View Full Version : Shenandoah National Park: Fall Colors and Hikes

Atul Mohidekar
10-Oct-2007, 10:11
Iím going to visit Shenandoah National Park in the third week of October. I would be traveling with my two kids who have hiked up to 3 miles without any problem. This should be good time for fall color. I would like to get some tips on good places to see and shoot fall color or in general good landscapes (e.g. waterfalls), places to avoid due to traffic or crowds, good hikes up to 3 miles, etc. Anyone gone there recently? How is the fall color shaping up this year in Shenandoah NP? Any specific suggestions about where to shoot would be really appreciated.


// Atul

10-Oct-2007, 10:35
Given our drought the color may be mostly brown this year

eric black
10-Oct-2007, 11:11
I would concur with the brown- youll get some spotty color at best. One hike to consider that gives alot of photo ops and is about your limit is the Sourth River Falls hike which is the first hike to be found at the southern end of the northern third of the park. You can easily go from there to take in Big Meadows and get a look at the dark hollows falls as well. South River Falls has given me quite a few keeper images.

Brian Ellis
10-Oct-2007, 11:57
I spent five days in Shenandoah about five years ago. I wasn't there during fall so I wasn't expecting fall colors. The waterfalls were very nice and I enjoyed photographing them (I think I did about five, one each day) but I didn't find much else besides them. The Park was in the middle of a drought, which may have had something to do with that. The hikes down to the falls weren't overly difficult but they were fairly steep in places, which was a little tiring coming back up, and the round trip for most of them IIRC was longer than 3 miles. The lack of other things to photograph may have been ignorance on my part or my tastes - some people like the vistas along the Blue Ridge Parkway, for example but I don't photograph many vistas.

My favorite was taking the White Oak Canyon hike from the White Oak Canyon parking lot, this was one of the few hikes that had interesting things along the way and not just at the waterfalls themselves. About 2/10ths of a mile before the first of the upper falls there's a bridge on your left. If you cross this bridge, so that the stream is then on your right, and walk down just a few feet and out to the edge of the stream there's a very interesting area of flat, shapely rocks and cascades. The hike is probably longer than 3 miles round trip but pretty easy.

The above is from my old notes. Someone who knows the area better than I do can feel free to make any corrections.

eric black
10-Oct-2007, 13:57
White Oak Canyon is nice but suffers from three problems- the first two are that you have to pay per person at this time of year (they typically dont let a car full of people in with just the drivers Natl Parks pass like they do at other entries into the park) and the crowds are very heavy this time of year. Second is that the falls on the lower loop (not Cedar Run) get used by swimmers all summer and there is really no foliage to speak of near the falls (also longer tele shots with falls and foliage are limited by view until a majority of the leaves fall. If you go there, make sure you do the Cedar Run loop which has equally nice (but smaller fallls) and plan on arriving very early as they cut off entry when the parking lot and street parking is full. I think that most of the hikes around there that can be made by combining trails fall in at 4-5 miles round trip- I seem to recall the hike to the main falls (the swimmin hole) is 2 miles in over moderate terrain. Good luck wherever you end up shooting- I used to live on the border of Shenandoah and loved both hiking and shooting there

Atul Mohidekar
11-Oct-2007, 09:25
Thanks a lot for all the tips and suggestions.

// Atul

Alan Rabe
12-Oct-2007, 12:28
If you are still interested and are into such things there is a book, Waterfalls of Virginia and West Virginia by a Kevin Adams. It covers about every fall with details of location and directions. It costs around $15 bucks and is well worth the price. It's real good for planning photo safaries.

Atul Mohidekar
12-Oct-2007, 23:40
Thanks, Alan, for the book suggestion. I already own the book. Now it's just matter of finding time to read it :)

// Atul

Atul Mohidekar
18-Oct-2007, 11:45
Any fall color hot spot reports from recent trips in the last few days?

// Atul

eric black
18-Oct-2007, 13:16
I can tell you that the Maryland mountains havent turned yet so I doubt that there is much color in Shenandoah yet- Im guessing that we are about a week or two away from peak here-whatever that may be due to the drought

John Bowen
18-Oct-2007, 13:25
Check this website http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/weather.htm

Once there, click on the webcam and you can view Big Meadows. I always view a time lapse to judge the colors. Doesn't look like it has reached peak colors yet.

18-Oct-2007, 17:52
I was there last Spring, and enjoyed the valley and little towns more than the mountains. Also, just a little south of the park, is the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke, near the Blue Ridge Parkway. Probably the best small museum I've ever visited (and I've been in them all over the Western world).