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Explore Shenandoah National Park: 2 Day Hiking Itinerary

My son is in the Boy scouts, and we had the wonderful camping opportunity in western part of Virgina. We had an overnight trip to the Shenandoah National Park with multi-hikes over two days. Check out our two-day hiking itinerary and get some ideas for your next trip.

Table of Contents

2 Day Hiking Itinerary in Shenandoah National Park

  • Day 1 – Morning: Blue Ridge Tunnel – East Trail Head
  • Day 1 – Mid Day: Calf Mountain
  • Day 1 – Afternoon: Chimney Rock (optional)
  • Day 1 – Evening: Camp at Loft Mountain
  • Day 2 – Early Morning: Sunrise at Black Rock
  • Day 2 – Mid-day: Jones Run Trail
  • Day 2 – Afternoon: Drive home
Blue Ridge Tunnel – Eastern Trail Head2.25 miles 215 Afton Depot Lane in Afton, VA
Calf Mountain2.9 miles Mile Post 99.5
Chimney Rock3.2 miles  Mile Post 90
Black Rock Sunrise1.1 mile Mile Post 84.4
Jones Run3.2 miles Mile Post 84.1
Our Hiking Trails in Shenandoah National Park


Check out the Google map below to see the detailed locations of the trail heads and camping site.

View of exit of Old Blue Ridge Tunnel Trail
  • Distance: 3.25 miles
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location: 215 Afton Depot Lane, Afton Virginia

The Blue Ridge Tunnel Trail is an old tunnel that was blasted out using black powder and rocks moved by hand in the mid 1800’s for a railroad line. Irish immigrants provided the majority of the back breaking dangerous work. Although, there are also records of at least 33 slaves working the tunnel, with all their wages going to the slave holders. 

The workers lived with their families in shanties around the tunnel with multiple families sometimes living together. As you can imagine, the work was hard, so much so that they went on strike several times to get their pay raised from just $0.75 a day to between $1.12-$2.00, depending on the job. Converted to today’s value, that would be about $80 a day.

Not so fun fact: Over thirty men and boys died working in the tunnel as they toiled in some truly horrible conditions.

Walking through the tunnel, it was amazing to see the level of work put into blasting through the mountain. You can easily see the original pin scars from the 1850’s in the tunnel. 

Today the tunnel is a walking trail that allows all to marvel at the pre-civil war work of engineering that helped open up Ohio to the east.

Life in and around the tunnel

The tunnel is very much like a cave, with constant temperatures of 50 degrees, it remains cool and wet year-round. Flashlights are recommended as it is pitch black in the center of the tunnel (phone flashlights are good in a pinch.)

Even with the drought conditions we were having, we found plenty of water leaking inside the tunnel. With the cool, dark and damp conditions we found some interesting inhabitants; Frogs, and Salamanders, were hanging around the inside of the tunnel. My son even found a small crawfish in a runoff puddle, as well.

  • Distance: 2.9 miles
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
  • Location: Mile Marker 99.5

The first hike we did after going into the park was for Calf Mountain.  It was a bit of a climb but not that severe. At the top, there was plenty of open space to sit by the trail and have lunch. We saw some threatening clouds but thankfully, no rain hit and was a simple walk down to the parking lot.

  • Distance: 3.2 miles
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location: Mile Marker 90

Following Calf Mountain was a much rockier hike up to Chimney Rock. It has more of an elevation climb than the previous hike, but man what a view! Watch out as you scramble and keep ‘3-points’ as you climb the rocks as some have a pretty severe drop off. We found some cool moss, and did I mention the view?

View of Shenandoah Valley from Chimney Rock

Also, I kept seeing the same bush/plant on the hikes and was able to get a signal to use my iNatualist app to find the name.  So, you know, Mountain Laurel is all over these, well, mountains!  I kept bugging my son about it on the hike.  “Hey, look! Mountain Laurel!”, every few feet.  Pretty soon, he was doing it to me!

Camping at Loft Mountain

Location: Mile marker 79.5

We used the largest camping site in the park, staying in Loft Mountain overnight. There are plenty of spots for both RV and tent camping. The facilities are what you would expect, bathroom houses, with showers and trash disposal available.

Tip: While there are over 200 campsites at Loft Mountain, plan ahead and reserve a camping spot early. These spots still fill up quickly, especially on the weekends.

There is a camp store off the main road before you turn into the campsite. They have a number of items for purchase to help with your stay.

National Park Passport Cancellation Stamp

Don’t forget to pick up your free souvenir at the entrance gate or more easily at the camp store in the form of a National Park Passport Cancellations Stamp. This is an easy way to remember your trip!

  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location: Mile Marker 84.4

Originally, we were planning to hike Blackrock in the afternoon and then come back in the morning for the sunrise.  We had some delays in the trip, so we skipped the afternoon and just went for the early morning hike. 

It is a short hike, only about a mile, but the views, especially at sunrise, were amazing. The boys also really enjoyed scrambling around the rocks.  Since this hike is actually part of the Appalachian Trail we spoke with a several through hikers as they made their way along the trail.

Sunrise at Blackrock Shenandoah National Park

Tip:  If you are comfortable in the back country, you are allowed to setup camp in the park itself.  Mind the rules from the NPS when doing so. 

  • Distance: 3.2 miles
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location: Mile Marker 84.1

After packing up, we headed out to the last hike of the trip which was on Jones Run Falls.  A 3.2-mile hike that was challenging and interesting as well. Unfortunately, we were experiencing a severe drought and the stream/run off was almost non-existent. That made the ‘Falls’ more of a trickle. Even still, I really enjoyed the hike as it had great variety in landscape, rocks, streams and of course a lot of Mountain Laurel. 

Exit sign of Shenandoah National Park Skyline Drive

Overall, this was a great trip.  Amazing weather, diverse set of scenery and while only taking in a part of the Shenandoah National Park, it exposed a lot of what it the park has to offer.


Do you have to pay to get into Shenandoah National Park?

Yes, there is a small entrance fee for the park, $30 for vehicles or $15 per person. One thing you can consider is to visit on one of the fee free days, which will allow full access to the park without a charge.

How do you reserve a campsite at Loft Mountain Campground?

While there are over 200 campsites at Loft Mountain don’t let that fool you, as this popular campsite fills up regularly. Plan ahead and reserve a camping spot well in advance of your trip. To reserve, go to Recreation.gov to snag your spot.

When is a good time to use this itinerary?

Anytime is that you have two days! This does work really well for a weekend trip. This is designed for those who can start their hiking by 9am on Day 1 and can leave by noon on the second day.

Virginia State Park Trail Quest Program

If you are in Virgina, and are checking out some state parks, make sure to look into the Virgina State Park Trail Quest Passport Program. Similar to the National Park Passport Cancellation program, you track your progress in visiting Virginia’s State parks. You can earn some cool looking pins and visit some amazing Virginia locations in the process!

Delicate Arch on clear day blue sky

Check out original photos in the Roaming Monk gallery!

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