Hiking Path in ForestFor those like me who are fortunate to live in the beautiful state of Virginia, there are many excellent hiking trails to experience. The Appalachian Mountains on the western side of the state provides some of the best hiking trails in the country. Some are challenging which requires a degree of survival skills and techniques, but all of them offer incredible views of the countryside that makes them worth the challenge.

After spending many years hiking along dozens of trails in the state, here are the five best in my opinion. They are based on the surrounding scenery and the challenges that the trails provide.

Cole Mountain

This area is sometimes called “Cold Mountain” and reaching the top is unlike most other hiking experiences I’ve had along Virginia trails. Most of the time, I’m hiking through the trees to get to the top as typical of most trails in the Shenandoah area. Cole Mountain, however, is nothing but open meadows all along the six-mile trail. The wide-open spaces are something to behold, and you might swear that it all looks like the opening scene from “The Sound of Music.”

Humpback Rocks

This short hiking trail is in Central Virginia, and it offers an incredible view that is perfect for watching the sunrise or sunset. When I first heard that the trail itself was under a mile, I thought nothing of it until I discovered the steep incline where I was ascending 1000 feet. You’ll need to be in good shape for this one, but it is well worth it thanks to the view.

I carried my Condor assault pack and it did the job pretty well.

Mary’s Rock

As part of the Shenandoah National Park, this series of trails are located to the south of the Thornton Gap entrance. What I like here is that you can take a relatively short hike of just under three miles or go for the longer nine-mile loop that provides an incredible view of the surrounding countryside. Be sure to hike in the late afternoon so you can reach the summit and watch the stunning sunset. I really love this one.

Spy Rock

There are not too many locations in Virginia where you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the countryside, but Spy Rock is one of the best. The good news is that the trail to the top is just under a mile and a half. However, you’ll have a steep incline to contend with as it rises about 1200 feet. Plus, you’ll have to negotiate around some rocks as well which makes this a challenge. But the view from the top is well worth the effort.

Stony Man Summit

Located in the Shenandoah National Park, the Stony Man hike is very short at just under a mile, but you will not forget the incredible view of the western sky and scenery from the summit. You can see the Skyland Resort to the south and Skyline Drive as it runs to the north. However, this is also a great place to watch the sunset as well. It’s short but well worth it.

With so many hiking trails in Virginia to choose, I have found these five to be the best. Mostly regarding the incredible views that can be enjoyed.


My name is John Winger, I was born and raised in Virginia. I spent a good part of my early adult life in the US military, namely the Army and served in Iraq. I saw my fair share of combat missions and thanks to that experience I have a better understanding and appreciate for what my country means to me and the world.