Central Virginia is without a doubt one of the most scenic and iconic places in the US to set out on a hike or pitch a tent. With stunning vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains, miles of the most lovely sections of the A.T., rocky and majestic summit hikes, breathtaking fall foliage, and relatively quiet trails and campsites, it’s the perfect locale to find your next adventure. The hikes below you can easily do in a short visit to Shenandoah National Park and the surrounding area, and all have great backcountry camping options!
I. Humpback Rocks
Humpback Rocks is a quintessential Virginia hike if there ever was one. It’s right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and with a rocky outcrop overlooking the surrounding valley, it simply doesn’t get much better than this! This hike is only 2 miles roundtrip, but with 1,240 ft. elevation gain, you will still feel like you’ve earned those s’mores. Camp right below the base of the summit for front row seats to watch the sun rise over the mountains = heaven.
II. Spy Rock
Spy Rock is a true hike for locals in Central Virginia, and the 360º views are sure to take your breath away. The total hike is 3.1 miles, and there is a great primitive campsite right before the summit of the hike. Catch the sunset with friends before heading back down to your cozy campfire for the night and you will have one of the best experiences that the area has to offer.
III. McCaffe Knob
This is the most photographed spots on the A.T., and for good reason! With spectacular views of the southern Shenandoah Valley and a photogenic rocky outcrop, this hike is hard to beat. Go for sunset and your only companions will be the occasional A.T. thru-hikers. There are campsites as well as shelters on this hike, perfect for doing a small part of the A.T. on the weekend.
IV. Grayson Highlands
First of all, who doesn’t love wild ponies! There are tons of ponies here, and although they are wild, they are not afraid of people and you can get pretty close (just don’t feed them!). This trail is also the highest point in Virginia, and because of wildfires, it is all big skies and pine trees, making it feel like somewhere out west rather than Southern Virginia.
V. Old Rag
Old Rag is a must-do for anyone visiting or living near Central Virginia. This 8 mile hike is tons of fun, with rock scrambles galore, and sweeping vistas of Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge everywhere you look. Backcountry camping is allowed here, just make sure you make a (free!) reservation with SNP. Allow yourself between 5-7hours for this one depending on your fitness level and scrambling ability. As this hike is close to both DC and Central VA, it can be a bit crowded. Aim to go early or during the week for a little more solitude.
About the author: Christin Healey is a gypsy at heart and lover of all things creative. Based in Charlottesville, VA and avid traveler, she is typically found in front of a camp fire or wandering down a dirt path. Find more of her adventures on Instagram.
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