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Which Waterfall Trail is Better? - Shenandoah National Park | Dark Hollow Falls or Rose River Falls?

Updated: Jan 27

Come hike with us as we compare the Rose River Loop Trail vs the Dark Hollow Falls trail in Shenandoah National Park. If you want to get to one of the best waterfalls in Shenandoah you need to choose. So, read the whole post and we guarantee you’ll know which hike is right for you and your brood. Let’s get started.

To watch the video version of this blog with great views of the waterfalls tap YouTube here or continue reading below

Let’s first talk about Dark Hollow Falls and why you should hike there.

What is the Most Popular Waterfall in Shenandoah National Park?

At a height of 70 feet Dark Hollow Falls is not the tallest in the park but it is the most popular. The main reason is that it’s the closest waterfall to Skyline Drive.

Dark Hollow Falls is a cascade waterfall with a total drop of around 70 feet . The falls are unique with it’s cascading and varied flow over a more gradual slope of rock ledges. The topography produces an almost random feel to the flow of water over the moss covered metamorphic rock. But maybe the best feature of the fall is the vibrant vegetation of the surrounding area which adds to the natural beauty of this splendid destination. Visitors often find the sound of the cascading water and the tranquility of the surroundings to be quite calming.

But, now that you know about Dark Hollow Falls you may be wondering

How Many Waterfalls are in Shenandoah National Park?

We’ve been on many hikes to destination waterfalls. Each one is different and all of them are worth the hike. Shenandoah has over a dozen named waterfalls inside the National Park boundaries. But, the best thing about Dark Hollow Falls is that if you take the trail we’ll recommend later you’ll actually get to see two waterfalls. But,

How Long is the Dark Hollow Falls Trail Hike?

By far the more popular hike is the Dark Hollow Falls trail. The parking lot for this hike is just South of mile marker 50 before the Meadow and Visitor’s center. The 1.4 mile round trip hike from the trailhead is an out and back trail. So the trail to the falls is the same trail you will use to return to the parking lot. Here you will find a moderate hike with a lot of steps and 440 feet of elevation gain. Plan on about 1.5 hours to hike this trail and see Dark Hollow Falls. The advantage of this hike is you can see the falls from the top and then step down to the base of the falls while taking in views of the cascading water from multiple locations along the trail. But, there is one disadvantage that we’ll discuss later.

But with all this water you might be asking,

Can you Swim in Dark Hollow Falls or in Shenandoah National Park?

Swimming is allowed in Shenandoah. In fact, all streams are open for swimming. But, there really aren’t any large bodies of water in Shenandoah. You can get in the water at Dark Hollow Falls but you won’t be swimming any laps here. But there are swimming holes at the tallest waterfall in Shenandoah which we will get to in a little bit.

Every good hike needs a dad joke. Did you know Dark Hollow Falls isn’t just a hidden Gem, It’s Main-stream.. Or maybe it’s just one of our favorite live-streams. Ok let’s get back to the hike and

What is it Like Hiking the Dark Hollow Falls Trail?

As you can see the hikes through Shenandoah are just breathtaking. The trail is a Moderate trail and very well maintained. Expect to hike over steps rocks and roots. You’ll enjoy hiking along the trail next to the stream and listening to the birds and water. We were lucky and the weather was a thick fog that we’ve never experienced on a hike before. The drive up from the valley was scary to say the least. We could barely see in front of our truck and driving 25 mph was almost too fast for the weather conditions. Earlier we showed the parking lot and it was even scary to cross the road without being able to see in either directions. In the forest though we were able to hike through this enclosed feel of the fog that just wrapped around us. Have you ever been on a hike where the weather made it unique and memorable?

On every hiking post we like to answer

What Gear Should You Take When Hiking to Dark Hollow Falls?

When day hiking we like to take a hiking backpack. In the backpack we make sure to pack water first. Depending on the weather you should carry enough water for your day. We had a cooler day and just packed water bottles. The second thing to go into our hiking day packs are first aid kits. We’ve been on the trail without one and had one of our brood stumble and skin their leg. We’ll never have that experience without a first aid kit again. It’s so important to us that we make sure we have two with us on our hikes just in case. There knew how many miles of trails were in Shenandoah National Park. But we were surprised with how many intersections there are and the trails can be confusing. Make sure to pack maps of the area and a compass to guide your way. Herer is a link to the national park service map of Dark Hollow Falls. In case you get lost in Shenandoah pack a flashlight, too.

I would not want to be on these trails in the dark without one. But for our brood snacks are a must. We generally snack often and we always have someone who gets hungry on the trail. Chewy granola bars, protein bars, and trail mix are good choices that are easy to eat while hiking. We recommend trekking poles for those with stability issues. But, trekking poles are great for kids because it keeps them focused on the trail, helps little ones balance, and honestly it keeps them entertained on the trail and makes them feel special. Hiking shoes are not necessary but recommended.

Here are amazon links to the gear we used in Shenandoah

Teton Sports Hydration Pack Video Review:

Amazon Link: 2021 model

Camelbak Mini M.U.L.E hydration backpack Video Review for younger hikers:

Merrell Moab II Men's Hiking Shoes:

The First Aid Kit we carry:

Tactical Flashlights:

Here are dad joke books for great gifts: Dad Jokes Around the Campfire: 600 Funniest Dad Jokes: To view any product mentioned by us in our videos, click this ink: As an Amazon Associate, we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

We mentioned earlier that there was an alternate way to get to Dark Hollow Falls that you should consider. So,

How Long is the Rose River Falls Hike?

We’ve been hiking the Rose River Falls trail in this hike. It is a loop trail about 4 miles long and takes 4.5 to 5 hours to hike. The elevation gain is about 900 feet and is one of our favorite hikes in Shenandoah. The Rose River Falls Loop descends off SkylineDrive into the woods for an escape like no other. As you hike, watch for insects on the trail and other wildlife. With the fog we didn’t see any animals but deer must be present in the forest. Rose River Falls is 67’ tall and the first destination on this hike. We enjoyed walking along the stream and taking in all of the water falling over a long distance. The trail provides a lot to discover and explore with the water flowing nearby. The rose river trail follows the Rose River for most of the hike and the second stop on this trail is dark hollow falls. The trail takes you to the base of the falls where you can stop and get great photos from below. If you are up for the challenge you can hike up Dark Hollow falls trail and get more views of the waterfall from the middle and the top. To return to the parking lot at mile 49.4 take the Rose River Fire Road for an easier path. As you might guess the road is wide and truck accessible. The fire road trail isn’t the end of the hike though and we’ll discuss a nice surprise later in the post.

We’ve talked about two waterfalls on this hike but,

What is the Highest Waterfall in Shenandoah National Park?

At mile marker 22.2 there is a 5 mile round trip hike with an almost 1,300 ft elevation gain at the Mathews Arm Campground that will take you to Overall Run Falls. At 93 ft tall this is the highest waterfall in Shenandoah and there are swimming holes here to soak in the cool mountain water. But, depending on rainfall this waterfall could actually be dry or just flowing lightly.

We share details about every hike like this so that you can get the best views of the national and state parks from a hiker’s perspective. So, If you like this walk and talk format subscribe today so when you search out your next hike you will find us in your search results.

Ok, back to Dark Hollow Falls and

Can you Take Dogs With You to Dark Hollow Falls?

The answer is yes and no. Dogs are not allowed on Dark Hollow Falls Trail. Did you know that of the 500 miles of trails in Shenandoah only about 20 miles of trails prohibit dogs? The other side to this answer is yes dogs are allowed on Rose River Falls trail loop. If your dogs can handle a five mile walk with the elevation gain and the terrain that comes with it, this hike is great for your pet. But, in Shenandoah National Park dogs must be in the control of their owner and on a 6 foot leash.

So, What is at the End of the Rose River Fire Road Trail?

As we were hiking we noticed a sign for a cemetery. This is the Cave family cemetery and a destination we didn’t expect. We didn’t know but there are over 100 cemeteries in Shenandoah National Park. Here at the Cave cemetery you can find markers for the family and even some civil war military graves.

But now that you know a little bit about both trails,

How do you Choose Between Dark Hollow Falls Trail and Rose River Falls Trail?

Dark Hollow Falls trail is the shorter, quicker hike at about 1.5 hours. So, if you are short on time the distance is in favor of Dark Hollow Falls trail. But this is a more popular trail. So, if you want to get away from crowds and still see Dark Hollow falls, the rose river falls trail will help you escape the hustle and bustle of tourists. If you have time and want to see more of Shenandoah, the Rose River Falls are a great addition to your adventure to Dark Hollow Falls. But if you have little ones and can’t spend 5 hours in the woods, hiking Dark Hollow Falls Trail will give you a great hike with less commitment. If you have dogs and want to take them with you, Rose River Falls is your only option to see Dark Hollow Falls. Both hikes have a lot of steps and elevation change as do most waterfall hikes. So, if you have problems walking stairs these trails may not be for you or you may just need the help of trekking poles to enjoy either hike.

What hike are you going to choose? Join the conversation in the comments and let us know!

To learn more about Shenandoah National Park these posts next!

Are you looking for a place to stay while in Shenandoah with tent sites, RV sites, cottages, or Yurts? Check out Spacious Skies in Luray Virginia

If you are active on pinterest use these photos to pin this blog post!

dark hollow falls shenandoah national park  Waterfall cascading through dark rock surrounded by forest.

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