Unforgettable 3-Day Itinerary in Shenandoah National Park

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Shenandoah National Park is easily one of my favorite places to visit in Virginia. From 100s of miles of beautiful trails to a range of wildlife, and especially the tranquility found in the national park, makes it a tough one to beat.

If you have a long weekend coming up, look no further, these are all the best things to do on a 3-day weekend in Shenandoah National Park. Pick and choose between my ten favorite hikes, the best look-out points, places in the park to grab some food, a drink after a long day on the trails, and places to stay.

Before you leave, here are a few things to remember: 

  • Inclement weather may temporarily close Skyline Drive until conditions are safe. Call 540-999-3500 (choose option 1, then option 1) for the current status of Skyline Drive.
  •  You are required to pay an entrance fee in order to access Shenandoah National Park, whether you’re driving on Skyline Drive or hiking in from the boundary. 
  • Don’t forget to brush up on the 7 Leave No Trace Principles
  • Some of these hikes have other trailheads, starting points, and different routes. The information and trailhead below are what I’ve done.
  • Last but not least, don’t forget to bring the Ten EssentialsI’ve linked all the things I bring and wear on day hikes if you are interested: click here.

ENTRANCE STATIONS

There are four entrance stations to Shenandoah National Park, but only one has a physical address. Skyline Drive is the main road that runs the span of Shenandoah, and most hiking trailheads are directly off Skyline Drive. A select number of trails start at the Park boundary, such as Old Rag Mountain and Whiteoak Canyon.

Hikes to do in Shenandoah National Park:

1. Compton Peak Summit

The run-down: 
  • Location: Bentonville, Virginia
  • Length: 2.3 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 705 ft.
  • Terrain: Some parts rocky
  • Dog-Friendly: Yes
  • Parking: Compton Gap parking area (mile 10.4)

Compton Peak Summit is a beautiful, dog-friendly hike that you and your four-legged friend are sure to enjoy! This hike features two viewpoints.

Western viewpoint, a rocky outcrop. North facing with 180-degree views. Eastern viewpoint, you’ll see an exceptional example of columnar jointing, a unique geological feature that reminds me of Iceland’s basalt columns.

2. Mary’s Rock Summit

3-Day Itinerary in Shenandoah National Park
The run-down: 
  • Location: Syria, Virginia
  • Length: 3.1 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 784 ft.
  • Terrain: Smooth to rocky
  • Dog-Friendly: Yes
  • Parking: Meadow Spring parking (mile 33.6)

Mary’s Rock Summit starts off as a smooth trail but turns rocky towards the summit. There’s a good chance of seeing deer while hiking so keep your eyes peeled to enjoy seeing them in their habitat.

3. Hawksbill Summit Trail

3-Day Itinerary in Shenandoah National Park
The run-down: 
  • Location: Syria, Virginia
  • Length: 1.6 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 672 ft.
  • Terrain: Some parts rocky
  • Dog-Friendly: Yes
  • Parking: Hawksbill Gap parking area (mile 45.5)

Hawksbill Summit Trail is Shenandoah National Park’s highest peak at 4,051 ft. It isn’t a long hike, but it is steep. Since it’s a short hike, the quick elevation change is worth it since you only need to push yourself for a short period. Hawksbill Summit is one of our favorite sunset hikes in Shenandoah National Park.  If you prefer a longer hike option, take the loop, it is a mile longer than the out and back.

4. Rose River Trail

3-Day Itinerary in Shenandoah National Park
The run-down: 
  • Location: Syria, Virginia
  • Length: 3.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 672 ft.
  • Terrain: rocks, dirt, and some tree roots
  • Dog-Friendly: Yes
  • Parking: Fishers Gap Overlook parking lot (mile 49.4)

What makes the Rose River Trail so special are the Rose River Falls and other small waterfalls that litter their way through the trail. Since it’s a loop trail, I recommend completing it clockwise, as the first 2 miles will then be primarily downhill.

5. South River Falls Trail

Shenandoah National Park
The run-down: 
  • Location: Elkton, Virginia
  • Length: 2.4 miles to the falls overlook and 4.6 miles if you go all the way to the base of the falls
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 672 ft. or 910 ft.
  • Terrain: Dirt and rocks
  • Dog-Friendly: Yes
  • Parking: South River Picnic Grounds (mile 62.8)

This trail is a lovely wooded hike that takes you to the base of an 83′ waterfall, and it’s also an excellent hike for wildflowers and bird buffs. The trail is a mostly straight descent until you get to the base of the waterfalls. It has one stream crossing and steep rock stairs to get to falls.

6. Hightop Peak Trail

3-Day Itinerary in Shenandoah National Park
The run-down: 
  • Location: Elkin, Virginia
  • Length: 3 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 912 ft.
  • Terrain: Dirt and rocky
  • Dog-Friendly: Yes
  • Parking: Hightop Mountain Parking Area (mile 66.7)

Hightop Peak Trail is short and steep, with few rocky spots but a nice payoff hike; once you reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view. This is also one of the lesser-known summit hikes in Shenandoah National Park.

7. Doyles River Falls Trail

3-Day Itinerary in Shenandoah National Park
The run-down: 
  • Location: Port Republic, Virginia
  • Length: 3.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 1,181 ft.
  • Terrain: Smooth
  • Dog-Friendly: Yes
  • Parking: Doyles River parking area (mile 81.1)

Doyles River Falls Trail takes you past two waterfalls: Upper and Lower Doyles River Falls. While you won’t get any mountain views on this hike, you’ll be rewarded with views of these two beautiful cascades and the fall’s refreshing and relaxing sound. Easy Downhill from the trailhead and be prepared for a difficult on the way up. 

8. Blackrock Summit Via Trayfoot Mountain And Appalachian Trail

3-Day Itinerary in Shenandoah National Park
The run-down: 
  • Location: Grottoes, Virginia
  • Length: 1.1 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation Gain: 180 ft.
  • Terrain: Smooth to rocky
  • Dog-Friendly: Yes
  • Parking: Blackrock parking area (mile 84.4)

Blackrock Summit is a great hike for beginners just getting into hiking. While you do have to go uphill to reach the summit, it’s short and doesn’t require a big elevation gain like other hikes in the Shenandoah National Park.

9. Old Rag Mountain Loop

The run-down: 
  • Location: Etlan, Virginia
  • Length: 9.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Elevation Gain: 2,683 ft.
  • Terrain: Smooth to rocky
  • Dog-Friendly: No
  • Parking and Trailhead: click here

To take on the challenge of Old Rag Mountain Loop, you need to prepare in advance.

From March 1 to November 30, you’re required to get a park entrance pass and day-use ticket (can only be purchased online: here) to hike the Saddle Trail, Ridge Trail, and Ridge Access Trail which make up the usual Old Rag circuit hike, so don’t come without purchasing your ticket. You won’t need a ticket to hike Old Rag from December 1 to February 28. I highly recommend screenshotting your ticket or printing it out, as there is no cell service at Old Rag.

This hike is often described as “brutally awesome,” so while it’s well worth it, it is a challenging hike to tackle and physically demanding. KNOW YOUR LIMITS. The rock scrambling requires knees, elbows, hands, and feet, and it could be dangerous if you do not prepare properly.

10. Lower White Oak Falls

The run-down: 
  • Location: Syria, Virginia
  • Length: 3 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 500 ft.
  • Terrain: Dirt and rocks
  • Dog-Friendly: Yes
  • Parking and Trailhead: click here

This moderate hike takes you along the creek running through Whiteoak Canyon all the way up to the lower falls. The trail is windy and rocky so sturdy shoes are recommended, but it can be done in sandals if you’re a trooper. Along the way, there are several pools for fishing or swimming. Once you reach the falls, it’s a scramble down to the water but it’s so worth it. You can swim right up to the falls and stand underneath them.

Best Overlooks in Shenandoah National Park:

Before or after a long day of hiking, you won’t want to miss out on these amazing viewpoints. My two favorite lookout points in Shenandoah National Park are:

The Point Overlook Milepost 55.5
Buck Hollow Overlook Milepost 32.8
  • The Point Overlook – Elevation 3235′ : This spot is along the Skyline Drive and is my favorite spot in the park to catch a sunset.
  • Buck Hollow Overlook – Elevation 2545′ : Another great spot on the Skyline Drive with incredible sunrise views.

Where to eat:

Outside Shenandoah National Park

Pollock Dining Room at Skyland
400 Skyland Upper Loop Mile 42, Luray, VA 22835
Enjoy delicious farm-to-fork meals while enjoying great views of the park. They also offer Grab n’ Go meals for you to take with you on the road.

Big Meadows Lodge
Mile 51, 2, Skyline Dr, Stanley, VA 22851
Weather permitting, enjoy the fresh air by eating on the outdoor patio. Plus, it’s dog-friendly!

Elkwallow Wayside
Mile 24.1 Skyline Dr, Rileyville, VA 22650
Stop here for carry-out, groceries, and camping supplies to take on your next hike or camping trip.

Big Meadows Wayside
Mile 51 Skyline Dr, Stanley, VA 22851
This is another great option for Grab ‘n Go food, a souvenir shop, and the only gas station in the park.

Loft Mountain Wayside
Mile 79.5 Skyline Dr, Elkton, VA 22827
There are similar options here as there are at the other wayside shops mentioned in this list.

Inside Shenandoah National Park
Breweries and Wineries 
Pro Re Nata
6135 Rockfish Gap Turnpike, Crozet, VA 22932
 
Blue Mountain Brewery
9519 Critzer Shop Rd, Afton, VA 22920
 
Backroom Brewery
150 Ridgemont Rd, Middletown, VA 22645
 
Elkton Brewing Co. / Elkton Brewing Company
100 5th St, Elkton, VA 22827
 
Cave Hill Farms Brewery
1001 Jacob Burner Dr, McGaheysville, VA 22840
Brix & Columns Vineyards
1501 Dave Berry Rd, McGaheysville, VA 22840
 
The Valley Cork
55 E Main St, Luray, VA 22835
 
Gadino Cellars
92 School House Rd, Washington, VA 22747
 
Glen Manor Vineyards
2244 Browntown Rd, Front Royal, VA 22630
 
Sharp Rock Vineyards
5 Sharp Rock Rd, Sperryville, VA 22740

Where to Stay:

Inside Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park has multiple accommodation options that cater to different preferences and needs, from cozy and luxurious to rustic and quaint. You can make online reservations or call 877-847-1919.

Outside Shenandoah National Park
3-Day Itinerary in Shenandoah National Park

Hikers Hideaway

  • Location: Stanley, Virginia
  • Airbnb Superhost
  • Price: $138+/night
  • Great for romantic getaways or hiking trips (sleep 2-4 people comfortably)
  • Dog-friendly: YES
  • Outdoor fire pit + Indoor fireplace
  • Wifi: YES

John Pope Cabin

  • Location: Browntown, Virginia
  • Airbnb Superhost
  • Price: $145+/night
  • Great for a family getaway (sleeps 4 comfortably)
  • Dog-friendly: YES
  • Outdoor shower & Indoor bath
  • Outdoor fire pit + Indoor fireplace
  • Wifi: YES

Bearloga log house

  • Location: Stanley, Virginia
  • Airbnb Superhost
  • Price: $501+/night
  • Great for group getaways (sleeps 10 comfortably)
  • Dog-friendly: NO
  • Hot tub & Indoor hot steam sauna
  • Outdoor fire pit
  • Wifi: YES

Shenandoah Yurt

  • Location: Stanley, Virginia
  • Price: $481+/night
  • Great for group getaways (sleeps 8 comfortably)
  • Dog-friendly: YES
  • Hot tub 
  • Outdoor fire pit & Wood buring fireplace
  • Offer e-bike rentals
  • Wifi: YES

With this, you’re ready for an epic three days of adventure at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia!

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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2 Responses

  1. We live somewhat close by and have been multiple times with our America the Beautiful pass, which makes return trips through the park cheaper. We happened to buy it as we recently did a trip out west to a number of parks, so it made sense to buy the pass.

    Loving the photography, you’ve been able to capture in Shenandoah. We’re especially fond of visiting during fall when the leaves turn and the whole landscape takes on a glow in the morning and evening sunlight.

  2. I love your content and suggestions!! I was looking at the places to stay list in Shenandoah, and while they all look beautiful, I didn’t see any camping sights. I’m trying to plan a weekend to take my dog out hiking with me, but I was wanting to go camping near some of the trails. Do you have any good campsite suggestions?

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