I am looking for suggestions on which trails at Shenandoah are good for beginners. I am not looking for an extensive trail, something in between. I take any other suggestions for hiking in Virginia.
Old Rag might be good for you: http://www.hikingupward.com/snp/oldrag/. I hiked there quite some time ago.
George Washington National Forest has lots of good trails; some are easy, some are more strenuous.
The Billy Goat Trail at Great Falls is my nearby, I don’t feel like driving, favorite. It can get a bit populated at times but it is still lots of fun.
Sections b and c of billy goat trail are less strenuous and crowded. There are also other trails up through the woods at great falls that are not used as much.
I wouldn’t term Old Rag for beginners – it’s a strenous, lengthy hike.
Old Rag is not a hike for beginners.
We’ve hiked most of the trails in the Shenandoah Mtns off Skyline Drive. There are many for beginners/intermediate. We recommend Compton or Hawksbill as trails you would enjoy for a first timer. Great views, moderate inclines. Slightly more strenuous is Mary’s Rock, but we are in our 50′s and hike it no problem. The view when you reach the trail end is amazing. Bring a small picnic! Located just the other side of Rte 211 exit and the Thorntop Gap entrance. Coming from DC, they’ll give you info at the Front Royal Skyline Drive entrance, or stop at Dickey’s Ridge Information Center (mile marker 4) for a trail guide. BTW, most of these trails also intersect and/or run parallel to the Appalachian Trail.
I’ve done a TON of hikes in Shenandoah and I love it there. There is literally so much to see and do and the trails are vast. You absolutely need a trail guide. Not only is it a great companion to help you select trails to do, but they keep you from getting lost and finding your way in the event that you do get lost (some of the trails can get covered over or might not be in the best of shape).
The one I love and have had two editions of is this one:
They compile trails together to make convenient loops (rather than doing an out and back trail). Each trail is rated for difficulty, has mileage, has a vertical terrain map, several pictures of the trail, and lengthy descriptions of what to expect on the trail, including scenic things to look for on the trail, like waterfalls and overlooks.
You can buy trail guides, like this one, at the stations with shops in Shenandoah once you get there. It’s nice to have ahead of time, though, because there are four entrances to the park and if you’re planning a hike that’s closer to the two middle entrances, it’s best to drive there, rather than entering from the northern entrances and driving Skyline (which is nice and scenic, but the speed limit is 25mph). These books give you the exact mile marker on Skyline Drive where the trail head can be found, so you’ll be able to easily predict what entrance is best to enter through.
While Old Rag is certainly popular it is slightly difficult and overrun with many people during the summer. I would not recommend old rag for a beginner and because of its popularity. White Oak Canyon is nice, although you do hike down into the canyon and then you have to hike back out. That means some steep verticals in some places and it might not be your cup-o-tea. Of course, you’ll be better to predict all of this with your own trail guide.
Good luck and have fun hiking!
I’ll second White Oak Canyon – that is a great trail.
Bearfence Mountain is also a favorite, and pretty short as well, good for a begininner.
Great resource here. Thanks OP for posing the question and the rest of you for your replies.
White Oak Canyon is a great hike, but again a bit much for a beginner (though not as tough/long as Old Rag). I’d recommend hiking from the bottom up to Skyline Drive and then down again (easier to come down on the second hike). You’d need to look up where the eastern terminus of the trail is to find the parking lot.
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