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3 Easy Hikes in Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is located just 70 miles from Washington, DC which can be from 1.5 to 2 hours away in traffic. It is the closest national park to DC and northern Virginia and has contains over 300 square miles of hiking, mountain views, waterfalls and wildlife.
Photo in Public Domain, NPS, found on Flickr.
1) Jewell Hollow Overlook - Easiest of the Hikes in Shenandoah (mile marker 36.7)
The first place we like to go is the Pinnacles Picnic Ground located at mile marker 36.7. This is the easiest spot we’ve found so far with kids. You park at Pinnacles parking lot just south of Thornton Gap Entrance Station. You can then walk north or south on the real Appalachian Trail. Highly recommend the 0.3 mile walk to Jewell Hollow Overlook. We brought hot dogs and charcoal for a picnic as they have fire pits!
Sign at the Pinnacles Picnic Ground.
2) Limberlost Trail - Accessible and Easy Hike in Shenandoah (mile marker 43)
Less than 10 miles from Jewell Hollow Overlook is the only accessible trail, Limberlost. It is a lovely walk through the forest on a fully accessible and stroller-friendly 1.3 mile trail. (Note: when we went there are no sweeping mountain or valley views but we did see snow!) More info on the park's website here.
Even pretty views from the overlooks!
3) Dark Hollow Falls - 3/4 mile easy hike down to the waterfall!
Dark Hollow Falls is still on our "to be hiked" list but have heard from other families that it is a great hike for kids. It is only 0.75 mile hike down to the falls. You return to the same route. The parking area is called Dark Hollow Falls Parking and is at mile 50.7. More info here.
Photo by ForestWander. Creative Commons License. Photo here.
Tips for Visiting Shenandoah National Park with Kids
- During peak months/weekends, highly recommend reserving your pass online first. They open another lane at the entrance stations to just show your pass. (I've heard of Fall weekends taking an hour plus if you haven't purchased ahead of time!)
- If you are coming from DC for the day, I highly recommend entering through the Thornton Gap Entrance Station rather than Front Royal. Thornton Gap is less busy and you can go both north and south on Skyline Drive as Thornton Gap is in the middle.
- Check Shenandoah's online webcams here to see the foliage.
- Bring a lot of food and water! Once you are on Skyline Drive, it is a 105 mile long road along the spine of the mountains. There are 3 Lodges with snacks and restaurants but it can take a while to get to depending on where you entered, if they are full etc.
- There is actually a lot of wildlife at Shenandoah National Park. Over 50 types of mammals and 20 reptile and amphibian species. Please read their wwebsite on Wildlife Safety and notes on keeping pets safe.
Where We Stayed near Shenandoah
We've done a couple day trips to Shenandoah but we have also stayed overnight in the area.
The National Park does have some basic cabins at the park which you can read about here. (They book up months or even a year in advance so check it out asap if interested!)
Instead of staying in the park, we've stayed in nearby Harrisonburg, Virginia about 40 miles away and loved it. We've stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn Harrisonburg on 2 separate occasions. It's great for families as all rooms have kitchenettes free hot breakfast and a pool!
Check out more kid-friendly hikes in Virginia here!