Being Well

The Best Hiking in Virginia for the Summer

Virginia has many trails for hiking, ranging from easy to difficult. To alleviate some stress and get in some exercise, hit one up today.

The summer season is a great time to explore the outdoors and hiking in Virginia offers endless adventures. Regardless of whether or not you have cancer, hiking, if you are up to it, gives you the benefits of physical activity at your own pace, beautiful scenery and fresh air, and Virginia has you covered with hiking trails galore.

No matter where you are in the Commonwealth, there’s a trail nearby. Urban? Check. Mountainous? Check. Appalachian Trail? Of course! Ranging from easy to difficult, here are some recommendations for great hiking in Virginia.

If You’re a Beginner

Not everyone enjoys rocky, steep hiking. If you want a flatter, gentler trail, head over to the New River Trail, which runs from Galax to Pulaski, Virginia. This 57-mile long trail was converted from railroad tracks, and more than half of the path run alongside the New River. There are many spots to start and stop during your hike, like the Shot Tower, where ammunition was made 200 years ago. Or you can opt to walk over a few of the 30 small bridges and trestles. You’ll find ample parking at the Galax park entry and some stellar hiking from that point on.

If You’re Looking for Something More Moderate

McAfee Knob is probably where you’ll take your holiday card picture. You can even bring your dog. This leg is known as the most photographed site on the Appalachian Trail, which is a big deal considering the trail spans 14 states. The round-trip is a little more than 7 miles with a moderate incline on the way there. When you get to your destination, you’ll find a rock jutting out over the Catawba Valley, which is worth walking out onto (if you aren’t terrified of heights, that is). Take your time and enjoy the 270-degree view, with the forest to your back. For this trail, you should plan for four hours round-trip.

For another option, start at the Montebello Fish Hatchery in Nelson County. After you’ve hiked for almost a mile, at a 1,000-foot elevation gain, you reach the Appalachian Trail. Going north (and uphill) on the trail for another three-quarters of a mile, you see a side trail to Spy Rock. Get ready for a boulder climb to the top (or go around to the left of the rock for an easier, dirt trail). As for views, this could be the best spot in central Blue Ridge for you to see the landscape. You’ll be 3,980 feet up, enjoying a panoramic view in all directions. When you need a break, hit up the grassy, flat rock, before heading back down.

If You Want a Challenge

Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park combines a steep 8.8-mile hike round-trip with rock scrambles, adding some diversity to your day. To get to the top, you’ll follow blue trail markers on fire roads and other trails. When you’re on the Ridge Trail, you’ll find boulders to climb around and over at the top. After clearing those, you’ll find yourself standing at the summit at 3,296 feet. This hike is known for its views, so take them in before heading back down.

No matter what trail you choose, you’ll get fresh air and exercise, which is good for the body and soul. Make it a point to enjoy hiking in Virginia while the weather is good.

Virginia has more than good hiking. Learn more about UVA Cancer Center and how they can help you keep on top of your health and wellness.

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Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Deborah Abrams Kaplan