Shenandoah National Park Backpacking

Trip Length 4 Days
Group Size 4–10
Activity level
Starting from
$1,399 for REI Members
$1,539 for non-members
Departures Apr 2023-Oct 2023

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.

Each season offers backpackers a unique opportunity to experience the park's changing landscape.

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 6-11 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 have over 10 stream crossings per day 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 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

Itinerary map for Shenandoah National Park Backpacking
Day 1

Hike into the backcountry of Shenandoah National Park and camp along the Piney River

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. Upon entering the National Park we connect with the famed Skyline Drive and soak in the views until we reach our trailhead. Today’s hike quickly takes us away from the crowds and into old growth forests full of life. We hike along the Thornton River before joining with the Piney River and eventually our campsite for the next two nights. 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: 4.5 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +559’/-1,353’; 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

This morning we rise early to enjoy hot beverages and breakfast before breaking camp and hiking towards the western half of Shenandoah National Park. By lunch we should be reunited with our van for lunch, a resupply with fresh foods, and a very short transfer to the trailhead that leads us to Jeremy’s Run. This afternoon’s hike is a gorgeous gradual descent along Jeremy’s Run. Keep your eyes peeled for the native trout tucked into Jeremy’s Run waiting for their next meal. Tonight, we camp along Jeremy’s run, all meals included.

Backpacking: 10.6 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,572’/-2,259; Van transfer: 10 min

Day 4

Climb Knob Mountain for stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley

You’ll notice the sun takes a bit longer to reach us this morning on the western slopes. We sip coffee, listen to soothing Jeremy’s Run and break camp while our guides prepare another delicious breakfast. Today’s hike is a genuine highlight, we have a steady climb to the top of Knob Mountain at 2,865’ where we’re rewarded with stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley and the Massanutten Mountain Range. By the time we’ve returned to our trailhead we’ll have memories of a lifetime, new friends, and a newfound love of Shenandoah National Park. We anticipate returning to REI in Fairfax, Virginia by approximately 6:30pm. Please note that group pace, weather, traffic, and other elements beyond our control make that time variable. Breakfast and lunch included.

Backpacking: 8.0 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,432’/-942’; Van transfer 1 hr 45 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.

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.