Virginia is renowned for its state parks, national parks, and the trails that run throughout the entire state. While the idea of hiking through Virginia by means of the Appalachian Trail may sound marvelous in theory, shorter hikes are more realistic and often pack quite a punch in terms of adventure and sight seeing. Here are 12 incredible hikes just under 5 miles that you will definitely want to take in the next few months. It’s time to lace up those hiking boots and start exploring!
1. Crabtree Falls (3.8 miles)
Crabtree Falls is the tallest series of waterfall on the East Coast. Crabtree Creek plummets nearly 1,080 feet down into the Tye River, causing a beautiful scene of cascades and rushing waters. This hike will essentially take you upwards alongside the falling water. After nearly two miles you will have reached the base of the upper falls region. There are viewing platforms located throughout the hike. Be VERY careful not to stray from the railed path, as many have fallen victim to the slippery rocks here.
2. Hawksbill Mountain (2.9 miles)
This fairly easy hike will allow you to reach the top of the tallest peak in Shenandoah National Park, standing at 4,049 feet. The trail is covered with gravel and very well-maintained, although will seem fairly steep during the descent. Keep on the lookout for wildlife during this hike - you may be lucky enough to encounter some rare sightings.
3. Dan Ingalls Overlook Trail (2.4 miles)
The Dan Ingalls Trail is located at the top of Warm Springs Mountain on Route 39. The out-and-back trail offers incredible views of the surrounding peaks. At the turning point of the hike, you can enjoy the views from this small overlook.
4. Mary's Rock (3.7 miles)
Located near Sperryville, Mary's Rock is a moderately difficult hike. The ascent is definitely a workout, but the wildflowers along the way and the wonderful views of the park from the top will be a great reward. Those who wish to prolong the hike can continue along the Appalachian Trail to access additional views. From Skyline Drive, look for the Panorama access signs.
5. Sharp Top Trail (3.4 miles)
The Sharp Top Trail gets you to the destination quickly. That being said, prepare for hiking in its truest form. There are a few series of steps that will take you upwards towards the gorgeous overlook. You'll enjoy a 360 degree view of the Peaks of Otter, with the Shenandoah Valley to the west and the Piedmont to the east.
6. White Oak Canyon (4.8 miles)
Another Shenandoah National Park hike, White Oak Canyon is popular for its six waterfalls. Though it's a bit longer, the hiking itself is rather moderate. The main falls are located just one mile from the foot bridge. Be prepared for this hike to be crowded during the spring and summer, as it is one of the most popular in the area.
7. Molly's Knob (1.6 miles)
This hike at Hungry Mother State Park is one of the best maintained trails in Southwestern Virginia. The Molly Knob trail offers lake views as well as viewing decks where you can look upwards and see Molly Knob. Another notable aspect of the trail is the surrounding rhododendron, which should be in full bloom during the warmer months. The Molly Vista trail leading upwards to the view is the most strenuous but also most rewarding. This is the spot where you'll be eager to rest and enjoy a delightful picnic. You'll have earned it!
8. High Bridge Trail (length depends)
Technically, High Bridge Trail is 31 miles long. This is a biking, hiking, and horse riding trail located just outside of Farmville. However, the High Bridge itself can be reached just a short distance from several parking areas. The bridge itself is 2,400 feet long and spans the Appomattox River at 125 feet. There are viewing areas along the bridge, where you can admire the view or read some of the historical markers.
9. Stony Man Trail (3.7)
When you embark on this lovely hike, be sure to pick a day without any haze. You won't want the view from the top to be obscured by anything. The trail starts from the left of the parking area and continues along several Shenandoah Valley overlooks. The Little Stony man Trail is blazed yellow and you'll want to make sure to stay on track, otherwise you could end up adding some miles to this hike. Look for milepost 41.7 on Skyline Drive.
10. Dragon's Tooth (4.7 miles)
Dragon's Tooth is aptly named. The jagged rocks that rise ahead of you as you reach the end of this hike are hard to miss. You'll be able to access Dragon's Tooth from route 311 towards Catawba, just beyond the McAfee trailhead. The trail is a actually a spur of the Appalachian Trail. You'll gain beautiful view of the Roanoke Valley from 3,000 feet above.
11. Compton Peak (2.4 miles)
Compton Peak can be reached by means of the beautiful Skyline Drive. The parking area is located at mile marker 10.3. This hike is relatively easy and only changes 830 feet in elevation. The views will be especially stunning in early fall when the leaves begin to change.
12. Stuarts Knob (5 miles)
Located in Fairystone State Park, the Stuarts Knob Trail System winds through this beautiful forested land and might just lead you to a hidden gem or two. The stones after which the park is named are rare crystals that are hard to spot. There are other trail systems in the park, such as the Little Mountain Trail System, which is 13 miles and multi-use.
What are some of your favorite hikes in Virginia that are under 5 miles? Be sure to share with us!