Shenandoah National Park: Nicholson Hollow hike

Shenandoah National Park is massive, and popular Skyline Drive necessities many hours in and out of the car. Everyone knows Old Rag Mountain offers one of the best day hikes on the East Coast, but it takes most of a day and is very strenuous…not the right fit for every itinerary or every family. However, few people know about the much shorter, much more kid-friendly hike of Nicholson Hollow, accessed right from Old Rag Mountain parking lot.


We got the inside scoop on Nicholson Hollow from the staff at┬áBelle Meade Farm in nearby Sperryville. Instead of the tough uphill mileage of Old Rag Mountain, Nicholson Hollow follows a wide creek through the woods at a modest incline. It’s in shade, and during our June visit, the bugs weren’t bad. The trail starts 1/2 mile from the Old Rag Mountain parking lot (you follow the paved road to the sign post), then at 1.5 miles, you see a large boulder by the creek. Here, a great swimming hole spills from a short waterfall. The depth during our visit was enough for jumping off the big rock and others in the vicinity. If you continue up the trail, it leaves the creek and continues to a Y, where more trails convene. Go as far (or short) as you like.


The first half mile of the trail is on private property; it’s fine to hike it, but remember there is no fishing allowed in this section. After that, you enter Shenandoah National Park.

Where to stay: Shenandoah National Park cuts a long path through Virginia. In order to be centrally located, it’s good to have a home base in the countryside surrounding it. Check out these options from VacationRoost.

Entrance Fee:

You will need to pay the national park entrance fee at the kiosk at the parking lot. The fee is $14 per car, or $8 per adult (kids are free).


The Old Rag Mountain parking lot can be accessed from the Thorton Gap park entrance of Shenandoah National Park, or from the county road access off F.T. Valley Road outside Sperryville (follow signage). From the parking lot, walk up the paved road 1/2 mile to the Nicholson Hollow sign.

Disclosure: this post written in conjunction with partner