10 Stunningly Scenic Hikes in Virginia for 2021
There’s no better time to check out these best hikes in Virginia. That’s because these hiking trails include everything from panoramic peaks to cascading waterfalls in every part of the state. You’ll be absolutely amazed at the scenery you discover.
The next time you’re ready to explore the great outdoors, load up your backpack and then check out these top hiking trails in Virginia.
1. Shenandoah National Park
You can’t make a list of the best hikes in Virginia without including Shenandoah National Park — so we might as well make it number one! Of course, with a park that has over 200,000 acres of peaceful hollows, cascading waterfalls, and breathtaking views, it’s hard to decide which hikes to do in the park.
One of the most popular hikes is to the summit of Old Rag Mountain. However, this 8.8-mile climb and rock scramble is strenuous. Hawksbill Mountain is the highest peak in the park and has several trails to the summit that vary from a difficult 1.7-mile round trip hike to a more moderate 2.9-mile round trip trek.
If you’re interested in something that offers spectacular views without too much effort, check out the Stony Man Trail. This 1.6-mile round trip trail is fairly easy and boasts truly breathtaking views of the valley.
Another super popular hike in Shenandoah National Park is Whiteoak Canyon. This hike has 6 waterfalls that range in height from 35 to 86 feet with swimming holes at the bottom of each one. If you decide to do the entire circuit, expect to hike a little over 7 miles.
2. The Great Channels via Brumley Mountain Trail
With a name like Brumley Mountain Trail, you might think the best part of the hike is the end of a scenic overlook. However, the reward on this trail is a section called the Great Channels of Virginia, which is a 400 million year old sandstone slot canyon that forms an incredible maze of channels.
You can access the nearly 8-mile out-and-back trail from a small gravel parking lot in an area called Hayter’s Gap. The start of the trail takes you through a cool and shady forest where sunlight occasionally streaks through the lush overhead canopy.
Related: 10 Must-Do Hikes in North Carolina
The trail eventually veers down sharply into the channels. There are some thick and knobby roots sticking out from the ground that make useful handholds and footholds, but this is a trail you should definitely consider using a set of trekking poles to make climbing and scrambling a little easier.
Once you’re in the channels, be sure to take your time exploring the maze-like area. This unique natural labyrinth coupled with the outstanding views from the top of the outcrops make this place one of the most scenic areas in Virginia.
3. First Landing State Park
In addition to some neat history, First Landing State Park in the northern part of Virginia Beach also offers some outstanding hiking trails. The park has a total of 10 trails that cover around 20 miles altogether.
One hike that really lets you explore the fascinating ecosystem of the area is the 1.8-mile Bald Cypress Trail. This boardwalk trail winds through a scenic freshwater swamp filled with peculiar bald cypress trees that have knobby points poking out of the water everywhere you look.
While this hike is great anytime of year, it’s truly breathtaking in late-fall. That’s when the sunlight can hit at just the right angle to turn the typically black water into a rainbow of reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, and purples.
4. Crabtree Falls Trail
Virginia is home to some magnificent waterfalls. So it can be hard to decide which ones to see. If you happen to be exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway, make a point to hop off in the Montebello area to see Crabtree Falls.
This waterfall has five tumbling cascades. At 1,214 feet, it’s also the tallest waterfall in the state. The lower falls are easy to see since they’re just a few hundred feet from the parking lot. If you want to see all of the cascades, do the entire 2.8-mile out-and-back trail.
5. George Washington and Jefferson National Forests
While Shenandoah National Park is beautiful, it can also get VERY crowded. If you’re interested in exploring similar beauty without all the crowds, check out George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.
These two national forests stretch along a beautiful portion of the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia and combine to cover 1.8 million acres of land. Sections of the forests are also in parts of West Virginia and Kentucky.
There are a variety of hiking trails that wind through the forest, including the famed Appalachian Trail. If you’re looking for a trail that offers spectacular views, consider Kennedy Peak Trail near Luray.
This 5.3-mile out-and-back trail ends at a fire tower viewing platform on the summit of Kennedy Peak and offers an amazing 360° view of the Luray Valley and Shenandoah River. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, you can add the Stephens Trail to create a 9.2-mile loop.
6. Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is an amazing stretch of wilderness that covers portions of Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
Here you’ll find over 80 miles of hiking trails that range from short and easy 0.25-mile hikes that have almost no elevation gain to the 21-mile Ridge Trail.
One unique trail to check out starts at the Daniel Boone Parking Area and takes you to the Tri-State marker. You’ll head out on Wilderness Road Trail for 0.9 miles before taking the Tri-State Trail 0.6 miles to the marker. Once you reach the marker, you can stand where the three states meet.
Another unique feature you should see in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is Sand Cave. While the hiking trail to Sand Cave is almost entirely in Virginia, the actual cave is just steps over the border in Kentucky. So both states technically get to lay claim to this amazing geological wonder.
Sand Cave was once a gigantic sandstone rock. However, over many years, weather has eroded the 250-foot-wide half-dome Sand Cave. Inside the cave, you’ll find sand that’s soft enough to be on the beach.
Sand Cave is about 3.9 miles down Ewing Trail. If you continue 5.2 miles along this trail, (which you definitely should) you’ll end up at White Rocks and enjoy a stunning view that includes the three states that make up Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.
7. Great Falls Park
Located just 14 miles upstream from Washington, D.C., jagged rocks shoot up from the Potomac River in the narrow Mather Gorge to create an amazing series of waterfalls. Great Falls Park is an 800-acre park with 15 miles of hiking trails that make it easy to explore the beauty of the area.
One of the most popular trails is the 3-mile round trip River Trail. On this trail, you’ll hike along the tops of cliffs as you follow the Potomac River and enjoy fantastic views of the river and gorge. Some rock scrambling is required on this hike, so it might not be appropriate for those with mobility issues or young children.
If you’re looking for hikes that are good for kids, consider the 3-mile round trip Patowmack Canal Trail that follows the path of the historic Patowmack Canal. Another good option is the mile-long round trip Mine Run Trail that follows the babbling Mine Run almost the entire way.
8. Devil’s Bathtub
You might be wondering what a place with a name like Devil’s Bathtub is doing on a list of the best hikes in Virginia. After all, it doesn’t exactly sound like an inviting place.
However, don’t let the name fool you. There’s a good reason why this waterfall is on the bucket list of so many hikers.
To get to Devil’s Bathtub, which is a naturally smooth swimming hole worn down by a small waterfall, you’ll need to take the Devil’s Fork Loop Trail. This trail includes several creek crossings and boulder scrambling. So expect to get your feet wet and work for the rewarding view.
After you make your way over the first creek crossing, the trail splits right or left. If you choose to take the trail to the right, the hike is around 7 miles, but you don’t have to deal with anymore creek crossings. If you decide to go left, the hike is shorter, but you have 13 creek crossings you have to traverse. Use your energy level and recent rainfall totals to decide which way you want to go.
No matter which way you choose, you’ll eventually end up at a picture-perfect waterfall and swimming hole that will make all your effort worth it.
Keep in mind that Devil’s Bathtub has become increasingly popular over the years, which has caused some environmental issues with littering. Please make sure you’re always practicing the Leave No Trace principles when you visit. Also, you might want to consider visiting on a weekday when less people are around.
9. Grayson Highlands State Park
Situated within Jefferson National Forest, the 4,502-acre Grayson Highlands State Park is close to Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, the two highest points in Virginia. It’s also home to a herd of adorable ponies that allowed to run wild within the park.
With so many breathtaking mountain views and access to the Appalachian Trail, it’s easy to see why this state park has some of the best hiking trails in Virginia.
If you’re looking for some easy hikes in the park, check out the 0.62-mile Haw Flats Trail or the 0.3-mile Rhododendron Trail.
There are also more challenging trails that offer outstanding rewards for your effort. The 1.5-mile Cabin Creek Trail takes you to a scenic waterfall, and the 1.3-mile Twin Pinnacles Trail takes you to the top of two peaks that provide amazing views.
10. Hungry Mother State Park
Hungry Mother State Park is known for its picturesque woodlands and lake. It’s also home to some intense hikes, such as Molly’s Knob Trail.
Although the trail is only 1.6 miles, you have to make your way through numerous narrow and steep areas before you reach the summit at 3,270 feet. Since this is the highest point of the park, you’ll enjoy a commanding view of the rolling mountains around you.
Plus, since pets are allowed in all Virginia state parks, this might be the perfect one to explore with your four-legged family member!
The Best Hikes in Virginia for Every Hiker
They say that Virginia is for Lovers, and this is certainly true for people who love the great outdoors. The next time you’re interested in checking out the scenic beauty of the state, be sure to explore these top 10 best hikes in Virginia.
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