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Riprap Hollow - SNP, Virginia


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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
9.5 mls
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5.0 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,225 ft
Shenandoah National Park
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e.g.. 12000 Government Center Parkway 22035 or Fairfax VA
Park at the Riprap Trail parking area. 38.17711, -78.76509

Riprap Hollow is one of the best circuit hikes in the southern section of the Shenandoah National Park. The views from Chimney Rock, and along the ridge of Rocks Mountain, offer great vistas to the west and north. The spring fed stream in Cold Spring and Riprap Hollow is very scenic, and has a 50ft wide swimming hole fed by yet another mountain spring.

From the Riprap parking area walk the 50 yards along the blue blazed trail to the intersection of the white blazed Appalachian Trail. Turn right uphill on the white blazed trail for 0.4 miles to the intersection of the Riprap Trail.

Turn left on the blue blazed Riprap Trail as it descends through a hollow on the ridge before climbing and arriving at the first vista point in 0.7 miles. In another 0.3 miles reach the second vista and Chimney Rock. From Chimney Rock the trail will begin to descend into Cold Springs Hollow. In 1.7 miles from Chimney Rock the spring fed stream that has come in on the left of Riprap Trail will pass through a small gorge and over a 20ft waterfall.

After passing the waterfall follow the blue blazed Riprap Trail for another 0.3 miles to a large swimming hole. Just past the swimming hole the trail will cross the stream, and pass a trail marker and an overgrown trail that leads to an old Riprap Shelter on the right. Continue straight on the blue blazed Riprap Trail next to the stream for another 0.7 miles to the intersection of the Wildcat Ridge Trail.

Turn left on the blue blazed Wildcat Ridge Trail and shortly cross the stream again before the trail starts heading uphill through a small gorge. In 0.6 miles the Wildcat Ridge Trail will make several switchbacks and become much steeper, as it follows the Wildcat Ridge for another 2.0 miles to the four way intersection with the white blazed Appalachian Trail.

Turn left on the while blazed Appalachian Trail for the remaining 2.8 miles back to the Riprap parking area.

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Hiker Reviews For The Riprap Hollow Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Riprap Hollow hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Kailey Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, August 06, 2014
$15 to drive into the Shenandoah National Park. The Riprap parking area is about 15 miles from the south entrance of the park.
Nearby attraction outside the park include many vineyards, breweries, and a cidery. Check out Nelson151.com for details.

The sign at the Riprap parking area describes the hike as "strenuous" and estimates 8.5 hours to complete it. My boyfriend and I were a little intimidated because we're not in the best shape, but we finished in 6.5 hours. That time includes 5 hours of hiking, 30 minutes of breaks for pictures and taking in the scenery, and 1 hour of swimming and lunch. I would not recommend this hike for children as there are stream crossing over slippery rocks, and the hike may be too long for little legs. The weather was perfect! 68 degrees, slightly overcast, not too humid. It was not what we expected for early August.

My advice for this hike: start SOUTH on the Appalachian Trail instead of North as the sign and this site recommend. This will make the end of your hike worthwhile. The loop is much more scenic on the North end, and the South end has you uphill 99% of the way if you start with the North. START SOUTH!

My boyfriend and I packed 1 day pack: a camel back day star containing 70 oz. water, first aid kit, compass, whistle, mirror, map, IDs, sandwiches, apples, trail mix (duh!), smart phones, digital camera, extra battery pack (good for several charges), swim suits, sunscreen, and lipbalm. We're the type that like to over-prepare.

We started going North on the Appalachian Trail as the sign suggested, and it wasn't long before we hit several picture worthy spots. We passed a couple who recommended eating the wild blueberries growing along the trail. We tried a few each, and although they were fine, we had no problem passing the rest without a second glance. A black snake crossed the path in front of my boyfriend, frightening him, but it was harmless.

The swimming hole is absolutely gorgeous!. I've never seen another like it. This swimming hole makes the entire hike worth it. We found a place to change into suits if other people are around: cross the stream toward the rock that looks like a bench (I ate my lunch on that bench rock!) continue up that path slightly to the left and there's an area that over looks the swimming hole (also the perfect place to camp if you're staying long). The water was FREEZING! August water never felt so cold! It was, however, refreshing. I almost didn't want to get it because my boyfriend told me how cold it was, but I jumped in nevertheless. It was totally worth the shiver! If you're planning to hike during the warmer months, JUMP IN!

As we continued on, we still had about 6 miles left. The last part of the Riprap trail was easy and flat. Once we got to Wildcat Ridge Trail, it was ALL UPHILL with no views that compared to the Riprap Trail views. This is why I recommend doing the trail backwards. We were so discouraged, but we got through it. Once the Wildcat Ridge Trail met up with the Appalachian Trail, the elevation evened out. A deer ran out of the bushes and down the trail away from us, so that gave us a pleasant adrenaline rush. I used the app "endomondo" to track our hike, and I think the mileage is slightly off in a few portions. I was closely monitoring the mileage as we were nearing the parking lot. When Wildcat Ridge met up with the Appalachian Trail, the post said we had 2.6 miles until the Riprap parking area, but it was closer to 2.8 miles (0.2 miles can make a girl think she missed a turn!). By the time we finished, we were a little let down by the post-lunch portion. More intense, less views, more mileage. PLEASE START SOUTH! You'll have a more enjoyable hike overall!

I would definitely do this hike again. The Riprap portion made it all worth it. As I'm recommending, I would just start with the other portion and end with Riprap Trail.

I hope I encouraged you to do this AWESOME hike! Best of luck!


By: Greengal Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 03, 2014
What a great hike! We arrived at the parking area around 8:30 and several cars were already there. Was worried that we would run into a lot of people but actually only saw a few and most of them were on the section that follows the Appalachian trail back to the parking area. We did the loop counterclockwise as suggested but I think next time it we will hike it in the opposite direction and save the views from the rocks for the end. Some of what made this hike great this day was the fact that the streams were running really high. It made the waterfalls, although small, much more powerful as well as making the creek crossing much more challenging. At several points the trail itself was covered in water and we had to cross one section on a tree suspended several feet above the creek. Nothing like a little challenge to make the hike better. There was a section of the trail where you could see the effects of the recent fire but new plants, in particular tiny irises were beginning to bloom in the area. All in all it was a great hike on a beautiful spring day.

By: VA Ridge Runner Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, March 21, 2014
Great views along this 9.5 mile hike. Most of these are confined to First 5 miles.

For the most part, the hike is pretty easy, though there are spots along the way that are steep, and challenging, though short lived. Lots of wildlife in the area, as we came across bear scat throughout the hike.

There was a limited amount of snow on the ground, which is fine by me. I've done a few hikes recently through the snow, and frankly it can make things much more difficult.


By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, March 21, 2014
What a beautiful day for a beautiful hike. The three of us had originally planned on doing a different hike, but wound up getting a later start than anticipated and ended up here instead. My wife dubbed it a happy accident because we had a grand time hiking this wonderful trail. We hung a right on to the trail at the parking lot around 9:45am and had some wonderful views of of the Shenandoah Valley. It was a clear day and we could see for miles. About 2 mile in we started descending the mountain and before long began walking next to a stream that eventually became a nice set of falls and eventually a fantastic swimming hole. I can't wait to try this one in the summer. During the descent we met the trail superintendent out maintaining some of the water runoffs. He was a super nice guy who obviously loves this trail, and was chock full of info and advice about it. Apparently about 5 weeks ago, someone decided to build a campfire in the middle of the trail and wound up burning about 40 acres. There was evidence of the burn all around the trail near the bottom, and the ignition point was just before the first creek crossing. Be careful people!

There were several creek crossings in the bottom, and with all the snow melting they appeared to be a bit high, but nothing difficult. After the last crossing, we began the climb back up the hill. Maybe with a few more leaves on the trees, this may have been a bit more interesting of an ascent, but it was pretty much just a slog up the hill. Once you're on top of Wildcat Ridge it's a little better, but the views are all interrupted by the trees and there isn't as much to look at. We did see a fair bit of bear scat, so it's always a good idea to keep your eyes open. Once we met back up with the AT it was a quick 3 miles back to the truck, and then the ride home.

We really liked this hike, and definitely plan on doing it again. Next time I would probably do it in the clockwise direction though. That way the down hill part would be along the AT and Wildcat Ridge, while you would climb out along Cavalry Rocks. The ascent would be about the same climb, but I don't mind climbing as much when I've got beautiful views to take my mind off it. As with everything though, YMMV.

Here's some of the pics I took along the way. http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonko-the-sane/sets/72157642763790504/


By: Shawn Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, December 15, 2013
Skyline Drive was closed due to snow and ice, so we approached this hike from the western end of Riprap, parking just outside the park boundaries.  This approach adds about 2 miles to a round-trip, with two stream crossings that were made more difficult due to high-water from the previous night's storm.  Once we hit the loop, we proceeded clockwise, taking in the swimming hole before climbing up and onto the ridge line, where we enjoyed spectacular views the whole way.  We took our time on this section, before turning on to the AT and then Wildcat and picking up the pace to get back to the car before nightfall.  The 11.6 miles took us 6 hours, though we probably spent a half hour to 45 minutes resting and another 30 minutes negotiating tricky stream crossings.  We were walking in 2-3 inches of snow most of the way, but had no issues with traction- the terrain is not steep enough to warrant crampons.  Saw many tracks- bobcat, coyote, turkey, bear- and jumped a couple deer near the end of the hike.  This is a great winter hike as the lack of foliage makes for nice views almost start to finish and there is enough cover to protect you from any biting wind.  Finding the alternative trailhead is a challenge though- be on the lookout for the cement markers that direct the way.  There is one standing at the turn-off from the paved road to the dirt road and another one marking the final right turn and trail head.   

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