Dark Hollow Falls
Shenandoah National Park (Central)
Skyline Drive milepost 50.7
Distance: 1.5 miles roundtrip
Type: Out and back
Dogs: No pets allowed
Trailhead: Large parking area around Mile 50.7 on Skyline Drive (north of Big Meadows)
Notes: Short, popular hike. Steep return trip. Shenandoah National Park entrance fees apply.
From Charlottesville, VA head up 29 North. Take a left on 33 and enter the Shenandoah National Park (SNP) at the Swift Run Gap Entrance Station. Head north on the Skyline Drive. Large parking area on your right at mile 50.7 on Skyline Drive. Click here for a great Trail map courtesy of the National Park Service (pick up your own at no additional charge at the Entrance Station or Byrd Visitor Center).
Difficulty and length:
This out and back hike took me about 30 minutes to complete. Allow for more time if hiking with children. Round trip is 1.5 miles. I’d rate this hike as easy to moderate. For me, it was fairly easy due to the short distance, however you may get winded on the way back up from the falls.
Once you park in the Dark Hollow Falls parking area (see ‘getting there’ above) find the information kiosk and you will see the trail straight ahead. Please note that this trail does not allow pets. The trail leads about .75 miles down to the base of a beautiful waterfall. The trail along the way is marked by a blue blaze. It’s a very wide, easy to follow trail.
You’ll follow a stream on your right as you walk down to the falls with a few opportunities to dip your feet in small pools. Please heed any warning signs if close to the falls! After you reach the base of the falls, hang out for minute and then retrace your steps back to your car. There is an option to extend the trail at the base of Dark Hollow Falls, you can follow a trail that leads on to Rose River Falls (I’ll post details on this hike in the future). If you choose to turn around and head back, keep in mind it’s a steep, but short climb back to the parking area.
Note: Great hike to do with kids. The short distance makes this hike great for the entire family. Bonus: this hike is very close to the Byrd Visitor Center and Big Meadows Wayside which has food, restrooms, and a gift shop.
Tip: If you are hiking solo, this is a great hike due to its short length and popularity. If anything goes wrong while you are out hiking alone, there will be plenty of people on the trail to help you. Try adding Hawksbill Loop as another hike for your afternoon. The parking areas are close to each other and you’ll get different views.
I’ve visited Dark Hollow Falls a few times. It’s a great, short hike to add on to other hiking adventures when spending an afternoon in SNP. Some great hikes to pair this one with are Bearfence Mountain and Hawksbill Loop. Or, if you are going for a leisurely drive through the National Park, stop to stretch your legs on this hike. Early spring means snow melt and rain, this makes for the perfect time to visit waterfalls.
On my most recent trip, I woke up on a Saturday and really wanted to get out and hike. I couldn’t convince anyone to join me (weather apps flashed a picture of storm clouds and lightening). While I usually don’t hike alone, I couldn’t help myself. To be extra cautious, I chose Dark Hollow Falls as I know it’s heavily traveled and near the Byrd Visitor Center (several Park Rangers are stationed here). I let family know where I was headed and when to expect my return (ALWAYS a good idea when hiking – solo or not). When I got to the Swift Run Gap entrance, I realized my National Park Pass was expired. Luckily, they can set you up with a new one right there! I highly recommend getting the yearly America the Beautiful National Park Pass. There are several park pass options; there is a yearly for SNP or you can go crazy and get the pass that’s good for all our National Parks. You never know when you will end up in another state and get the urge to hike.
I got to Big Meadows in SNP and the sky was very ominous. Dark clouds and a lot of fog almost deterred me from continuing on, but I’d already driven this far. I arrived at the parking area for Dark Hollow Falls to find it half full. Not that bad considering it was almost 11:30am and this is a well-traveled trail. For once, I enjoyed all the people on the trail; knowing that if any harm came my way I would have help. At one point during my hike, there was growling coming from some nearby brush. It definitely gave me a jump, but I soon realized it was a young boy having some fun at my expense. I was very happy it wasn’t a run in with a black bear. I made my way down to the base of the falls in about ten minutes and spent some time enjoying the water spray, which cooled me off (if you live in Virginia you know all about summer humidity). After spending some time at the base, I returned to the parking area which only took about 20 minutes. I found a group of people deciding whether or not to start the hike. I gave them a few tips and a few other suggestions for great day hikes in the park. Another great morning spent in the woods.