About an hour's drive west of Charlottesville lies a challenging hiking loop with more than 2,000 feet of elevation gain.
The 9.8-mile Riprap Trail is in the southern area of Shenandoah National Park, which has more than 300 square miles of land — including the picturesque Skyline Drive Scenic Highway. The Riprap Trail is an oval-shaped trail situated on the western side of Skyline Drive.
Hiking the entire trail is demanding and is not recommended for novice hikers, but the views it affords make the hard work all worth it. There are plenty of sections to choose from that offer something for everyone.
The Riprap Trail features moderate sections, more challenging sections, stream crossings, areas that require scrambling over rocks, and even a place to swim. Experienced hikers and those who feel bold can opt to make the journey, which is nearly 10 miles long and gains about 2,225 feet, in one day. Or you can do a mile or two and turn around.
The views of the Shenandoah Valley are incredible, while the natural swimming hole — located about 3 miles from the parking lot — is a great way to cool off during the summer months. The southern end of the trail is a bit steeper and has several switchbacks before meeting up with the Appalachian Trail for the remaining 2.8 miles back to the parking lot.
The Riprap Trail offers something for for everyone, since there are so many sections to explore. Newer hikers or those looking for a short hike can do a 1- or 2-mile out-and-back route. More experienced hikers can tackle the entire trail in one day, although be sure to bring food and water supplies with you. With some stream crossings, a good pair of waterproof books is recommended. We all know the gross feeling that comes with walking in wet socks.
From Charlottesville, head west on Rt. 64 and then take the Rt. 250 exit. The southern entrance to Skyline Drive is right there, so take that for about 16 miles to the parking lot at the trailhead.