Dark Hollow Falls is one of the most popular trails in Shenandoah National Park. This trail is short, but very steep and rocky. The trail follows a stream to a beautiful waterfall. The 1.4 mile round trip hike is downhill from the trail parking to the falls, then uphill to the parking lot. There is a 440 foot elevation gain. The return climb can be challenging so be prepared. There are some sitting rocks along the trail if you need to rest especially on your way back up. Pets are not allowed on Dark Hollow Falls Trail. Plan an hour and a half for the hike.
There are so many great hikes in Shenandoah National Park, but this is a family favorite. Not only are the falls spectacular, but the location is perfect. After the hike, you’re close to the Byrd Visitor Center which has restrooms, an information desk, exhibits, ranger programs, historical films, a bookstore, publications, maps, and first aid.
The falls are breathtaking. There is a small landing at the bottom where you can position yourself to get a good picture of the falls. My kids also enjoy climbing on all the big rocks.
Webpage: Dark Hollow Falls (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
Directions to Dark Hollow Falls: Enter at the Thornton Gap Entrance Station and head south towards Big Meadows to mile marker 50.7. At the entrance station or at any visitor center you can ask for the Big Meadows Area map. You can also download the map before heading to the park. Not far from the Byrd Visitor Center is the parking lot for Dark Hollow Falls.
Shenandoah National Park Tips:
When visiting Shenandoah National Park, make sure to plan for crowds. We always head to the park early. It can get very busy on nice weekends and especially on Fee Free days. We’ve had friends wait an hour or two just to get into the park. If you already have a National Park Pass, sometimes you can bypass the long lines. This has happened to us before. If you do not have a National Park Pass, you will pay $30 to enter the park. This entrance pass is good for seven consecutive days. If you decide to purchase the National Park Pass, you’ll easily recoup the $80 charge especially if you use it to visit Northern Virginia area parks like Great Falls and Prince William National Forest.
Make sure to download the free NPS Shenandoah app before heading into the park as cell service and Wi-Fi are limited. You will also want to download offline content before you arrive (available in the settings menu of the app). This will allow you to continue to use various functions of the app without cell service.
There are four entrances to Shenandoah National Park: Front Royal, Thornton Gap, Swift Run Gap, and Rockfish Gap. We use the Thornton Gap entrance to get to our favorite hikes.
Shenandoah NP Thorton Gap Location: 3655 US Highway 211 E, Luray, VA 22835 (1.5 hours from Fredericksburg.)
Hours: Shenandoah National Park is always open. However, portions of the 105-mile-long Skyline Drive, the only public road through the park, are periodically closed during inclement weather. Visitors can still enter the park on foot to hike even when the Drive is closed. Current operating dates and hours can be found HERE.