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Rose River Falls-the Secret Shenandoah Trail Nobody Hikes

Have you ever wondered if there's a secret trail in Shenandoah National Park, a hidden gem that only a small percentage of hikers have stumbled upon?  Picture this: a trail that boasts two of the 12 best waterfalls in the park, deep views of the Shenandoah forest that rival postcards, and an atmosphere of untouched serenity. Intrigued? Stick around as we uncover the mysteries of the Rose River Falls Loop Trail, the best trail in Shenandoah National Park that nobody knows about. Get ready for an adventure off the beaten path, where nature's secrets await your Brood.  Let’s Get Started.  To watch the video version of this blog click here or continue reading below.

In a park renowned for its popular trails and scenic wonders, the Rose River Falls Loop Trail has managed to stay off the mainstream radar. Come hike with us as we venture into the heart of Shenandoah, through the fog you'll soon discover why this trail has become the whispered legend among nature enthusiasts. It's not just a hike; it's an exploration into the untouched corners of the wilderness, where the babbling streams and rustling leaves tell tales of a secluded paradise waiting to be unveiled. But be warned, this journey is not for for people who want to view Shenandoah from the parking lot; it's for the curious souls hungry for hiking and the allure of nature's hidden narratives.  Here is the first of 7 questions many ask when learning more about the Rose River Falls trail.

Where is Rose River Falls Trail Located? 

Ironically Rose River Falls trail is located very close to one of the most popular waterfall hikes in Shenandoah.  We’ll share that trail at the end of this post.  But the trailhead is located between mile marker 49 and 50 on Skyline Drive just north of the Big Meadows Visitor Center and is unmarked.  It’s probably why not many people know about it.  If you are driving South you will need to look for a crosswalk and turn right into the parking lot.  If you go past the Fishers Gap Overlook sign you’ve gone too far.   The trailhead is on the opposite side of Skyline Drive.  Now that we know where the secret parking lot is let’s get into the hike and 

How Long is Rose River Falls hike?  

The Rose river Falls trail is a 4 mile loop.  You should plan on about 4-5 hours of hiking this trail.  It starts across the street from the parking lot and heads downhill along the Bid Meadows Horse trail.  The path is well maintained and in good condition.  But, it gradually turns more technical as the trail continues after the horse trail and winds towards Rose River Falls a little over 1 mile from the trailhead.  The next section follows the Rose River all the way to the Rose River Fire Road which is a gradual 1 mile gravel road ascending back to the parking lot.  Now that you are starting to see all the water you may be asking

Can you Swim in the Waterfalls in Shenandoah?

Shenandoah National Park allows swimming in the park.  All water is available for swimming.  But the rose river wasn’t flowing that much when we hiked it as you can see.  We also noticed the footing was rocky and didn’t seem very inviting.  But, if you want to take your shoes and socks off you can dip your feet in the cool mountain water and rest a bit.  Plus there are some swimming holes at the bottom of the falls or at quieter spots in the rivers where you might find some deeper water to enjoy.  Just be mindful of the current and your brood to provide a safe swimming experience.  

Every good hiking post needs a dad joke.  But in Shenandoah we need a mountain joke.   Did you hear that story about the biggest mountain in Shenandoah? I couldn’t get over it.  Oh my, mountain jokes are awful. But at least they’re not cliff hangers. 

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 and blog, click this link: As an Amazon Associate, we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

All right back to trail but stay till the end because at the end of the Rose River fire Road, which we’ll show later, you’ll find in Discover something you didn’t expect   You’ve seen some of the trail already and we’ve discussed it a little but

How Hard is the Rose River Trail?  

The Rose River Trail is a moderate trail.  For a brood with little ones it can be a little long but our 10 year old hiked it without any issues.  The first part of the trail is on the horse trail which is very well maintained and easy.  But, the main Rose River Trail does become technical with rocks and roots, steps, and twists and turns but if you can handle stairs you should have no problems with the trail.  The last leg of the hike is on the Rose River Fire Road.  This part of the trail is a relaxing walk up a gradual incline and we just enjoyed memories of the waterfalls while heading back to the parking lot.  But, the hardest part of the trail is the 4 mile length and the time duration of the hike.  Some of the more popular hikes in Shenandoah prohibit dogs.  But, 

Are Dogs Allowed at Rose River Falls?  

One of the reasons hikers find this trail is because dogs are allowed on Rose River Falls Trail.  We didn’t see any dogs on our hike and we left our labs back at the RV.  But, this is a great trail for dogs and we can see how our dogs would have enjoyed it.  There are some steep declines that will be tricky for dogs but an active dog that enjoys 4 mile walks could do this hike no problem.  Especially because the first part of the trail is the easier horse trail and the last mile is the fire road.  But even better, dog lovers can see the most popular waterfall from this trail which is great because dogs are prohibited on that waterfall trail we’ll discuss later on in the post.  

Do you like this walk and talk format?  If you do, join today, and leave a comment.  We want to share as much of the trail as we can and feel this is the best way for you to see each hike.  Come back to see other hikes in Shenandoah or the rest of the National Parks we visit. When planning for hikes we like to consider what to pack.  So, 

Do you Need Hiking Shoes for Shenandoah National park?  

For vacationers and casual hikers hiking shoes are not needed.  I like to hike with the Merrell Moab II hiking shoe and it has served me well for many years.  But our brood were in between sizes and just wore gym shoes.  We found the trails well maintained.  But, if you are expecting wet weather we can see tread with a grip to be more important.  Other gear that we always take on hikes include a hiking hydration day pack.  But the water bladders are a pain.  So, we just carried water bottles this time as the weather was mild and the hikes we did were less than 5 miles.  Some people like to hike with trekking poles and many hikers were using them in Shenandoah.  We found it helpful to take maps of the area we were hiking, a compass, and flashlight.  There are a lot of intersections and even though the trails are well marked it was a little confusing to know which direction was the direction we were supposed to take. 

Here are examples of the gear we took on this hike:

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:

What gear is a must have for you when hiking the national parks?  Do you have a lucky charm or keepsake you like to hike with?  Join the conversation and let us know in the comments.  

So, on the Rose River Falls Trail you can see Dark Hollow Falls which is the most viewed waterfall in Shenandoah. But, 

What is the Most Popular Waterfall Hike in Shenandoah National Park?

Dark Hollow Falls Trail is the preferred way by many to see this waterfall.  The trail is only 1.4 miles round trip which is much shorter than Rose River Falls.  But, the trail descends from the parking lot and to get to the bottom of the falls you’ll have to hike down the 70 feet waterfall elevation change.  Descents can be tricky but you’ll have to hike back up the way you came to return to your car.  The trail offers beautiful views of the Shenandoah forest but expect a lot of people on the trail which will diminish the tranquility of the adventure.  

So why would we choose Rose River Falls over Dark Hollow Falls to see the most Popular Waterfall in Shenandoah?  

We had more than one day in Shenandoah and we like to find hikes that are less popular.  We hiked Stony Man and the Bearfence rock scramble which are two of the 10 popular trails in Shenandoah.  But we wanted something different for this hike.  The chance to see 2 of the 12 waterfalls in Shenandoah in one hike also excited us.  But, what we didn’t know was all of the time we spent hiking along the Rose River watching the water flow over rock.  These views, about an hour of the hike, were more memorable than the waterfalls.  We also like the Rose River Falls trail for being dog friendly.  The horse trail start, technical trail middle, and fire road ending provided a good variety of trail difficulty to make Rose River Falls enjoyable.  Plus we didn’t have to hike back up from the bottom of Dark Hollow Falls.  From Dark Hollow Falls the return to our car and the Rose River Falls trailhead was an easy ascent via the Rose River Fire Road. But of the fire road we found an interesting surprise

Are There Cemeteries in Shenandoah? 

From the research we found that there are  over 100 cemeteries in Shenandoah national Park.  again remember, Shenandoah is the only national park that has been created from private landowners and private land was sold at will but also taken via eminent domain by the government.  At that time there were already a lot of cemeteries.   at the end of the rose river fire Road there is a trail going up a hill with a sign that says cave cemetery. What you might think is that there is a cemetery in a cave or a cemetery for people who died while  mining  but this is actually a cemetery for the cave family and here you’ll find a variety of grave markers, some very old, some newer, and some from Civil War military. 

To learn more about Shenandoah National Park read one of these posts next!

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