Shenandoah National Park Backpacking

Trip Length4 Days
Group Size4–8
Activity level
Starting from
$1,399 for REI Members
$1,539 for non-members
DeparturesMay 2024-Oct 2024

Explore the scenic backcountry, lush green hollows and jaw-dropping summits of Shenandoah National Park on a four-day backpacking trip.

Just 75 miles from the nation’s capital, Shenandoah National Park is an ideal escape from daily life and chance to connect with the natural world. Our four-day backpacking trip explores our favorite trails within the park’s 200,000 acres. We’ll wander beside the crystal clear streams, backpack and camp along the Appalachian Trail, and scale Old Rag and Robertson Mountain.

Our expert guides will tell tales of park legend and lore, share tips and tricks gleaned from their vast hiking experience, and help us identify diverse flora and fauna. Herpetology heads will be on the lookout for the elusive broad-headed skink while the rest of us try to spot some of the park's bashful black bears. At the end of each day we’ll share a hearty meal before falling asleep under a sky full of stars. If this sounds like the adventure for you, we hope you'll join us.

Ol Rag summit.

Trip Highlights

  • Backpack and camp along the Appalachian Trail
  • Summit Old Rag, a true bucket list experience
  • Enjoy views from Robertson Mountain
  • See historic Corbin Cabin
  • Camp in the backcountry of Shenandoah National Park


This trip is rated Moderate Plus [3–4]. We plan to hike 3-11 miles each day for 6-10 hours on steep, rocky, sometimes exposed terrain, gaining and/or losing up to 3,300 feet in elevation. We will have stream crossings that can be shallow to calf deep depending on recent rainfall. This terrain may be challenging for hikers with stability issues. We will be carrying packs weighing 30-40 pounds throughout our trip, except for one day, where we will be carrying lighter packs when we summit Old Rag. Our guides will provide two options to summit Old Rag. One route is on an established, well-maintained trail and is suitable for most. The other route is more elevation gain and involves a difficult rock scramble; this more challenging route is not suitable for many hikers. Our guides will help you decide which route is the best choice for your experience and hiking level.

  • Backpacking

What's Included

Any park or other admission fees or permits, guides; round trip transportation from Fairfax, VA to all destinations visited during the trip; all meals and snacks from lunch on Day 1 through lunch on Day 4; see trip gear list for details on gear provided during this adventure.


Backcountry camping, 3 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Itinerary map for Shenandoah National Park Backpacking
Day 1

Backpack the Appalachian Trail and Enjoy the View from Mary’s Rock

Guides and backpackers meet at the REI store in Fairfax, Virginia. After introductions, a trip orientation and distribution of group gear we head for Shenandoah National Park. Our backpacking adventure starts on the Appalachian Trail. We warm up our legs on a gradual climb to Mary’s Rock Summit at 3,514’ in elevation! After soaking in the views and fueling up on lunch we head towards camp. This evening we set up camp near one of Shenandoah National Park’s iconic shelters and with any luck we’ll meet through hikers traveling the length of the Appalachian Trail. Tonight, we share a hearty meal prepared by our guides, listen for owls, and rest up for tomorrow’s adventure. Lunch and dinner included.

Backpacking: 3.0 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,373’/-419’; Van transfer: 2 hours

Day 2

The Appalachian Trail, Corbin Cabin, and Settling into the Backcountry

This morning we wake up on the ridgeline of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You won’t want to miss sunrise up here! Our guides will have hot drinks waiting and a delicious breakfast to fuel us before we backpack to our next camp. We start with a few miles on the Appalachian Trail before crossing Skyline Drive and heading downhill towards historic Corbin Cabin. We learn about the human history in Shenandoah National Park and come to appreciate the sacrifices that were made to preserve this land for generations to come. This afternoon we set up camp along Brokenback Run, a picturesque setting we can call home for the next two nights. Our guides will teach us how to filter water and craft another delicious backcountry meal. All meals included.

Backpacking: 7.6 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,643’ / -2,468’

Day 3

Summiting Old Rag

This morning we prepare to summit Old Rag as we leave our heavy gear behind and set off on a day hike we won’t soon forget. There are two options to summit Old Rag. The first is a well-established and maintained trail that’s suitable for most. The second is significantly more difficult with more elevation gain, more distance, and a challenging rock scramble. Our guides will help us decide on the hike that’s the best fit for each individual’s goals and abilities. Both routes will take us to the summit of Old Rag at 3,274’ in elevation where we’ll rest and enjoy panoramic views of Shenandoah National Park and the idyllic farmsteads below. This evening we settle back into camp and have the chance to soak our tired feet in the cool mountain stream running just a stone’s throw away. All meals included.

Day hiking: 9.2 miles on established trails, Elevation gain/loss: +2,728’/-2,713’ or 10.4 miles with a challenging rock scramble, Elevation gain/loss: 3,266’/3,238’

Note: Due to park regulations, Old Rag permits cannot be guaranteed. If we cannot secure permits, we will adjust the itinerary to include a day on White Oak Canyon and, when possible, include Old Rag on the final day of this itinerary.

Day 4

Climb Robertson Mountain for stunning views of the Appalachian Mountains

We sip coffee this morning and take in the soothing sounds of Brokenback Run while our guides prepare one last backcountry meal. After breaking camp and donning our packs we set off to chase more blue ridge vistas. We take a short detour to summit Robertson Mountain on the way down to the edge of the park where we’ll find our van. Don’t worry, if your muscles are tired and your heart is content one of our guides can take you on a shorter route down. Once we are all safely back at the van we head into the charming town of Sperryville for a celebratory lunch before returning to the REI in Fairfax, Virginia. Breakfast and Lunch included.

Backpacking: 4.4 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +730/-2,424’; Van transfer 1 hr 30 min

Itinerary map for Shenandoah National Park Backpacking

Gear List

This gear list has been created to help you choose the best equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary, as this will help you and the field staff. The weather and other conditions at the time of your arrival will dictate what clothing and equipment you will be required to use each day and what (if anything) can be left behind. It may be a necessary precaution that you bring certain items on the list, even if it is uncertain whether or not they will be needed.

Already booked this trip? Sign into your online traveler profile for a more detailed list of what you'll need.

REI members can shop for gently used gear online or at most REI stores. Members can also trade in pre-loved used gear online or at any REI store in exchange for REI gift card credit. Check out Re/Supply at REI to learn more.

Provided by REI

  • All Group Cooking Gear
  • Bear Canister
  • Group First Aid Kit
  • Stoves and Fuel
  • Tent(s)
  • Trekking Poles
  • Water Filter

What to pack

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 1 (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales ( 1 (800) 426-4840 ) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.

Trip specifics may change over time. Reviews reflect the version of the trip that was active at the time the reviewer took it. Please review the itinerary as described above and call our team for any additional details.