Virginia’s Best Hikes Showcase Both Mountains & Beach Views


The road sign marking the entrance to Virginia lets visitors know from the get-go what the state is all about – Virginia is for Lovers. This slogan rings true in more ways than one. Lovers of history will enjoy the area for its stories about early America in cities like Richmond and Williamsburg. Lovers of the ocean will find their place along the stunning Atlantic coastline, and lovers of fine dining will feast on some of the freshest seafood in the country.

It should come as no surprise that Virginia is also a perfect destination for lovers of hiking. The state boasts an array of scenery guaranteed to tickle the fancies of trekkers of all kinds. These trails are among the best in Virginia, each offering adventurers a unique view of the beautiful state.

9 Stony Man – Shenandoah National Park

  • Distance: 1.5-mile loop, 318 feet elevation gain
  • Difficulty: easy

One thing that makes trekking through Virginia special, specifically Shenandoah National Park, is that many hikes are part of the Appalachian Trail. Virginia is a wonderful place to start if someone is interested in the long haul and wants to get a taste of the scenery.

The Stony Man Loop is an easy hike that offers sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The comfortable ascent through the woods gives way to a viewpoint from the summit of Stony Man. Because this trail is accessible to many ages and skill levels, it tends to get pretty crowded, so hikers should hit the ground running when everyone else is still asleep if they’d like a more isolated experience.

8 Dunes & Seaside Trail – Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

  • Distance: 2-mile loop, 26 feet elevation gain
  • Difficulty: easy

The Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge offers an altogether different view of Virginia than Shenandoah. The sprawling reserve near Virginia Beach gives hikers a taste of the Atlantic with less of the touristy business of the more populated beaches.

Guests will enjoy views of wild grasses poking through the soft rolling dunes, the refreshing Atlantic Ocean breeze filling every last breath. Early risers have the opportunity to watch the sunrise above the ocean’s horizon, painting the sky in a swirl of soul-soothing colors.


7 Cape Henry Trail – First Landing State Park

  • Distance: 10.1 miles out and back, 82 feet elevation gain
  • Difficulty: easy

The Cape Henry Trail is ideal for those who want an extended stay in nature without too much heavy breathing. The ten-mile trail is located in First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach and features a pleasant mix of forest and sand.

Trees decorated in loads of Spanish hanging moss create an enchanting storybook feel, which is only amplified when the trail gives way to sweeping views of the Atlantic on a gorgeous stretch of beach. A good bug spray is recommended as portions of the path pass through swampland.

Related: These Beachfront State Parks Are The Perfect Day Trip From Virginia Beach


6 Blue Ridge Tunnel – Afton

  • Distance: 4.5 miles out and back, 1,558 elevation gain
  • Difficulty: easy to moderate

Adventurers will be able to stay they’ve walked through a mountain after hitting the pavement inside the Blue Ridge Tunnel. There’s not so much in terms of nature views, but that doesn’t make the trek any less rewarding.

The tunnel carved into the Blue Ridge Mountains is unlit, so hikers should be sure to bring a headlamp or good flashlight for the best experience. While most of the trail is relatively level, steeper sections will definitely get the leg muscles burning in the best way possible.


5 McAfee Knob via Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah National Park

  • Distance: 7.8 miles out and back, 1,811 feet elevation gain
  • Difficulty: moderate

Summiting a mountain is always an exhilaratingly good time, and the view from McAfee Knob is among the most photographed spots in Virginia. The ascent to the peak is slow and steady, though challenging and muddy, so hikers should prepare with a good stretch and solid footwear. On clear days the view from the top of McAfee Knob is unbelievably beautiful, and the strong winds are enlivening. The feel on a cloudy day is different though no less superb, as mist shrouds the trail to create a magical ambiance.


4 Crabtree Falls Trail – George Washington & Jefferson National Forests

  • Distance: 2.8 miles out and back, 1,072 feet elevation gain
  • Difficulty: moderate

Panoramic views from a summit are indeed one of the best blessings of hiking, but the sight of a waterfall cascading over moss-covered rocks is just as sweet. The sound of the water rushing is nature’s way of cheering hikers on as they conquer a set of steep, challenging stairs.

There are several stunning views of the falls along the way. After a rain, the stairs can become quite slippery, so adventurers should come prepared with proper footwear and walking sticks if needed.


3 Little Devil’s Stairs Trail – Shenandoah National Park

  • Distance: 5.6-mile loop, 1,492 feet elevation gain
  • Difficulty: moderate

It’s sometimes best to get the hard part over with, and that’s precisely what hikers will have to do on the Little Devil’s Stairs Trail. The beginning of the trek is strenuous. Little stairs dot the rugged terrain (hence the name) to help adventurers conquer a series of boulders running alongside a waterfall and over several streams.

Taking the trail counterclockwise is the best option to avoid hiking down the waterfall, which can be dangerous. Once the hard part is over, parkgoers will have a pleasant stroll saturated with forest views to bring their heart rates down.

Related: Devil’s Path: What To Know Before Hiking The Most Difficult Hike In The Catskills




2 Devil’s Bathtub Trail – Fort Blackmore

  • Distance: 3.9 miles out and back, 590 feet elevation gain
  • Difficulty: hard

Don’t be fooled by the lack of elevation gain. This trail isn’t an easy one, but it’s certainly rewarding. Hikers will have to cross over creeks several times and make their way over and under fallen trees. The trail gets its name from a natural pool filled with striking blue-green water, which hikers will reach around the course’s halfway point.

A gentle waterfall cascades into the bathtub, which visitors are welcomed to take a dip in. Be forewarned that the water can get pretty cold, though! It is not recommended to hike this trail when the water in the creek is above knee-level, as navigating through the water without being able to see what’s underneath can be difficult.


1 Triple Crown Loop – Jefferson National Forest

  • Distance: 38.8-mile loop, 8,248 feet elevation gain
  • Difficulty: hard, multi-day

The multi-day hike known as the Triple Crown Loop is a popular one for backpackers. It combines three of Virginia’s most popular hikes – McAfee Knob, Dragon’s Tooth, and Tinker Cliffs. It typically takes experienced backpackers two to three days to complete the entire circuit.

Triple Crown is a great way to get acclimated to longer excursions if one’s goal is to conquer the Appalachian Trail someday. It’s a constant gain and loss of elevation with several stunning vistas, dense forest, open fields, rock scrambles, and so much more.

Next: Is The Appalachian Trail Your Goal? Practice On These Shorter Multi-Day Hikes First


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