Shenadoah National Park
This beautiful and peaceful trek through the woods takes you along cool, clear mountain streams to two unique waterfalls (could be 3 if you count the small rocky area before the main falls). This is one of the most popular waterfall hikes in the southern section of the Shenandoah National Park.
The trail is well marked, but be prepared for a stream crossing. Start early on this hike as it can get crowded quickly. Getting to the falls downhill is not too difficult, but going back is a rather steep and constant ascent and could be a challenge, although there are many places to stop and rest.
The kids loved the hike down to the first fall. There were rocks and logs along the way to climb on. They enjoyed the stream crossing. Water + hike = fun!
You’ll reach the 28′ Upper Doyles River Falls first. The first fall has a great little area to sit down for lunch or just a break stop. Bring water shoes and a towel if your kids want to play in the stream. Remember mountain water can be cold even in the summer.
Then you come to the 63′ Lower Doyles River Falls. It’s worth the extra half mile or so to pass the upper falls and visit the lower falls. On our visit Number 6 decided to stay with his dad at the Upper Falls while Number 5 and I continued on to see the Lower Falls. It was definitely worth the extra half mile hike.
On the trail there is a spring near where the Appalachian Trail crosses the trail. If you bring a water treatment kit/drops with you, it makes a cool “event” to drink the water. We did not do this but have heard from others who have.
Directions: Head to the Swift Run Gap Entrance of Shenandoah National Park– 22591 Spotswood Trl, Elkton, VA 22827
Then find Doyles River Falls Trail off Skyline Drive near the Appalachian Trail in the southern half of Shenandoah National Park. It’s not far from Loft Mountain.
Website: Doyle River Trails
- Distance: 3.3 miles round trip
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Hiking Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
- Toilets: There are no toilets at this trailhead.
- From the trailhead at mile 81.1, take the blue-blazed Doyles River Trail.
- Cross the Appalachian Trail and pass the access trails to Doyles River Cabin and Browns Gap Road.
- Trail posts mark the locations of Upper (2.7 miles) and Lower Doyles River Falls.
- 1 stream crossing.
- Retrace your steps to return.
Click HERE for a trail map.
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.