With a name like Dark Hollow Falls, you’d expect to find this trek in a Harry Potter novel! In fact, the Dark Hollow Falls Trail is one of the most popular, beloved, and spectacular trails in Shenandoah National Park, for many reasons! Not the least being that you will discover one of Virginia’s most beautiful and idyllic waterfalls at the termination of this hike! So get to exploring what makes the Dark Hollow Falls hike a must see and must do when visiting Shenandoah National Park!
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Guide to the Dark Hollow Falls Trail
Dark Hollow Falls is one of the most popular hikes in Shenandoah National Park, because it meshes well with a wide range of hikers! It is the perfect blend of moderate hiking, it is family friendly, and it is shorter and therefore can be tackled by most abilities and on most timeframes! But the payoff most definitely has to be the epic waterfall!
Location of the Dark Hollow Falls Hike
Dark Hollow Falls is located in Shenandoah National Park. The trailhead is located right off of the iconic Skyline Drive.
Quick Facts on the Dark Hollow Falls Trail
Length: 1.4 miles out and back roundtrip
Rating: Moderate – don’t be fooled by Dark Hollow Falls! The “out” portion of this hike (the first half) is downhill, while the “back” portion (the return half) is largely uphill, though it is not overly aggressive. There are some spots of steeper incline and stairs, but overall the grade is moderate.
Elevation Gain: 564 feet in gain (mostly on the return to the trailhead)
Dog Friendly: NO! While Shenandoah National Park is one of the few National Parks that allow dogs on its trails, there are a handful of park trails where dogs are prohibited, Dark Hollow Falls being one of them. For a full pet policy, visit the park’s website here.
Best Time of Year to Hike the Dark Hollow Falls Trail: Spring and fall are the best times, but summer and winter are also doable. Just be prepared for potentially hotter temperatures in the summer, and cold weather in the winter that may contain snow and ice.
Estimated Time to Hike: 30 – 45 minutes
Full Trail Report on the Dark Hollow Falls Hike
Visitors can access the trailhead for the Dark Hollow Falls Trail right off of the main park road, Skyline Drive (which is a treat in itself just to drive on). There is ample parking right at the trailhead, and an informational board right at the entrance to the trail, signaling you are at the right starting point!
The Dark Hollow Falls hike is somewhat deceptive, in that it is rated moderate, but you won’t get that impression initially, as the trail is all downhill for the first half, until you reach the waterfall! So keep in mind that you will be making all that elevation loss up on the return back.
Dark Hollow Falls starts out in beautiful dappled, shady forest, graced on the right hand side by a gentle stream that parallels you down the entire way towards the waterfall. There are several spots where the stream cascades over small rocks or collects in pools or widens for greater effect, making the setting quite idyllic.
After about a half a mile, when you come nearer to the waterfall itself, the downhill gradually increases in grade, preparing for the final drop to the waterfall. You will initially come to a small, railed lookout spot where the top of the waterfall cascades over the rocks off towards the right hand side. But keep going!
There are a set of short, steeper stairs that continue on, leading to the base of Dark Hollow Falls, and a much more impressive and up close view! The surrounding rocks near the falls can get quite wet and slippery, so take extra care, especially with children! These falls are arguably among the best you can hope to see in the area, and one of the highlights of any visit to Shenandoah National Park!
After enjoying the views at Dark Hollow Falls, prepare to make up for that loss in elevation gain from the trip down! There are sections where the incline is steeper or there are stairs to traverse, but overall most hiking abilities will be able to handle the return trip, with a more slowed, careful, and intentional pace.
Gear Recommendations for the Dark Hollow Falls Hike
So what do you need for hiking the Dark Hollow Falls Trail? Here’s a few of the basics:
- If you are hiking just the Dark Hollow Falls Trail, you can likely suffice with a small daypack, like this Osprey Daylite daypack, or even a simple hydration belt that can carry a single water bottle and small personal effects. However, if you are planning a full day of hikes (which I would highly recommend – you can check out this 1 day Shenandoah itinerary HERE!), you will want to invest in a daypack that can carry the 10 hiking essentials, plus the snacks and water that you need.
- Make sure to bring plenty of water for this hike, and every hike. For shorter hikes, where I may be bringing along a small daypack, or a hydration belt, a Nalgene water bottle is perfect! For a full day of hiking, be sure to bring along a water hydration system that can carry several liters. I personally use this Platypus water hydration bladder. I love this model because it is sufficient for any day hike, and the wide mouthed opening makes filling, emptying, drying, and cleaning easier!
- You will need the right footwear for the Dark Hollow Falls Trail. I highly recommend a reliable trail runner with grip and cushioning, like these HOKA One One Speedgoats I trust for all my day hikes, or a waterproof hiking boot, like my Vasque Breeze GTX III hiking boots. Keep in mind that because there is water on this trail, you will want a reliable shoe with good grip!
- Pair a good pair of hiking shoes with the right performance sock. I used to get blisters terribly, until I discovered Hilly Twin Skin socks. I haven’t gotten a single blister since, even on my longest day hikes, like the Grand Canyon’s Rim to Rim hike!
Other Popular Add Ons in the Area
One of the great things about the Dark Hollow Falls hike, aside from the obvious waterfall, is the fact that it is located in such close proximity to a couple of other Shenandoah stand outs! And the short length also means that it is ideal for combining with other hikes and activities to form your Shenandoah itinerary!
- Skyline Drive is always a worthwhile add on when in the area of the Dark Hollow Falls Trail. This popular park drive is the main thoroughfare through the heart of Shenandoah National Park, and includes access to Visitor Centers, facilities, trailheads, and more scenic viewpoints than you can count! You will drive a part of it getting to the trailhead for the Dark Hollow Falls hike.
- Little Stony Man is another favorite park hike! Much like Dark Hollow Falls, it is a shorter, moderate hike, that has an awesome payoff at the end with lofty views from a summit high atop Shenandoah! The extra bonus is that Little Stony Man shares the trail with the Appalachian Trail, so you will get to also hike along a small portion of this epic trail as you hike Little Stony Man!
- Close to both Dark Hollow Falls and the Little Stony Man Trail is the expansive Big Meadows, which provides a unique and different perspective on Shenandoah in its wide open Virginian meadows!
- Looking for other nearby hikes with impressive views? A close sibling to the Little Stony Man hike is the Hawksbill Trail and summit, the highest point in Shenandoah National Park! It is located just down the road on Skyline Drive from Little Stony Man. Or take on the challenging Old Rag Trail, another popular viewpoint hike!
- Only have 1 day to spend at Shenandoah? Check out this perfect 1 day Shenandoah itinerary (which includes the Dark Hollow Falls Trail!).
****Shenandoah National Park, with all its amazing hikes and sights, is definitely one of my favorite National Parks in the country! Check out a few of my other National Park favorites and the hikes that make them must adds to any list!
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