Best Waterfall Hikes in Shenandoah National Park

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Shenandoah National Park is known for its endless wilderness, rolling hills, and stunning valley views, but this beautiful park is also home to some of the coolest waterfall hikes in the state of Virginia. From swimming holes to steep falls and stunning visuals, this park has a waterfall hike for everyone. If you’re planning to spend more time in the park and want to diversify your destinations, check out my 3-Day Itinerary for Shenandoah National Park. This blog post focuses solely on waterfalls located in Shenandoah National Park, so if you are looking for waterfall hikes elsewhere in the state, be sure to check out the 11 Best Waterfall Hikes In Virginia. But if you’re in the northwestern Virginia area and want to take a dip in a mountain swimming hole, here are the 6 best waterfall hikes in Shenandoah National Park.

1. Rose River Falls

3-Day Itinerary in Shenandoah National Park

Difficulty: Moderate
Hike Length: 4 mile loop
Elevation gain: 910 feet
Dogs allowed: Yes, on a leash
Get Directions: click here

This beautiful waterfall stands 67-feet tall and cascades down into a refreshing swimming pool. The hike does present a challenge but it’s well worth it. From the Fishers Gap Parking Area at MM 49.4, cross Skyline Drive and begin the hike down the fire road. Turn left onto the yellow-blazed Skyland-Big Meadows Horse Trail then turn onto the blue-blazed Rose River Loop Trail. Follow this trail to the falls, at which point you’ll have already walked most of the total mileage of the hike. Take a break and enjoy a dip in the water before continuing on to the fire road and hiking back up to the parking lot.

2. Doyles Run

Difficulty: Moderate
Hike Length: 3.3 miles out-and-back
Elevation gain: 1,189 feet
Dogs allowed: Yes, on a leash
Get Directions: click here

This stunning set of waterfalls cut and slink their way through the forest in a striking design. From the Doyles River Parking Area at MM 81.1, take the blue blazed Doyles River Trail to both the 28-foot tall upper and 63-foot tall lower falls. The lower falls splash into a swimming hole where you can relax and cool off. Once you’ve had your fill of the waterfalls, retrace your steps back to the parking lot.

3. Dark Hollow Falls

BEST WATERFALL HIKES IN SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK

Difficulty: Moderate
Hike Length: 1.4 miles out-and-back
Elevation gain: 440 feet
Dogs allowed: No
Get Directions: click here

Though the hike to the falls is short and sweet, be prepared for the trek back uphill! Park at the Dark Hollow Falls Parking Area at MM 50.7 and descend ¾ mile to the falls. You can spend endless time exploring the valley, standing under the falls, and floating in pools. Rest and relax in preparation for the 400 feet of elevation gain you’ll hike to return to the parking lot. Be aware that the parking area, while large, does fill up very quickly so be sure to arrive early to secure a parking spot.

4. Lower Whiteoak Canyon Falls

Difficulty: Easy
Hike Length: 2 miles out-and-back
Elevation gain: 500 feet
Dogs allowed: yes, on a leash
Get Directions: click here

This waterfall hike in Shenandoah National Park is the best bang for your buck! This easy trail follows the creek up to the lower falls, with lots of stopping points and swimming holes along the way. Park in the Lower Whiteoak Falls Parking Area and follow Whiteoak Canyon Trail until veering right onto Cedar Run Trail. Once you reach the falls, it does take some scrambling to get down to the water, but it’s well worth the effort. The cold water is very refreshing and you can cool off by standing directly under the falls. Be aware that snakes are common residents of the rocks around the banks of the pool and creek.The trail continues all the way up to Skyline Drive which is a very strenuous hike, so retrace your steps to return to your car. Please note that the free parking lot fills quickly on weekends (especially during the summer) and overflow parking is privately owned and fees are charged.

5. Upper Whiteoak Canyon Falls

Difficulty: Moderate
Hike Length: 4.6 miles out-and-back
Elevation gain: 1,040 feet
Dogs allowed: Yes, on a leash
Get Directions: click here

Unlike the lower falls down in the valley, the upper falls are not to be swam in! In fact, the falls are 86 feet tall and only viewable from a cliff outcropping across the canyon. Park in the Whiteoak Canyon Parking Area at MM 4.26 and follow the Whiteoak Canyon Trail down to the falls. You are able to cross the creek at the top of the falls which offers a very cool view of the water disappearing over the edge. Once you reach the cliff outcropping, be sure to take some pictures and take in the grand views of the falls as you prepare for the hike back up to your car. The return trip contains all the elevation gain but is well worth the effort.

6. South River Falls

Shenandoah National Park

Difficulty: Moderate
Hike Length: 3.3 mile loop
Elevation gain: 910 feet
Dogs allowed: Yes, on a leash
Get Directions: click here

Though there isn’t an opportunity to take a dip, this hike to a stunning 83-foot tall waterfall is well worth the effort! Park in the South River Picnic Area at MM 62.7 and follow the South River Falls Trail to a viewing platform. If you would like to visit the base of the falls, step off the platform and turn right at the intersection. Follow the stream up until you reach the falls. Once you’ve had your fill of the falls, follow South River Falls Road until it merges with a fire road. The path will intersect with the white-blazed Appalachian Trail, where you’ll turn left and follow it until turning right onto South River Falls Trails once more to return to the parking lot.

7. Hazel Falls

Difficulty: Moderate
Hike Length: 5.2 out-and-back
Elevation gain: 1,107 feet
Dogs allowed: Yes, on a leash
Get Directions: click here

To begin your hike to Hazel Falls in Shenandoah National Park, start at the Meadow Spring parking area located at milepost 33.5 on Skyline Drive. Look for the Hazel Mountain Trailhead, which is marked by a concrete sign labeled “Hazel Mountain Road.” Follow the trail, identified by yellow blazes, and remember to stay to the right at the 0.4-mile and 1.6-mile markers.

This 2.6-mile journey offers a peaceful experience with easy water crossings. As you reach the 1.2-mile mark, you’ll hear the calming sounds of the Hazel River leading you to Hazel Falls at the 2.6-mile mark. Be cautious during the descent, following the blue-blazed spur trail.

Take as much time as you need to explore Hazel Falls. There are two small caves located next to the falls, and you can find a comfortable spot on the rocks to relax. When you’re ready, retrace your steps back to the Meadow Spring parking area to conclude your peaceful hike to Hazel Falls in Shenandoah National Park.

Please be aware that all these waterfall hikes require an entrance fee into Shenandoah National Park. If you plan to visit the park more than once a year, I highly recommend you purchase a Yearly Pass so you can save money in the long run. This pass can be purchased online or at any park entrance or contact station.

Hiking is a very rewarding and fun hobby that is made even more exciting with the prospect of an enticing dip in a cool pool during a warm day or a beautiful view of water cascading down tall rock faces. Though these hikes are obviously great during the summer, they can also be particularly unique and stunning during the cold winter months when the cascading water freezes on the rocks. The waterfalls of Shenandoah National Park are beautiful any time of year!

Meet Sunshine
and Sancho

I’m so glad you’re here (and so is Sancho). I’m Sunshine! A Virginia-based travel enthusiast on the hunt for cozy stays, great views, unique experiences, and dog-friendly adventures. Sancho and I have spent the past 3 years exploring Virginia (and beyond) in order to share our favorite places and uncover hidden gems.

Join us on a journey to get out of our comfort zone, take the road less traveled, and explore alongside our furry family members.

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