“Hot town, summer in the city,” as the song lyrics go, and for D.C. dwellers the Shenandoah Valley has long been a popular summer getaway to beat the heat. President Herbert Hoover placed his beloved Rapidan Camp in what’s now Shenandoah National Park, Thomas Jefferson marveled at the meeting of two mighty rivers in Harpers Ferry, and Franklin D. Roosevelt made the outdoors accessible to day-trippers looking to test out their new cars by supporting the building of a “sky-line drive.”
|Splashdown! A hiker enjoys the waterslide along Cedar Run-White Oak Canyon. |
Fast forward to today and the Shenandoah Valley holds the same lure for those dreaming of an escape from the hot and humid weather. The authors of the brand-new guidebook AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Shenandoah Valley share five of their favorite hikes with spots perfect for cooling off. (Psst, the book is now available in AMC's online store with a 20% member discount).
- White Oak and Cedar Run: This popular hike in Shenandoah National Park has multiple swimming holes at its base. Chief among them, however, is the famous waterslide just 1.5 miles from the start along the Cedar Run Trail. Go early to avoid the crowds. (8 miles roundtrip, moderate)
- South River Falls: One of the loveliest waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park’s Central District, this hike leads you to a pool perfect for wading and relaxing. You won’t want to leave this tranquil spot. (4.9 miles roundtrip, moderate)
- Elkwallow: Okay, maybe this easy hike doesn’t have a waterfall, but it does have ice cream. We feel that is an acceptable substitute. Amble along this trail and enjoy a break at the Elkwallow Wayside. Trust us, the blackberry shake does not disappoint. (3.8 miles roundtrip, easy)
- RipRap Hollow: If you’re up for a drive and a challenge, this hike in Shenandoah’s Southern District will surpass your expectations. Enjoy views at Calvary and Chimney Rocks along the first 1.5 miles of the trail before dropping down to a stream. About 3.6 miles in, you’ll come to a deep swimming hole. Spend plenty of time here to cool off. To get back to your car, you’ll have a 2.5-mile climb back to Skyline Drive. (9 miles, strenuous)
- Maryland Heights: Get in a good workout by climbing to Maryland Heights and get a glimpse of the view that made Thomas Jefferson pause. Here, the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers meet, and the historic town gives a glimpse of the past. Tubing and other river fun await you after the hike. (4.4 miles, moderate)
All of these hikes — and 45 more — can be found in AMC’s recently released Best Day Hikes in the Shenandoah Valley
|Photo by Miles Barger|
Author Jennifer Adach is a co-organizer of the DC UL Backpacking group. She has thru-hiked Sweden’s Kungsleden trail and the John Muir Trail, and has logged several thousand miles on trails in the Mid-Atlantic area. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
Author Michael R. Martin is a lifelong backpacker and outdoorsman. Author of AMC’s Best Backpacking in the Mid-Atlantic and contributor to AMC Outdoors magazine, he also leads, organizes, and teaches for the DC UL Backpacking group. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
Labels: Best Day Hikes, hiking, Shenandoah Valley, swimming, Washington DC, waterfalls