June 5th – 9th 2019
We headed from our campsite at Prince William Forest Park near Washington DC to the entrance of the Shenandoah National Park. We made a quick stop at Front Royal to pick up some supplies for the next couple of days and headed into the park. It took us about 2 hours to get to Big Meadows Campground at mile marker 51.
As we were setting up our camper the kids spotted a small bear feeding in the campground just near us. It made me wonder if there was a bigger Mama bear around. The campground has no power, water or sewage hook ups. There are restrooms with toilets throughout the park and hot showers near the rangers hut that take quarters.
All of the hikes described below are all in the area of Big Meadows Campground.
Lewis Falls via Lewis Springs Trail
There is a small parking lot just south of the Big Meadows entrance. The first 1/2 mile or so is a fire road so it is pretty easy going. The trail crosses The Appalachian Trail and continues on but for the remainder it is fairly rocky.
At the bottom of the trail there is a small stream to cross to get to the overlook of the falls. The trail was steadily downhill on the way to the falls so I wasn’t looking forward to the return. The return was quite strenuous, everyone had left me behind and were waiting at the car for me. My motto is slow and steady. There was an elevation gain of about 700ft on the way back so it was any wonder I was feeling quite out of breath all the way back. The trail is about 1.8 miles round trip.
Story of the Forest Trail
The Story of the Forest Trail is a very easy trail from Big Meadows Campground out to the Skyline. We decided to make a loop and head north beside the Skyline, stop at the Camp store for an ice cream and head back to the campsite via the entrance road.
The loop took us about 1 hour and 20 minutes and that included the stop for ice creams. The loop is about 1.8 miles. We saw a few deer beside the trail and the birds calls were quite loud.
Lewis Spring Falls Trail
I ventured out on this hike thinking it would be a nice easy hike … wrong. It just about killed me. The first mile or so followed The Appalachian Trail. As we were walking Craig spotted a large bear on the side of the trail. We had to bush bash off the trail to get around the bear. I managed to get a few photos but they were from a distance. I was wishing I had a better camera than just my iPhone camera.
The trail then meets up with the Lewis Springs Trail and we followed it to the falls. The return trail was different from the on we took previously from the falls. On the map it looked like it could be easier and not so steep. Boy was I wrong. It may have been a little gentler but it was a long way.
The whole hike ended up taking about 3 hours. There are quite a few nice vistas looking out over the valley in the second half of the hike.
Stoney Man Trail
This trail was quite easy. There was no view for us at the top as the clouds had moved in. We decided to return via the horse trail instead of the one we came up. This is a good hike if time is short as you are driving along the Skyline.
This is a very easy flat trail. The trail surface is also suitable for wheelchairs and strollers.
There is lots of nature to look at but there are no views along this trail.
Dark Hollows Falls Trail
We hiked from Big Meadows Campground along the Story of the Forest Trail to get to the star of this hike. There were quite a few people on the trail which was a little different from all the other hikes we had done so far.
The descent to the falls is continuous. The whole time I was thinking about the return journey and how much it was going to hurt. There were rough steps which gave my knees quite a workout.
The falls were nice but there were lots of people and it was very hard to get good photos. I checked the map and noticed there was another trail out. It was longer but not so steep so I convinced the others that this is the way we should return. I think by the end they were cursing me.
We left the falls and hiked along the Rose River Fire Road. It was a very gentle uphill walk which I didn’t mind at all. Along the way there is a cemetery. It seems to be the Cave Family’s cemetery. There are graves from the early 1800’s to present day. It is an interesting little side trip.
Once back at the Skyline we had a rest at Fishers Gap Overlook then continued south along The Appalachian Trail which lead us straight back to our campsite. This hike was a long but not so strenuous hike. It has a little of everything – waterfall, overlooks and a little human interest.