Shenandoah National Park is beautiful and HUGE!!! I am usually excellent at planning where I am going to hike. However, planning to visit Shenandoah was not planned out well at all. First off, the drive time to this national park is over five hours from Charlotte, NC. There is no way you can be in a car for over five hours and enjoy a hike afterward. Second, the temperature change was pretty dramatic from the temperature in NC. Lastly, snacks, snacks, and more snacks are a must-have for this type of adventure.
I was scrolling through Instagram when I came across an alumni picture with the caption; we’ve reached the top of Little Stony Man. The photo was cute! Within seconds I was looking at all the hashtags of Little Stony Man. Most people had either the same or a similar view of the pictures I previously viewed. I phoned a friend to see if they wanted to join me on this hike since my travel time was over five hours; I felt we could explore this adventure together. Once I received the answer yes, I packed a bag. We agreed to leave at 6:30 am. Well. We left about 9 am. Between traffic, breakfast, gas, and bathroom breaks, we arrived at Shenandoah around 4:45 pm. Right! I’m not sure where the time went either. Lol
We arrived at the gate, and the park ranger requested $30. At first, I thought $30 was a lot to enter a park, but then she explained that the fee is suitable for seven days. I still was not sold on the price because I did not plan to stay longer than one night. Well. Who was I kidding? You need serval days for this park because it is enormous! Shenandoah National Park’s scenic roadway is called Skyline Drive. This road follows the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains for 105 miles. At the southern end, it joins the Blue Ridge Parkway, which stretches 469 miles to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Well, the Instagram hashtags did not tell me that. lol
The hiking trails for the desired location may not take long to hike, but the beauty of this park continues for miles. After reviewing the map, I wanted to see Dark Hollow Waterfall. There are a few waterfalls throughout the park, but I choose Dark Hollow because it had multiple layers of water pouring down each level of the rock. To reach Dark Hollow, you have to drive 19 miles through the park, passing Little Stony Man mountain. I thought this would be great. We would hike Little Stony Man, then hike down to view Dark Hollow Fall.
As we were approaching the opening of Mary Rock Tunnel, my eyes became wide. The stoned tunnel was beautiful. I pulled over, ready to hoop out the car and take a picture until I was interrupted by a car horn—WT heck. Approaching the tunnel from the north gate entrance, there was no place to pull out the road safely. I was forced to navigate through the tunnel without one picture. On the other side of the tunnel, there is space to pull over to the left to enjoy the scenic view. The tension crept in a little because I started to feel we should have arrived in Virginia the evening before so that we could have woke up early and just hiked.
We were racing against the sky becoming dark, and we had another unexpected moment. It was cold as hell!!! Mind you. When I left Charlotte, NC, the weather was 70 plus degrees, and my hair was sitting pretty. Not in Shenandoah. The temperature dropped to a cold 50 degrees, and the wind was having a party! The wind slapped my hair around like paper flying through the air, and it hit my eyes, causing tears to run down my face for no reason.
My friend decided to change pants and ignore my urgent request for a picture in front of the tunnel. Boy, did that start an argument. I wanted photos taken before my hair looked like I was in a street fight, and my friend just wanted to get warm and enjoy the view. I believe we were both hungry and tired because we rarely argue in nature. After the long drive, we needed to get out of the car to stretch our legs. But, after getting hit with the wind chill, we wanted to get back in the car and blast the heat. Within seconds of being outside, the wind chill hit your bones. Our faces and hands became very cold, and we both took on a nice little attitude.
About 30-40 mins later, we recovered from the arguments and decided to stay another day or two to tour Dark Hollow Falls and Little Stony Man Mountain. The next day we woke up early, and the weather was cold and windy. We had to purchase warmer clothes, water, and some snacks to ensure we did not become too hungry and get into another fight. Once we arrived at the entry gate, we had to show the receipt then we were on our way. We approached the tunnel, looked at each other, and laughed since we argued the day before near the tunnel. The tunnel had a new look. It had ice hanging from the top and the right side. We could not believe the temperature dropped enough to freeze water that ran down the side of the tunnel. We drove slowly down Skyline Drive with the radio turned off, taking in the beauty of our surroundings.
Little Stony Man
Excited to see the parking area for Little Stony Man, we pulled over to a small parking area that could hold about 6 to 8 cars, including mine. We grabbed our backpacks, hiking sticks, and our face mask. It was so cold our face mask became our face warmer.
The first scenic view is .9 miles, and the terrain is a little rocky. It has a few small natural stones you would have to step over. There is a little steepness headed to the highest point, but overall it is a beautiful easy hike. From time to time, make sure to look up. The mountain walls are beautiful. Some are covered with green moss, and others have the glow of the sun.
We headed to the top to enjoy Little Stony Man Views & Stony Man Summit. The view was stunning! To the right, you could see the road Skyline Drive. The rest of the view was spectacular, filled with trees and mountains. The sky was blue with large gray and white clouds. The wind gust was between 14-22 mph. The wind was so strong it made it hard to get closer to the edge. We played it safe and stayed back a few feet. It was freezing cold at the top. However, my friend and I sat in different areas of the mountain and spent time with God. The experience was rewarding to our souls.
I will catch you up on my experience hiking Dark Hollow Fall in part 2 of my blog.
I encourage you to spend some extra time planning a trip to Shenandoah National Park.
-DO NOT just look up Little Stony Man Mountain.
-Go with a friend that can handle a good argument but can recover quickly and live on love.
Embrace the journey!!
Nature’s Girl, aka Charlene A Bell