Stretch Those Legs: Hikes for Kids of All Ages
Whether you’re new to hiking or you’re hoping to get your kids to join you, the Staunton, Augusta and Waynesboro area (SAW) has a number of hikes that are appropriate for all ages and skill levels. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorites from easy leg stretchers for little ones to more moderate trails with changes in elevation, stream crossings and the occasional rock scramble to keep the tweens and teens active. For other hiking ideas see our post: Train Those Legs: Six Staunton-Area Hiking Trails for Beginners.
Hikes for Little Ones
White Rock Falls – Blue Ridge Parkway
2 mile easy, out and back hike with scenic views along the stream ending with a 40-foot waterfall.
White Rock Falls Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway is a 5.3 mile moderate trail loop, but for little legs there is a shorter down-to-the-falls-and-back-up option along a fresh mountain stream with the same payoff—a magnificent waterfall. If you’re starting at the northern entrance of the Blue Ridge Parkway, drive 18.5 miles past the parking lot for the White Rock Falls Trail, and continue for another 1.5 miles until you hit the Slacks Overlook parking area. Cross the Blue Ridge Parkway and head left about 100 feet until you hit White Rocks Fall Trail (look for yellow blaze). Head down the narrow trail through mountain laurel and rhododendron, crossing two wood bridges over the stream where little ones can explore and splash along the stream. The trail offers several views through the trees that are perfect photo ops. After the first major switchback, look for the spur trail (two yellow blazes) to the upper falls, just past the large rock overhang. Walk past the large rock and maneuver your way through the fallen trees (fun for climbing) to the base of the 40-foot falls which has plenty of rocks and pools for wading, but not deep enough for a full swim. For those looking for something a little longer, head back to the main trail and head down for another half mile until you reach the stream which is wider, but not as deep. There is significant elevation change which makes the hike back to the car more challenging for little ones.
Black Rock Summit – Shenandoah National Park
1 mile easy hike offering sweeping views of the mountains and valley beyond.
From Skyline Drive, try Blackrock Summit (milepost 84.4), a geological wonder that’s an easy 1-mile loop. Although not the highest peak in the South District, this is probably the easiest to get to with rewarding views. From the summit of boulder-strewn Blackrock, enjoy views that extend for miles in multiple directions. Look closely and you can also see the layers and quartzite patterns on the rocks. Another short and sweet hike is the Frazier Discovery Trail (milepost 79.5). This area used to be the Frazier’s farm, and you can still see evidence of their past in the apple trees that still dot the mountain.
Hikes for Tweens and Teens
Chimney Rock – Shenandoah National Park
3.4 mile moderate, out and back hike to a scenic view with geological features.
From the Riprap Trail parking area at mile marker 90 of Skyline Drive, take the Appalachian Trail north and then turn left onto Riprap Trail. The tree covered trail has beautiful wildflowers and foliage along the way. The trail has a slight incline but is manageable for all skill levels and ages. After a series of switchbacks, you’ll see a viewpoint on your right. Venture on and you’ll see Calvary Rocks on the left. Spend a few minutes exploring and climbing the rocks, and then, where the trail makes a sharp left, Chimney Rock stands alone on the right across a gorge where you’ll have great photo ops and chance to refuel before heading back to the parking lot. See the map.
Riprap Trail – Shenandoah National Park
Approximately 7 mile strenuous, out and back hike through a small gorge with a rewarding swimming hole at your turn around point.
Access this deep, spring-fed beauty by hiking down from the Skyline Drive (Shenandoah National Park fees apply). Park at the Wild Cat Ridge parking lot at mile marker 92 and make your way down to the 50-foot-wide swimming hole. You’ll start on the Wild Cat Ridge trail (blue blaze) eventually connecting to the Riprap Trail. At the intersection, turn right onto Riprap. Many consider this hike one of the best in the southern end of Shenandoah National Park with several stream crossings. Make a day of it and pack a lunch to enjoy while swimming and relaxing. Once you’ve had you’re fill, retrace your steps back to the Wild Cat Ridge parking lot. Please note this route goes in the opposite direction of Riprap Trail. See the map.