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Pets allowed
No
Elevation Gain
1,450.00 ft (441.96 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
6.20 mi (9.98 km)
Please respect the outdoors and leave no trace. One tip how to dispose of waste properly: Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products. For more information, visit https://lnt.org/learn/7-principles

This delightful 6-mile-plus loop takes you to along the path of Rose River and Hog Camp Branch, two lively creeks with nearly continuous cascades, falls, and flumes. It passes two of the park’s more popular falls, the Rose River and Dark Hollow Falls. These bubbling creeks make a “low shutter speed” waterfall photographer’s dreams come true. For the rest of us, it makes for an enjoyable hike. This hike seldom disappoints except maybe at Dark Hollow Falls when the water is low. So go in the spring or after an extended wet period to see Dark Hollow at its best.

Needless to say, on pleasant weekends, the trail is busy. To help avoid the parking congestion and crowds at the main trailheads, this hike starts at Big Meadows Campground.This adds about 2 miles to the more direct routes the crowds take, but it also adds a quiet section of the Appalachian Trail (AT) with an expansive view of the Shenandoah River Valley at Fisher’s Gap Overview.

This loop is made by connecting the AT, Skyland-Big Meadows Horse Trail, Rose River Loop Trail, Dark Hollow Falls Trail, and finally returns to Big Meadows by the Story of the Forest Trail. This loop is best completed in a clockwise direction.

Depending on where in the campground you start and intercept the AT, the mileage will vary a bit. Begin from the short connector side trail on the northwest side of Big Meadows Campground’s "E-Loop" near site E172 or at the amphitheater parking. You will quickly intercept the AT in several tens of yards. Head north on the AT by turning right. Follow the AT for about a mile as it makes its gradual descent to Fisher's Gap, where you turn right on the dirt road near Fisher’s Gap Trailhead. Cross Skyline Drive, and when you come to the Skyland-Big Meadows Horse Trail and Rose River Fire Road Trail, go left to descend to Rose River Falls on the Skyland-Big Meadows Horse Trail. Shortly you need to go right at the trail junction with the Rose River Loop Trail. Soon the sounds of Rose River will start to penetrate the forest. The trail veers sharply right when you intercept Rose River. Enjoy the sights and sounds of this cascading river as you follow it downstream.

In about a half-mile, Rose River Falls will be on the left. After exploring the falls, continue until you intercept Hog Camp Branch. The Rose River Loop Trail makes a sharp right as it turns away from Rose River and begins to climb the Hog Camp Branch. There is a large lump of concrete along the trail that is one of the few remains of an old copper mine in this formerly denuded, now beautiful, regenerated forest. Soon the trail crosses Hog Branch on a National Park Service steel trail bridge. Hog Camp Branch becomes even prettier, so take your time and enjoy. There are numerous cascades, flumes, and small falls along this stretch with many opportunities to stop and enjoy. If the water is up, it is a photographer's paradise.

As you near the top of Hog Camp Branch you reach the old dirt road that is Rose River Fire Road you encountered earlier. Cross the dirt road, do not take it, and turn left onto the usually crowded Dark Hollow Trail. No pets are allowed on Dark Hollow Trail. It is steep but well maintained as it passes Dark Hollow Falls and climbs to Skyline Drive at the Dark Hollow Falls Trailhead. At the top, cross Skyline Drive and pick up Story of the Forest Trail to return to Big Meadows.

The best maps for this hike are Trails Illustrated National Geographic, Shenandoah National Park (Map #228) or the Potomac Appalachian Trail Conference (PATC), Shenandoah National Park, Central District (map 10).

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

Park entrance fee

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Ridge-top view. Waterfalls along picturesque creeks.

Cons

Can be crowded.

Trailhead Elevation

3,580.00 ft (1,091.18 m)

Highest point

3,580.00 ft (1,091.18 m)

Net Elevation Gain

1,350.00 ft (411.48 m)

Address

Appalachian Trail
Stanley, VA 22851
United States

Features

Waterfalls
Wildlife
Fishing
Family friendly
Big vistas
Mine

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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