Shenandoah National Park Backpacking

Trip Length 4 Days
Group Size 4–10
Activity level
Starting from
$1,199 for REI Members
$1,369 for non-members
Departures May 2022-Oct 2022

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. Scale the aptly named Little Devil Stairs. Look out at the sweeping expanse of the Blue Ridge Mountains and cool off in the spray of stunning waterfalls.

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.

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Trip Highlights

  • A scenic entry to the park along beautiful Skyline Drive
  • Tackling the formidable Little Devil Stairs
  • Feeling the spray of a waterfall along Keyser Run
  • Expansive views from the top of Knob Mountain
  • Hiking along (and sometimes in) the refreshing waters of Jeremy’s Run

Activities

This trip is rated Moderate Plus [3–4]. We plan to hike 6–9 miles each day for 6–10 hours on steep, rocky, sometimes exposed terrain, gaining and/or losing up to just over 2,400 feet in elevation some days. We will be carrying packs weighing 30–35 lbs throughout our trip, with the exception of one day, where we will be carrying lighter packs on a day hike up Little Devil Stairs.

  • 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.

Accommodations

Backcountry camping, 3 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Hike the Appalachian Trail & camp along the Piney River

Guides and backpackers meet at 10am at the REI store in Fairfax, Virginia. After introductions, a trip orientation and distribution of group gear we make the two-hour drive to Shenandoah National Park. Entering along spectacular Skyline Drive, we take in the scenery before arriving at the famed Appalachian Trail at Elkwallow Wayside. We hike through old growth forests, past tumbling waterfalls and finish for the day along the Piney River, our camp for the next two nights. We share a meal, listen for owl hoots and rest up for tomorrow’s hike. Lunch and dinner included.

Backpacking: Up to 6.2 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +574’ / -1,587’; Van transfer: 2 hours

Day 2

Explore waterfall-filled gorges & ascend Little Devil Stairs

We leave our heavy packs at camp and set out to tackle the formidable Little Devil Stairs. The challenging route is steep in many sections and requires some scrambling and hand-over-hand navigation. Don’t worry, it’s worth it! Our path up the stairs and along Keyser Run takes us through waterfall-filled gorges and past historic Bolen Cemetery, which predates Shenandoah National Park's creation in 1935. From the top of the gorge we take in the spectacular views across the Shenandoah Valley and beyond. We return to camp after a full day of hiking, and should all sleep well tonight! All meals included.

Day hiking: 8.3 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,918’ / -1,907’

Day 3

Resupply provisions, watch for bears, and backpack along Jeremy's Run

After packing up our camp and resupplying our provisions we set out towards tonight’s campsite along Jeremy’s Run. Our route takes us out along Piney Ridge and up to the Appalachian Trail. Along the way we keep an eye out for the black bears who love visiting the area’s plentiful berry patches.

After lunch at Elkwallow Wayside we continue hiking along Jeremy’s Run. The stream runs high during summer’s early months and will require a number of stream crossings en route to camp. Jeremy’s Run is prime habitat for brook trout, so those who've acquired permits and gear ahead of time can spend some time fly fishing. All meals included.

Backpacking: 8.9 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,721’ / -1,901’

Day 4

Climb Knob Mountain for stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley

The final day starts with a hearty breakfast before we trek back to Elkwallow Wayside, then up to the summit of nearby Knob Mountain. Relish the stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley and Massanutten Mountain from the top of the 2,865’ peak. By the time we hike back down to the Elkwallow Wayside trailhead we’ll have completed our 30+ miles backpacking trek. From here we’ll board our shuttle for the drive back to the REI store in Fairfax, Virginia.

We anticipate arriving there at approximately 6:30pm tonight. Please note that this time may vary depending on group pace, trail conditions, weather, traffic, and other elements beyond our control. Breakfast and lunch included.

Backpacking: 8 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,368' / -1,256’; Van transfer: 1.5 hours

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.

What to pack

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (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.