One day in Shenandoah National Park
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How to Have the Best 1 Day in Shenandoah National Park

So you’ve got 1 day in Shenandoah National Park, and you’re wondering just what to fill that day with?  Shenandoah National Park is one of the most majestic National Parks in the US, so naturally, when creating a Shenandoah day trip itinerary, you want it to be filled with the must sees and must dos that truly highlight the best parts of Shenandoah, while also exposing you to its immense diversity!  Take the legwork and guesswork out of your trip, with this Shenandoah day trip itinerary! 

 

One day in Shenandoah National Park

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How to Make the Most of 1 Day in Shenandoah National Park

 

Shenandoah is the perfect park to spend a day in, because the depth of what it has to offer can all be sampled in that small timeframe, and still leave you in wonderment of this park’s beauty!  Shenandoah is full of short hikes that have big payoffs, an epic scenic drive that is a treat all in itself, and plenty of places to stop and sample the diversity of a day trip in Shenandoah National Park!

 

The best Shenandoah itinerary
Get ready for a perfect day trip in Shenandoah National Park!

 

 

Location of Shenandoah National Park

 

Shenandoah National Park is located in the rolling hills and lush mountains of Virginia.  It is located in the north central portion of the state.  

 

Stops along your Shenandoah day trip itinerary!

 

 

A Perfect 1 Day Shenandoah Itinerary

 

There are some monster hikes in Shenandoah National Park, not the least of which is the famed Appalachian Trail that runs through the heart of the park.  There are also some epic climbs (like Old Rag) to stunning viewpoints, but some of these climbs are harder (and thus longer) than others.  In order to make your day trip in Shenandoah National Park worth the most for your time, it is better to fill your Shenandoah day trip itinerary with a couple of shorter hikes that still have all the payoffs!

 

 

Know Before You Go

 

Before you get started on your Shenandoah National Park day trip, here are a few helpful tips!

 

  • How Much Does It Cost to Enter Shenandoah National Park?

Unlimited entry for one vehicle and all passengers included for seven consecutive days is $30.

($25 for motorcyclists, and $15 for bicyclists and walk ins).

 

  • Is Shenandoah National Park Dog Friendly?

YES – Shenandoah National Park is one of the few National Parks in the country that do allow dogs on many of its trails.  However, there are certain regulations that must be followed, including:

  • Dogs must be leashed at all times
  • Bag out all pet waste
  • And don’t forget to bring plenty of water for your pup!

 

There are some trails or portions of some trails in the park that dogs are NOT allowed on:

  • Fox Hollow Trail 
  • Stony Man Trail 
  • Limberlost Trail
  • Post Office Junction to Old Rag Shelter
  • Old Rag Ridge Trail
  • Old Rag Saddle Trail
  • Ridge Access Trail 
  • Dark Hollow Falls Trail 
  • Story of the Forest Trail 
  • Bearfence Mountain Trail 
  • Frazier Discovery Trail 

***For the complete pet policy of Shenandoah National Park, visit the park website HERE!

 

  • What is the Best Time of Year to Visit Shenandoah National Park?

You can visit Shenandoah National Park year round, but the most enjoyable times are spring and fall.  Fall is the most beautiful season due to the stunning seasonal foliage on display! Summer is optimal too, but you may encounter slightly warmer weather.  Winter may bring snow, ice, and cold temperatures that are less than ideal.

 

  • Are There Places to Eat in Shenandoah National Park?

Yes, there are places to eat in Shenandoah National Park.  There are smaller eateries, like Elkwallow Wayside, Big Meadows Wayside, and Loft Mountain Wayside that offer Grab and Go options, full menus, and indoor and patio seating.  Then there is also Skyland Resort (which also happens to be by one of the best trails in Shenandoah – Little Stony Man Trail) which offers a full service dining room and breakfast, lunch, and dinner options.  Follow this link to check out the park website with all the dining options.

 

 

Start Your Day Trip in Shenandoah National Park!

 

No matter which entrance you enter Shenandoah National Park from, you will end up on the main park road, Skyline Drive.  Skyline Drive runs north to south through the entire heart of Shenandoah National Park.  It provides access to all the sights you will need during your visit, and it is the perfect place to start your Shenandoah day trip itinerary!

 

STOP #1:  Skyline Drive

 

Begin the start of your day by hopping on Skyline Drive and just going for a drive.  This is a great way to sample the diversity of the park in a timely fashion.  There are scenic viewpoints and pullouts all along Skyline Drive, so take some time to pull over, take in the views, and snap some memorable pictures.  

 

There are overlooks situated between mountains, overlooks gracing expansive prairies, and overlooks that take in river and forest views.  There aren’t any “bad” overlooks in Shenandoah National Park, so enjoy taking in the views from a few of them to start your day off.

 

After enjoying some of the overlooks and the drive along Skyline Drive, one of the best National Park drives in the country, head on over to your first hiking destination!  Ready for some epic summit views and a chance to hike a small portion of the iconic Appalachian Trail, all on a short, all abilities friendly hike?  Then you are ready for the Little Stony Man Trail!

 

Shenandoah one day itinerary

 

 

STOP #2: Little Stony Man Trail

 

Quick Facts on the Little Stony Man Trail:

 

Length: 1.2 miles roundtrip out and back

Elevation Gain: 351 feet

Rating: Moderate

Little Stony Man Trail Elevation Chart
Little Stony Man Trail Elevation Chart

 

 

The Little Stony Man Trail is somewhat centrally located in the park, and also boasts a convenient location right adjacent to the Skyland Resort and Restaurant.  So if you are ready for a bite to eat after hiking, you’ll already be in the ideal location!

 

The Little Stony Man Trail is a park favorite for not only being accessible to hikers of almost all abilities, but it gives visitors a chance to experience a piece of the Appalachian Trail, which is considered a large part of the heart and soul of Shenandoah National Park.  And don’t forget, there are summit views with this hike that will take your breath away!

 

Parking at the trailhead for Little Stony Man is immediately adjacent to the Skyland Resort.  There is an informational bulletin sign at the trailhead, indicating that you are starting off at the right spot!  If you are familiar with the Appalachian Trail, you’ll likely know that it is marked by telltale white blazes, so look for these as you start off!  You will see trees marked with both white blazes for the Appalachian Trail and blue blazes for the Little Stony Man Trail, since they share this portion of the hike.  

 

The Little Stony Man Trail is 1.2 miles roundtrip in length, roundtrip, and 351 feet in elevation gain.  The terrain is largely gentle and consistent, minus the summit, which contains large sections of rocky slabs and steep drop offs, where extra caution should be exercised, especially with children.  You will likely spend between 30 minutes – 1 hour total hiking Little Stony Man.  

 

Little Stony Man begins as a pleasant mixture of thick forest and dappled sunlight filtering through the trees.  There is a summit to this hike, so there is naturally some uphill, but it is gradual and consistent.  You will see lots of fun markings for the Appalachian Trail as you continue along Little Stony Man.  

 

The best one day Shenandoah itinerary
White blazes of the Appalachian Trail and Blue blazes of Little Stony Man

 

One day at Shenandoah National Park
The 1st hike on your Shenandoah itinerary – Little Stony Man

 

As you near the summit, the “stony-ness” of Little Stony Man becomes more apparent as rock formations begin to jut out along the trail.  Then you will find yourself emerging suddenly from the treeline to find yourself at the summit, with gorgeous panoramic views in all directions!  As noted before, the summit is largely uneven and rocky slabs, with steep dropoffs, so take extra caution at this location.  This perspective is gorgeous no matter the season, but it is truly an unbelievable showstopper in the fall, when Shenandoah’s vibrant autumn colors are on full display!

 

The Little Stony Man Trail
The summit of Little Stony Man

 

 

STOP #3:  Lunch at Skyland Resort

 

After completing the Little Stony Man hike, if you find yourself nearing lunch time, you’ll be in a perfect spot!  The Skyland Resort adjacent to Little Stony Man has a lovely restaurant on site, enclosed in glass walls with a nice view for your meal!  There are also facilities and a gift shop in Skyland.

 

After lunch, head back for some more time and some more stops along Skyline Drive, while you make your way to your second hike of your 1 day in Shenandoah National Park:  Dark Hollow Falls!

 

STOP #4: The Dark Hollow Falls Trail

 

Quick Facts on the Dark Hollow Falls Trail:

 

Length: 1.6 miles roundtrip out and back

Elevation Gain: 583 feet

Rating: Moderate

Dark Hollow Falls Trail Elevation Chart
Dark Hollow Falls Trail Elevation Chart

 

 

Dark Hollow Falls is another short hike that is easy to complete as part of a day trip in Shenandoah.  It is accessible to families and most hiking abilities, as well as having a stunning payoff at the end!  Only this time it is not summit views, but one of the most scenic waterfalls in the state!

 

Dark Hollow Falls
The 2nd hike on your Shenandoah itinerary – Dark Hollow Falls

 

Dark Hollow Falls is perfect for a 1 day Shenandoah itinerary, because it fits perfectly in your afternoon!  The Dark Hollow Falls Trail is centrally located in Shenandoah National Park, not far from the Little Stony Man hike and Skyland Resort as well.  It is also located right off of Skyline Drive, and has ample parking available at the trailhead.  Note that there are no restroom facilities at the trailhead for Dark Hollow Falls, but it is right across the street from the Harry F. Byrd Visitor Center, which does have facilities.  

 

The Dark Hollow Falls Trail is 1.6 miles roundtrip in length and has 583 feet of elevation gain, but there’s a tricky side note to add here!  Because the trail actually descends to the waterfall on the way in, almost all the elevation gain is on the return trip back to the parking lot, so keep that in mind!  Most people will spend between 45 minutes to 1.5  hours hiking the Dark Hollow Falls Trail.

 

The Dark Hollow Falls Trail starts out in lovely forest, graced on the right hand side by a gentle stream that will accompany you the entire way down to the waterfall.  This small stream cascades over several small ledges and collects in dainty pools along the way, and really adds its own unique element of peacefulness and tranquility to the hike.  The grade here is gently downhill, with a few sets of small stairs to traverse as you make your way along and down the trail.

 

As you near the falls themselves, you will notice the grade of the downhill increase.  Just before arriving at the base of the falls, you will come to a small railed section that overlooks the top of the falls.  While this is an exciting view in and of itself, it is not the best view!  Continue on just a few more minutes until you reach a final, and steeper, short section down to the base of the falls, and one of the best views in Shenandoah National Park!

 

While the view of Dark Hollow Falls is most impressive from the bottom, note that if you do not feel comfortable going down the final steep section of stairway, you can enjoy the falls from the railed overlook above.  Also, if you do decide to go all the way to the bottom of the falls, note that the rocks and terrain in that immediate location can get quite wet and slippery, and you may need to take extra caution in your footing, especially with children!  Here you have a chance to to snap another unforgettable picture with a one of a kind backdrop!

 

One day in Shenandoah National Park

 

Finish off your stop with one last sampling of your 1 day in Shenandoah National Park!  By now you’ve seen the forests, the summits, and the waterfalls of Shenandoah, all in one day!  Finally, experience one of Shenandoah’s peaceful and expansive meadows!  And the nice thing is, it is right next to Dark Hollow Falls.  

 

STOP #5: Big Meadows

 

After all the forest, walking up to Big Meadows may take you aback slightly!  Big Meadows is directly across the street and immediately adjacent to Dark Hollow Falls.  It can be explored unencumbered by trees, and you may even spot some resident deer relaxing in the welcoming openness of this Shenandoah meadow realm!  Most people will spend about an hour exploring Big Meadows, and you can always pop into the Harry F. Byrd Visitor Center across the street and check out their small information area and gift shop.  The relaxing vibes of the Meadows is a great way to end your 1 day in Shenandoah National Park!

 

Stop #6: Harry F. Byrd Visitors Center

 

This Visitor Center is the perfect place to wrap up a 1 day Shenandoah itinerary.  Recap your visit by doing some shopping in the gift shop, checking out the small information area and educational exhibits, or even chatting with a ranger about any questions you have!

 

The best Shenandoah itinerary
A perfect and full Shenandoah day trip itinerary!

 

 

Here’s your quick recap of your 1 day in Shenandoah National Park:

 

Stop #1: Skyline Drive

Stop #2: The Little Stony Man Trail

Stop #3: Skyland Resort

Stop #4: The Dark Hollow Falls Trail

Stop #5: Big Meadows

Stop #6: Harry F. Byrd Visitors Center

 

1 day in Shenandoah National Park itinerary
1 day Shenandoah National Park itinerary

 

 

***Curious about bringing pets on your Shenandoah day trip itinerary?  While Shenandoah National Park is one of the few National Parks that allow pets, there are a few trails that pets are not allowed on, including the Little Stony Man Trail and the Dark Hollows Trail.  For a full description of Shenandoah’s pet policy, check out the park’s link here.  

 

 

Check off even MORE National Parks after Shenandoah – with this U.S. National Parks Checklist!

 

 

Related Articles:

Guide to Hiking the Little Stony Man Trail

Guide to Hiking the Dark Hollow Falls Trail

Hiking Mount Rogers, VA: The Highest Point in Virginia

 

 

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A day trip in Shenandoah National Park

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