When it comes to hiking in Virginia, it’s difficult to go wrong. Virginia deserves a high reputation as a must–explore state owning 7,000 miles of ocean and bay views along the coastal lowlands in the East Coast. Apart from that more than 50 states forest sites or state and national parks belong to Virginia and, Appalachian Trail crosses more than 550 miles diagonally through the state.

Shenandoah National Park

While Virginia’s part of the Appalachian Trail is well-known among hikers, since it contains roughly a quarter of the trail’s total length, the wild areas outside of western Virginia include paths that are well worth your time, whether for a day trek or a multi-day camping trip.

#1. Shenandoah National Park’s Old Rag Mountain

Distance: 9.5 miles (15km), Travel Time: 7 hours

If you read in a guidebook or ask a local for advice, Old Rag Mountain is almost certain to come up.

This Old Rag Mountain famous trek in Shenandoah National Park’s central-eastern section is popular among most hikers, but don’t mistake popularity for accessibility. The 9.5-mile trail rises almost 2,000 feet in elevation and includes some hard switchback climbing before you reach the trailhead.

Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park, view from the summit
Old Rag Mountain – Winter in Virginia

On days with good weather, planning ahead is advised, since the path’s reputation causes parking lots along the trail to fill up and even lineups to start the trail. To avoid crowds and enjoy the sweeping green hills from the peak all to yourself, plan a mid-week start earlier in the morning.

#2. Great Falls Park Trails

Distance: 1.5-2 miles (2.5km) Travel Time: 1-2 hours

If you are planning to come from Washington, DC area it won’t be an easy task to hike in Virginia than Great Falls. This National Park Service property, which straddles the Potomac River between Virginia and Maryland and mixes the region’s beauty and history into one destination, is just located less than six miles from the nearest Metro stop.

“Great Falls of the Potomac late afternoon, Time Exposure, I invite you to view some of my other images from around Maryland:”
Potomac River Maryland Virginia great falls national park Hike billy goat trail geology

Family-friendly and accessible paved routes like the Old Carriage Road (1.6 miles one way) and rugged scrambles along riverbank cliffs on the Billy Goat Trail are among the park’s best (1.75 miles one way).

Billy Goat Trail – Great Falls National Park

For many in the Capital Beltway region, hiking is the norm, so expect queues at the park entry, parking lots, and trails to form early. Expect to arrive close to the park’s 7 a.m. opening time, as entrance lineups can form by 10:30 a.m.

#3. Potomac Heritage Trail

For history buffs, this hike is ideal.

Distance: 710 miles (1143 km)

If you stay in the DC area, a stroll along the Potomac Heritage Trail, a National Scenic Trail that runs through northern Virginia, D.C., Maryland, and Pennsylvania, will keep you immersed in history.

The ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church are one of the numerous historical landmarks that hikers find along the Appalachian Trail as it makes its way through the town of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

In 1983, the existing network of trails that follow the Potomac River was designated as an official National Scenic Trail by the National Park Service, allowing people to see much of the river as it passes through the Mid-Atlantic region.

bridge in fall over the Potomac River

The majority of the path is made up of existing routes, but if you want to hike in Virginia, check out the 17-mile Mount Vernon Trail near George Washington’s farm south of the District; it’s paved, reasonably flat, and close enough to see the city skyline at all times.

#4. McAfee Knob

The best hike for photographers and backpackers.

The hike to McAfee Knob, located on the Appalachian Trail near the state’s southern end, allows hikers to see the Appalachian Trail’s most photographed sight.

The hike to McAfee Knob, located on the Appalachian Trail near the state’s southern end, allows hikers to see the Appalachian Trail’s most photographed sight.

People enjoy the view on Labor Day from McAfee Knob, one of the most popular overlooks on the Appalachian Trail, located on Catawba Mountain near Roanoke, Virginia. The elevation is 3,171 feet.

The hike is a little under 8 miles long and is generally popular with hikers heading to the northern or southern termini. It is known for having a low level of difficulty and a great level of reward. From the trek up to the 3,171-foot top, backpackers will discover many dispersed campsites, a shelter and water supply, as well as spectacular views.

Overlook of a McAfee Knob and Blue Ridge mountains in Virginia, USA, on sunrise in autumn

#5. Prince William Forest Park Trails

Day hikers of all levels will enjoy this trail.

It’s hard to think that a 15,000-acre park so close to the state’s most populous region doesn’t appear on more Virginia hiking lists, but Prince William Forest Park isn’t like other Virginia hiking destinations.

Marking show the way for hikers

The park, which is located on traditional Indigenous Doeg property, serves as a hub for Washingtonians looking to reconnect with nature close to home by hiking through a Piedmont environment on a mix of long and short trails.

On an autumn morning, fog covers a single lane road through the campground in Prince William National Forest in Virginia, USA.

The park’s core Scenic Drive loops around the heart of the park, providing access to 37 miles of hiking trails. There are also a few rivers and campers strewn among the deep woodland. Visit in the fall when the leaves change colour and there are more hikers, but you’ll still be alone enough to enjoy a peaceful trek amid the amber autumn trees.

#6. Chincoteague/Assateague Islands

Birdwatchers will enjoy this hike the most.

Despite their location in Virginia’s far eastern reaches, at the narrow end of the Delmarva Peninsula, the islands of Chincoteague and Assateague are well worth the drive across the Chesapeake Bay for hikers looking for something new.

Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge wetlands

The barrier islands’ space is shared by the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge with the Assateague Island National Seashore and, it has enabled all types of hikers who are interested in a beach getaway to engage in the bay and ocean hikes.

Wild horses on Assateague Island at sunrise

Take the 3-mile Wildlife Loop, which circles Snow Goose Pool along a paved boardwalk, to ensure a wildlife encounter, or the 25-mile Beachfront Backpacking Trail, which stretches along the shore of the peninsula up to the Virginia-Maryland boundary, to practice your long beach walks.

Snow-covered marsh at Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland.

#7. Grayson Highlands State Park

The best hike for Wildlife and nature lovers.

Distance: 4 miles (6.43 km), Time to Travel: 2 hours

With the state’s highest peaks and the commencement of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, the Grayson Highlands are undoubtedly home to some of Virginia’s best hiking.

A group of friends begin a three-day hike on the Appalachian Trail, starting in Grayson Highlands State Park at Elk Garden, on Highway 600. The first night will be spent near Mount Rogers.
Grayson Highlands and the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia in the late fall.
Grayson Highlands State Park, Virginia, USA – September 12: 2021: Highlands near Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountains. Wild ponies roam the scenic area great for hiking.

Reach the 5,542-foot crest of Wilburn Ridge for magnificent vistas of the nearby Jefferson National Forest’s barren foothills. While you will likely escape people in this rural area, you should expect to hear or see a few wild ponies from the Wilburn Ridge climb.


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