Six great mountain hikes in Virginia State Parks
Hiking, mountain parks
Virginia State Parks have some of the most diverse trails in the United States. From the coast to the piedmont to the mountains, Virginia State Parks offer simple trails for novices to enjoy and complex, difficult trails for experienced outdoor enthusiasts.
Mountain trails are generally more difficult because of steepness and elevation – you’re hiking hundreds, sometimes thousands, of feet above sea level. Sweeping vistas make the hikes worth it when you can see for miles and miles in nearly every direction.
Popular mountain hikes
- Molly’s Knob Trail – Hungry Mother State Park has a 108-acre lake encircled by 12 miles of trails. Molly’s Knob Trail is legendary among serious hikers. It’s only about 2 miles but is often narrow, steep and difficult before it reaches the summit: The park’s highest point is 3,270 feet above sea level.
- Mountain Side Trail – Douthat State Park’s Mountain Side Trail isn’t for beginners. This 1.2-mile moderate to difficult trail is accessible along the Mountain Top Trail and the Guest Lodge Trail. This narrow and mountainous trail varies little in elevation but has a fairly steep edge so care must be taken; it’s not for children or the inexperienced.
- Blue Suck Falls Trail – This trail at Douthat State Park is a 3-mile hiking and biking trail that affords a stunning view of a wonderful waterfall. The word “suck” is an Appalachian term for a whirlpool at the base of the falls. The view at 2,205 feet makes the hike worthwhile.
- Rhododendron Trail – Deep in the heart of Grayson Highlands State Park, at an elevation of about 5,000 feet, Rhododendron Trail is a gentle, 2.5-mile stroll through open fields. The trail affords wonderful views. Hundreds of rhododendrons generally bloom in the first weeks of June, which is also a good time to spend the night in a yurt. For the serious hiker, the trail serves as an access point to the Appalachian Trail and Massie Gap.
- Redtail Ridge Trail and Cottonwood Trail – Guests often hike to Shenandoah River State Park’s Redtail Ridge Trail, which is about a mile long and great for kids. A handful of short climbs may challenge younger hikers, but there are several overlooks of the river. An easier hike, the Cottonwood Trail, is 1.3 miles and ends with an elevated boardwalk. The trail is wheelchair-accessible from the primitive campground.
- Lakeview Trail – Claytor Lake State Park has six easy trails covering 7 miles. The trails generally pass through hardwood forest. Lakeview Trail is an easy, handicapped-accessible mile-long stroll. The trail is also the starting point of a 5K cross-country trail designed by Boy Scout troop 244. It’s ideal for seasoned and novice runners.
Parks with great mountain hiking
- Claytor Lake (CL) | Trail Guide (PDF)
- Douthat (DO) | Trail Guide (PDF)
- Fairy Stone (FS) | Trail Guide (PDF)
- Grayson Highlands (GH) | Trail Guide (PDF)
- Hungry Mother (HM) | Trail Guide (PDF)
- Natural Bridge (NB) | Trail Guide (PDF)
- New River Trail (NR) | Trail Guide (PDF)
- Natural Tunnel (NT) | Trail Guide (PDF)
- Shenandoah River (SH) | Trail Guide (PDF)
- Wilderness Road (WR) | Trail Guide (PDF)