This is a great hike located in shenadoah NP, not too far from Old Rag. If you've done Old Rag you can probably do this one too. Its... more » about 8 miles for this loop and a bit more strenuous than Old Rag (more stair stepping).
There are two parking lots that intersect this trail, one on skyline drive south of big meadows, and one that needs to be accessed off road 643 in the lowlands (this is the route i took and the comments below are based on the off-skyline drive route).
Start early! 7 am is great.
you will come to an intersection starting at the off-skyline 643 parking lot, suggest you go right and run the loop counterclockwise.
The trail markers are blue on the trees, then theres a short yellow section, then blue again for the return. make sure you double check your GPS at the intersections to stay on the right trail.
The 1st section of trail takes you to the right along about 30 big and small waterfalls! WATERFALLS galore! this is the strenuous section of the trip. There is a great rock wall for climbers on this section approximately 1-1.5 miles from the trailhead (road 643) parking lot (weakly hollow road) which also makes a great place for lunch.
A short way past the falls section you will encounter a map on the trail and you can decide if you want to turn back and call it quits for the day. If you would like to continue on the loop for a total of 8 miles, you can take the yellow trail section.
The yellow trail is the 2nd leg of the loop, you will go over a steel bridge crossing the river where there is a fork. The yellow trail is to the LEFT, and the blue trail on the right goes 3 miles to skyline drive (which is not part of this loop). The yellow trail is a horse trail, but still climbs to approximately ~3200 feet gradually. There are no stair steps here, and you still may need to stop and catch your breath. No views here, and no waterfalls here. You will encounter the next intersection which you should follow to the left (still yellow blazes). This leg of the loop ends at the skyline drive parking lot which can be your other entry point for this trail. At this intersection (4 way) you will take the blue blazed trail which returns in the direction that you came.
The 3rd and final leg of the trail is blue marked and starts from the skyline drive parking lot intersection. This leg has less waterfalls than the one we started with, however it has a most notable waterfall called "the slide" becuase it is a sheer gradually sloped face with lots of waterflow over it, kind of like a slide. Having reached the peak of the hike in the 2nd leg end, this leg of the hike is stair stepping downhill all the way. BEWARE that there are 3 river crossings, and this can be dangerous becuase they are on logs if you dont want to get wet. You can safely scoot along on the logs and make all the crossing. The final crossing will have RED blazes on the trees marking all the crossing (approximately 4 log crossings). Be careful as the rocks may be slippery and can result in serious injury.
The rest of the way after the last crossing is a mostly rockless path back to the starting (road 643) parking lot (weakly hollow road).
This hike can be considered more strenuous than old rag mountain which is right next door.
If you are taking tons of pictures of the falls, swimming, or taking an extra long lunch, then you should plan on 6-7 hours for this hike. why rush?
The trail has groups come through heading to big meadows etc and can be busy at times... so start early.
If you have ankle / knee problems (like my torn ligament) then this trail can take you all day long as you go slowly, but it is not recommended for those individuals.
the larger wildlife was sparse this day, but may be present other days with fog etc.
Have a great hike :-) less «