Updated on November 7, 2023 by Julie McCool
Explore three Stony Man trail hikes to spectacular views and beautiful woodlands on the second-highest mountain in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. At 4011 feet, Stony Man is the second-highest mountain in Shenandoah National Park and it's the northernmost 4000-footer in the Blue Ridge Mountains. 4,051-foot Hawksbill is the highest peak in Shenandoah.
Despite its height, the Stony Man Summit is very easy to reach on a trail with only 400 feet of elevation gain. It's also easy to create a longer hike by adding Little Stony Man and connecting trails to your trip.
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The combination of an easy trail and excellent viewpoint make the Stony Man Trail one of the most popular hikes in Shenandoah's Central District. Since it is westward facing, Stony Man is also one of the best sunset hikes in Shenandoah. Alternatively, skip the hike and catch a nice sunset from the Stony Man Overlook
Happily, there are 3 Stony Man Trail hikes to enjoy:
- An easy 1.6 mile round trip to Stony Man's rocky summit
- A steep .9 mile out-and-back to a rocky outcropping called Little Stony Man
- A 3.6-mile moderate loop hike that combines the Stony Man Summit, Little Stony Man, and two other scenic trails
See the descriptions and photos below to plan your visit to Stony Man Mountain. Whichever hike you choose, you will enjoy fantastic views and beautiful trails. All three hikes are included on this National Park map.
Stony Man Mountain Summit Hike From Skyland
The Stony Man Mountain trail is popular because it is an easy hike that leads to beautiful views from the summit of Shenandoah's second-highest mountain. The 1.6-mile (round trip) trail gains just 400 feet of elevation from the parking area to the summit.
Park at the Stony Man Parking area, just inside the north entrance to Skyland at mile 41.7. A sign at the trailhead includes the map shown above.
Follow the white-blazed Appalachian Trail (AT) north for .4 miles up a moderate incline until it intersects with the blue-blazed Stony Man Trail. Go straight on the Stony Man Trail which circles around the summit.
There are several rocky areas where you can relax and enjoy the views from Stony Man Mountain Summit. To the west, you'll see the town of Luray, Massanutten and the Allegheny Mountains. The southern view includes Skyland Resort and the rippling peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
This is a wonderful family hike and a good option for young kids and beginning hikers. Please note that pets are not allowed on the Stony Man Summit trail.
If the main parking area for Stony Man is full you can park near the Skyland Restaurant and walk the short distance back to the trailhead.
Little Stony Man Overlook Hike on the AT
This short, steep hike leads to one of the prettiest views in Shenandoah National Park's Central District. Little Stony Man is a rocky outcropping that hugs the side of Stony Man Mountain, and the views from the rocks are gorgeous.
Hikers can spy segments of Skyline Drive as it curves along the ridge to the north. To the west are sweeping views of the Shenandoah Valley and Massanutten Mountain range. You can also see the rocky summit of Stony Man above and south of you.
The Little Stony Man hike is .9-miles round-trip on a steep, rocky section of the Appalachian Trail (AT). Begin your hike at the small parking lot at mile 39.2. The Little Stony Man Trailhead is just south of the large Stony Man Overlook parking area.
Follow the trail to the AT and turn right, then continue uphill until you reach the rocks. On the way up you'll see a Viewpoint sign but keep climbing a bit further for the best views.
Once you reach the rocks, find a spot to enjoy the views before your return trip. Be sure to stop and check out the smaller viewpoint on your way down. Just past the open area is a section of rock wall that is open to climbers.
Little Stony Man is an excellent hike for kids, but use caution as the cliff edge is very exposed. There are only a few parking spaces in the lot and they are often taken on busy weekends, so try to arrive early or visit on a weekday.
Stony Man Trail Loop Hike in Shenandoah National Park
It's easy to combine Stony Man Summit, Little Stony Man, and a nice stretch of the Passamaquoddy Trail on a 3.8-mile loop hike. If you hike in a counter-clockwise direction as described below, the trail is more downhill than up, and even the climbs are not too difficult.
If you want more uphill exercise, hike the loop clockwise. In this direction, you begin with a downhill hike then follow the ridge uphill to the gorgeous Little Stony Man overlooks. Then you follow the AT back to the parking area, taking the spur trail to Stony Man Summit on the way.
I have hiked the Stony Man loop in both directions and actually prefer going clockwise for more uphill work. In either case, this is a moderate loop hike. However, the terrain is often rocky and there are some steep sections. The Passamaquoddy Trail follows the cliffside so keep a close eye on younger kids.
Stony Man Trail Summit – Optional
Begin the Stony Man Loop Hike at the parking area just inside the northern end of Skyland. Follow the directions for the Stony Man Summit hike described above (north on the AT, straight onto the Stony Man Trail, and around the summit). When you get back to the AT intersection, turn left on the Appalachian Trail.
If you prefer a shorter hike, or you have dogs along, skip this optional side loop. Instead, turn right at the trail junction to stay on the AT.
AT to Little Stony Man
The trail descends gradually through the woods as you make your way to the Little Stony Man cliffs. The view opens dramatically when you emerge from the woods and onto the exposed rocks of Little Stony Man.
This is a great spot for a lunch break and time to soak in the view. The westward view is similar to what you encountered on the Stony Man summit, but the lower elevation affords wonderful views of Skyline Drive and mountains to the north.
When you are ready, continue downhill on the AT for a short distance, turning left toward another viewpoint on the blue-blazed Passamaquoddy Trail. For the next mile, the trail skirts the side of Stony Man Mountain.
Just past the viewpoint is a dramatic rock face that is popular with climbers. Further on, the trail descends gradually, crossing a rock slide at one point.
Just before your next trail junction, watch for the Furnace Springs Pump House, affectionately called the Hobbit House because of its cool wooden door surrounded by rocks. (Did you know you can visit a mini HobbitTown in Northern Virginia?)
Furnace Spring Trail
The Passamaquoddy Trail emerges at a large open intersection with a fire road. Turn left and reenter the woods on the yellow-blazed Furnace Spring Horse Trail. Now you'll tackle the steepest part of the loop, but only for a short distance. In .5 miles you will be back at the parking area and the end of the Stony Man loop hike.
Dogs are allowed on the loop hike except for the optional Stony Man Summit. If you are hiking with pets you'll need to skip the side trip to the summit on the Stony Man Trail.
Stony Man Trail Tips and Directions
We first hiked to Little Stony Man when our kids were young. Since then we have returned to hike Stony Man Summit, Little Stony Man, and the Stony Man Loop hike. Here are tips and essential info to get the most from your visit.
Tips for Hiking the Stony Man Trails
All three of the Stony Man trail hikes listed here are easy to moderate. The terrain is rocky in many places and there are a few steep sections. Overlooks are very exposed with steep drop-offs, so keep a close eye on children. Use caution, or skip these hikes, when the trail is icy or wet.
These hikes are beautiful all year long, but there are times when the views really shine. In early to mid-June, Mountain Laurel blooms all over Shenandoah National Park. Fortunately, there are some beautiful bushes along these trails. If you love Mountain Laurel, don't miss the Limberlost Trail, one of the best wildflower hikes in Northern Virginia.
By October, fall foliage in Shenandoah National Park colors the mountainsides. In winter, the lack of foliage affords more open views from the Passamaquoddy Trail ridge.
As noted above, dogs are not allowed on the Stony Man Summit trail, but leashed dogs are allowed on the AT, Passamaquoddy, and Furnace Spring Trails. Check here for a list of Shenandoah Park trails that prohibit pets.
Shenandoah National Park Directions and Fees
The Stony Man Mountain hikes are in the Central District, closest to the Thornton Gap Entrance Station. Little Stony Man parking is at mile marker 39.1 and the Stony Man parking area is at mile marker 41.7, just inside the north entrance of Skyland.
Plan your visit with our guide, Shenandoah National Park Day Trip Planner for the Central District, which includes a scenic route from Northern Virginia and Washington DC. Find more Stony Man information on the park website.
Shenandoah National Park charges a $30 entrance fee per car for a 7 consecutive day pass. If you plan to make repeat visits, buy an annual National Park pass. You’ll recoup the $80 price in just a few visits and can use it at other DC area parks like Great Falls and Prince William National Forest.
Things to Do Near the Stony Man Hikes
After your hike, visit Skyland Resort for a meal and souvenir shopping. You can pick up Grab & Go items to enjoy on the terrace or eat in the dining room with pretty mountain views. Be sure to try the Blackberry Ice Cream Pie, a favorite treat in the park.
There is also a tavern where you can relax with a drink. The store at Skyland offers souvenirs, maps, and regional crafts.
Extend your trip and spend the night in Skyland Lodge or nearby Big Meadows Lodge. Rooms are spread across multiple buildings and range from modern suites with spectacular valley views to cozy cabins in the woods.
Big Meadows Lodge is near the Byrd Visitor Center and lots of great hiking trails. You can even hike lodge to lodge in Shenandoah, following the AT from Big Meadows to Skyland.
Camping in Shenandoah is another fun option for staying overnight in the park. There are more than 200 campsites at Big Meadows Campground, about 10 miles south of Stony Man (mile 51.2).
Massanutten Resort is a great lodging option outside the park, especially if you have children in your group. The resort's indoor/outdoor waterpark and many family-friendly activities are a fun complement to your park visit. Massanutten is just 13 miles west of the Swift Run Gap Entrance.
Whichever Stony Man Trail hike you choose, you are sure to encounter spectacular views and beautiful woodlands. Shenandoah National Park is less than two hours from Washington DC and the Northern Virginia region and is one of the most beautiful Virginia Day Trips in the Eastern US.
Find more great hikes in our complete list: Northern Virginia Hikes and Favorite Bike Trails Near DC or browse our Hike and Bike collection.