoah National Park Trail Features Table


  • Organization of Top Trails

  • The Region
  • The Areas
  • The Trails
  • Choosing a Trail

  • Location
  • Features
  • Best Time
  • Difficulty
  • The Elevation Factor

  • Shenandoah National Park: An Overview

  • Getting There and Getting Around
  • Lodging
  • Waysides
  • Camping
  • Geography and Topography
  • Flora
  • Fauna
  • When to Go
  • Weather and Seasons
  • About the Trails

  • Trail Selection
  • Key Features
  • Multiple Uses

  • Have a Plan

  • Before You Go
  • Carry the Essentials
  • Useful but Less-Than-Essential Items
  • Trail Etiquette

  • North District

  • Dickey Ridge Historic Hike
  • Compton Peak
  • Big Devils Stairs Vista
  • Sugarloaf Loop
  • Overall Run Falls
  • Little Devils Stairs Loop
  • Overall Run Loop
  • Heiskell Hollow Loop
  • Elkwallow Loop
  • Piney River Falls
  • Knob Mountain and Jeremys Run Loop
  • Neighbor Mountain and Jeremys Run Loop
  • Thornton River Loop

  • Central District

  • Marys Rock via The Pinnacle
  • Hazel Falls and Cave
  • Hazel Country Loop
  • Corbin Cabin Hike
  • Old Rag Loop
  • Stony Man Loop
  • Robertson Mountain
  • Falls of Whiteoak Canyon
  • Cedar Run Falls
  • Hawksbill Summit
  • Rose River Falls Loop
  • Lewis Spring Falls Loop
  • Hazeltop and Rapidan Camp Loop
  • Staunton River Loop
  • Bear Church Rock via Staunton River
  • Bear Church Rock from Bootens Gap
  • Conway River Loop
  • Bearfence Mountain Rock Scramble
  • Pocosin Mission
  • South River Falls Loop

  • South District

  • Hightop
  • Rocky Mount Loop
  • Rocky Mountain Loop
  • Loft Mountain Loop
  • Patterson Ridge Loop
  • Big Run Loop
  • Rockytop and Big Run Loop
  • Austin Mountain and Madison Run Loop
  • Falls Loop from Browns Gap
  • Trayfoot Mountain Loop
  • Furnace Mountain via Blackrock
  • Blackrock Loop
  • Big Branch Falls via Moormans River
  • Moormans River Loop
  • Chimney Rock
  • Turk Branch Loop
  • Turk Mountain

Appendix: Local Resources


About the Author

Customer Reviews