Fall Foliage Hiking Picks from the authors of AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Shenandoah Valley

Photo by Michael Martin

From an email:

“‘Tis the Season for Foliage – 5 Hiking Picks

Local guidebook authors Jennifer Adach and Michael Martin have racked up thousands of miles hiking and backpacking in the Mid-Atlantic area leading trips for the D.C. Ultralight Backpacking group and writing guidebooks for the Appalachian Mountain Club, most recently AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Shenandoah Valley.

“Believe it or not, it is possible—you can score your fall leaf peeping fix and dodge the crowds along Skyline Drive. Some of our favorite hikes for a huge dose of red and yellow foliage are all within an easy drive of the Washington, D.C. area.

  • Shenandoah River State Park: Get river views and a woodsy walk along this hike in one of Virginia’s state parks. As you walk along the Shenandoah River, you’ll get a nice look at nearby Massanutten Mountain. Benches abound along this hike, giving you plenty of spots to stop and enjoy the day. (6.5 miles, moderate. Park fee.)
  • Strickler Knob: A rock scramble and views of the Shenandoah Valley await you at the top of this hike. Keep a keen eye out for the side trail to the Knob, which leads you up and over boulders before opening up into one of the better views in the area. (10 miles, strenuous)
  • Signal Knob: Smack-dab in the middle of this hike is Signal Knob itself, but both the climb up and down provide great views of the northern Shenandoah Valley and the town of Strasburg. Signal Knob was used by both sides during the Civil War as a key vantage point. (10 miles, strenuous)
  • Little Devils Stairs: Go into Shenandoah via the back door. The “staircase” starts outside the park, and then clambers up a steep gorge leading you along one of Shenandoah’s most picturesque climbs. Check out the Bolen Cemetery, one of the park’s more than 100 cemeteries and a reminder of those who once called this area home. (5.7 miles, moderate. Park fee.)
  • Three Ridges: If you’re up for adventure and a longer drive, Three Ridges will deliver magnificent views and a heart-pumping workout. When you get to the first of several viewpoints, you’ll agree that the effort was well-worth the reward. (13.2 miles, strenuous) (Up for a drive, but not the miles? Nearby Spy Rock is a short but stout three-mile hike that affords 360 views of the area.)”

7 Comment

  • Wondering if anyone has any recommendations of a good scenic hike and overnight backcountry camping spot for this weekend where we could still get some good fall foliage. Sounds like WV/Dolly Sods/Blackwater Falls might be past peak! Shenandoah doesn’t allow fires! Suggestions welcome!

    • That area is definitely past peak. A lot of the leaves have fallen already.

    • Does the fire need to be -at- your campsite? Shenandoah does allow fires, just not in the back country. There’s some pretty great foliage in the Elkwallow/Knob Mountain area, and firepits at the Elkwallow picnic grounds. You can have a campfire dinner, then set up camp about a ten minute walk north toward Jeremy’s Run.

      There are also legal firepits at the various AT shelters in the park, including Gravel Springs. You could set up camp there (it’s right off Skyline drive) and then do the Bluff/AT trails as a day hike, although at 14 miles you’d want to get a pretty early start. I was up there on the 8th, and things were only barely starting to turn/mostly green. There should be plenty of leaves still around now.

  • Sky Meadows in Delaplane Virginia is beautiful too. There are numerous trails that go through meadows, farmland, and woods. Spend the morning hiking, then go wine tasting!

  • Signal Knob is in the Massanutten Mountains and it’s indeed a tough climb on gnarly trails. There’s a lot of easy hikes if you park along Skyline Drive. Hawksbill Mt., one of (if not the) highest peak in Shenandoah is an easy 3-4mi round trip from the parking lot and offers some beautiful views. Mary’s Rock has probably the best views and is a great, steep hike up from another parking lot (maybe 4mi roundtrip?).
    I spend a lot of time in Shenandoah running and love it!

  • Also check out Massanutten Trail just west of Luray. Fires permitted

  • My girlfriend and I go to West Va every year to leef peep and camp. This year we just did Seneca Shadows at the Seneca Rocks for 4 days over last weekend. Canaan, Dolly, Pocahontas county were def peaking and prob past by this weekend. Seneca Rocks area was still getting there so could be good. Campground was chill with a killer view of the rocks and stars [you can back country around there]. Cass steam engine railroad ride was insanely cool as was the greenbank telescope. I would drive right past Shenandoah and check out west va. last year we missed the peak in canaan area so we did coopers rock state park in west va, which is a bit more north and usually peaks later. It’s a cool drive from DC. so that may be worth a try. WV forestry website [http://www.wvforestry.com/fall_foliage.cfm] posts weekly maps and gives advice on where to hit, routes to take ect. It actually comes out every Thursday..score. Also leefpeepers.com has each state’s foliage hotline numbers. Hope that helps, and have fun!!! Blackwater Fall State park, Canaan, Thomas, Timberline, Seneca, Dolly Sods, Green bank and Cass were amazing over Columbus weekend. thanks corridor H!

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