Our weekend trip to enjoy the mountain fall foliage began early on a Saturday with a five-hour drive from Raleigh to Shenandoah National Park. Following a 20-minute wait to pass the Swift Run Gap entrance station along with so many others escaping to the mountains to take in the colors, we ate a picnic lunch and then headed to the Byrd Visitor center to pick up Junior Ranger booklets.
We reparked less than a mile up the road at the Dark Hollow Falls parking lot. Well, we parked along Skyline Drive somewhat with visual range of the parking lot! October weekends at Shenandoah are busy for sure and every parking lot and overlook exceeded capacity the entire weekend. I definitely recommend visiting on a weekday in the fall unless you enjoy crowds with your nature!
From the trailhead, the Dark Hollow Falls trail descends 440 feet over less than a mile to the falls. The falls’ supplier, the Hogcamp Branch, follows the trail the entire way. At the falls, on this particular fall day, the views were hard to appreciate with so many people around.
Of course, hiking down to the destination on an out-and-back trail means that the hike is uphill the entire way back. However, this trail is not terribly steep or difficult and it’s a great arrival day hike to quickly reach a beautiful destination after sitting in a car all morning. Our six-year-old requested several rest stops on the way back up to the trailhead, but otherwise the kids didn’t have any trouble with the trail and enjoyed variety provided by the steps, rocks, and tree roots.
Lodging within the park was already full by the time this trip was planned in July, so we rented an Airbnb cabin near Elkton for the weekend. Wanting to arrive at our cabin before sundown, we paused at a few overlooks on the way back to Swift Run Gap before leaving the park for the day. Despite the crowds, Dark Hollow Falls along with a few scenic overlooks makes for a great half day visit to Shenandoah National Park.