Shenandoah National Park stands out in the National Park System as a unique and spectacular example of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This long and narrow park is accessed by Skyline Drive.
This 105-mile-long highway runs along the ridges and tops of the mountains through the length of the park. From Skyline Drive you can access the falls we have chosen as the best to see in Shenandoah National Park.
Before You Go, What You Should Know
Skyline Drive offers easy vehicle access to Shenandoah National Park. However, to reach many of the waterfalls in the park requires you to park and get on a park trail. The difficulty of these hikes varies so be prepared with good boots and proper equipment. Be sure to take plenty of water to stay hydrated.
The highway is marked by mile markers, and we use those to help navigate you to the easiest trail routes. Most trailheads in the park that start on Skyline Drive have pull-offs or parking areas nearby. If you are enthralled by the sounds and sights of water cascading down the rocky slopes, these hikes and waterfalls are worth the effort.
Ten Must-See Waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park
1. Rose River Falls
Shenandoah National Park may very well have more notable waterfalls than any other national park in the system. Many of them are truly outstanding and deserve a visit.
However, one you don’t want to miss is the Rose River Falls. If you can time your visit during a rainy period, you will be even more amazed as this falls offers four distinct cascades.
Be prepared for a rather long and strenuous hike to find Rose River Falls. But you won’t be disappointed since the trail will lead you past several other waterfalls that are impressive in themselves.
Rose River Falls is 67 feet high and rushes over a number of different channels as it bounds down the rocky slope. You can access the trail to Rose River Falls near mile marker 49 on Skyline Drive.
If the weather permits, be sure to take a swimsuit. The pool at the base of the falls is a natural swimming hole and offers a refreshing break after your hike. The hike itself is 2.7 miles round trip and is considered an intermediate trail.
2. Jones Run Falls
Jones Run Falls is one of the most popular spots with locals and tourists alike. You should plan your trip to this waterfall in the late summer or early fall.
This is when the vegetation around the falls is at its most beautiful. The lush green landscape is set off by the solid rock face over which the water courses on its way to the catch pool.
Getting to Jones Run Falls takes a bit of effort. The trailhead to the falls is located near mile the Doyle’s Falls parking lot and descends almost 1045 feet. The trail down is not so hard, but the climb back out after a day of exploring the area can be challenging.
This waterfall is 42 feet high and offers some of the best photo opportunities in the park both at the falls and on the hike. If you arrive later in the fall, the tree leaves will have begun to change, and you will be greeted with a riot of fall colors in every tree.
The hike into Jones Run Falls is 3.4 miles for a total round trip of just over 7.8 miles. The trail is considered a medium difficulty and you should take that into consideration in your planning. Good shoes, proper clothing for the season and plenty of water should top your list.
3. South River Falls
If you are a photography buff, then you must definitely put South River Falls on your bucket list of places to photograph. Many people consider the South River Falls the most photogenic of the many falls in Shenandoah National Park.
This waterfall cascades down the rocky slope from 83 feet above. The catch basin is shallow enough to wade to the base of the falls for a spectacular view up the cliff as the water tumbles down. A unique rock shelf feature at the falls makes a perfect viewing point if you want to make the climb.
The hike to the South River Falls is relatively easy so you can manage to take your photography gear for an afternoon filled with awesome photos. If you happen to time your visit to coincide with the spring rains, the volume of water coming from the top into the pool is an incredible experience.
The hike to these falls is easy to intermediate and takes 2.6 miles for the round trip to the viewing point. If you want to visit the base of the falls and the catch pool, add another 1.3 miles to your trip.
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4. Dark Hollow Falls
If the thought of an arduous hike to view a waterfall isn’t in your scheme of things, consider a visit to Dark Hollow Falls. You can start your short easy trek to Dark Hollow Falls at the Big Meadows Campground and Lodge near the 50.7 mile-marker on Skyline Drive.
Dark Hollow Falls is a two-tier fall with an upper and lower cascade. This waterfall is located in a densely brushed valley that is green and lush with vegetation almost all season.
Many people consider Dark Hollow Falls one of the most beautiful places in Shenandoah National Park. When you visit this waterfall plan enough time to enjoy the scenery around the falls and take off your boots and socks to soak your feet in the cool clear water of the catch basin.
The falls are 70 feet high making this an impressive water feature. Take a picnic lunch and enjoy one of the large flat rocks near the falls to relax after your hike.
The trail to Dark Hollow Falls is 1.4 miles making this one of the easiest waterfalls to access in Shenandoah National Park. Because it is well known and offers easy access expect there to be other people on your visit. The round trip takes about 1.5 hours and is an easy walk.
5. Doyles River Falls
If you want a unique waterfall experience, you should visit Doyles River Falls. Doyles River Falls is the only dual waterfall in Shenandoah National Park.
The falls have two cascades, one above the other. It is worth the extra effort of getting to Doyles River Falls to experience this unique watercourse. The upper falls are 28 feet high. The lower falls are 63 feet high.
You can visit either one or both depending on which trail you take to the waterfall area. You will pass through the deeply rocky cliffs that surround the water course. This area is usually quite peaceful since many people forego the difficult hike to get to the falls.
Two trails provide access to the falls. The shorter trail is a 3.3-mile round trip that usually takes about 2.5 hours to complete.
The longer route will take you to Jones Run Falls first and then to Doyles River Falls. This is a much more difficult hike and takes about 6.5 hours to complete the entire 7.7-mile trail.
Whichever route you select, I recommend that you plan extra time. The scenery and views along these trails are striking and you will find yourself pausing often to just look around or take pictures.
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6. Whiteoak Canyon Falls
If you want a family outing that can keep everyone happy, a trip to Whiteoak Canyon Falls is certainly an excellent choice.
Unlike many of the other trails to find waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park, the trail to Whiteoak Canyon Falls is easy enough for children. You will almost always find families on the trail or enjoying the falls.
When you get to Whiteoak Canyon Falls, the fun really begins. The catch basin at the foot of the falls offers numerous swimming places to enjoy the cool water. A natural water slide on the rock of the waterfall is always popular.
It is wise to pack a picnic lunch for your visit. You will have a tough time getting the kids to leave. However, expect to have company at the falls during your visit.
Whiteoak Canyon Falls is popular with the locals as well as tourists and may get crowded at times. This is a great spot for a family outing but be aware that during the rainy season, the water flow can increase substantially, and the rocks become very slippery when wet.
The trail to Whiteoak Canyon falls is mostly level and an easy 1.4-mile walk. The 2.8-mile round trip will take about 2.5 hours or perhaps a little longer if you have younger children. This trail is pet friendly as long as your pooch is kept on a leash and under control at all times.
7. Overall Run Falls
This spectacular waterfall tumbles down 93 feet in the catch pool at the bottom. The watercourse passes through a wooded thicket that keeps much of the area in the deep shade during the day.
Many people find the walk to Overall Run Falls as beautiful and as relaxing as the falls themselves. The first part of the trail takes you to the viewing point where you can see the majority of the falls.
If you want to visit the pool at the base of the falls, you must take the second part of the trail. The upper portion of the trail is an easy hike and is well within the scope of families with children.
The second portion of the trail down to the bottom of the falls is more strenuous and requires a considerable climb back to the viewpoint above. We suggest that if the family is going, you pack a lunch and stop at the viewpoint to enjoy the scenic vistas. A trip down the trail to the catch pool makes a good afternoon adventure.
The first part of the trail is about 2.5 miles and makes a 5.1-mile round trip. To reach the base of the falls takes almost another mile both ways. The trail is considered an intermediate hiking trail because of the sometimes-steep climb back up from the base of the waterfall.
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8. Cedar Run Falls
Pack a lunch, grab your swimming gear and head to Cedar Run Falls for a day full of adventure and enjoyment. Cedar Run Falls boasts the best swimming of any falls in Shenandoah National Park.
As you walk the trail, you follow the water course to the falls making your anticipation mount. Make sure you stop at the natural water slide and swimming hole near the trail.
Your kids will love the spot and may want to spend all day here. For the more adventurous, you can continue down the trail. Listen for the waterfall to find a more elusive and secluded post to swim.
The hike to Cedar Run Falls is moderately difficult but should be manageable for most older children. The most popular spot is at the base of the second falls where a deep pool invites anyone to take a plunge.
You can return via the trail that brought you in or continue on to the Whiteoak Canyon Trail to find six smaller waterfalls.
The walk into Cedar Run Falls is a 3.2-mile round trip. Continuing on along the Whiteoak Trail makes an 8.2-mile round trip. You can access the trailhead at mile marker 45.6 for easy access and parking.
9. Lewis Falls
For those who are more interested in waterfalls and not the hike to get there, Lewis Falls is the answer. You can easily visit this waterfall by taking a short one mile walk to the lookout platform.
From the platform, you can see the 81-foot drops that form the falls as well as the valley beyond. For the more adventurous, a longer 4-hour walk takes to you the falls and gives you some impressive views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
In either case, you will find the plunge the water makes over the edge a spectacular view. Pack a picnic lunch because you may become enthralled with just watching the water.
If you do make this a day trip and take a lunch, explore a bit, and find the small cover alongside the pool. Picnicking here is a memorable experience.
This is a hike that can be enjoyed by the whole family, including your family dog, provided it stays on its leash and under control at all times.
The overall trip to the falls takes about an hour. Give yourself plenty of time to explore and admire the scenery. Many families plan a day trip to Lewis Falls.
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10. Naked Creek Falls
If you are more interested in solitude and quiet than easy access to view waterfalls take a trip to Naked Creek Falls. Don’t worry, despite the name you don’t need to get naked to visit this waterfall. You may, however, have to do a bit of detective work to find the falls.
The hike isn’t hard to get to the falls, but it takes a bit of hunting to actually find them. The waterfall is off the trail and obscured by heavy brush, fallen logs, and plenty of rocks.
We don’t suggest this hike for families with children or pets. The difficulty in getting to this waterfall makes it less visited and a beautiful place to enjoy solitude and peace.
This falls is about 3250 feet above sea level and looks out over the Naked Creek valley. Some of the overlooks are stunning and will keep you occupied just taking in the natural beauty of Shenandoah National Park.
If you want to avoid the crowds and have a good chance of being alone in the wilderness of the Shenandoah National Park, this is one hike and waterfall you will want to visit. The trail is only a 1.5-mile round trip but can be arduous especially if it has rained.
The Shenandoah National Park – A Wonderland of Waterfalls
These are only a small number of the waterfalls that exist in Shenandoah National Park. It would be impossible to list them all as many are not marked or named. Exploring this vast natural reserve can afford you a surprise at every turn in the trail and you might just discover a waterfall no one else has visited.