Rose River Loop
The Rose River Loop is one of Shenandoah National Park’s most beautiful hikes for streams and waterfalls. Over the course of 3.7 miles, you’ll hike along the Rose River, the Hog Camp Branch, and finally up the Rose River fire road.
This hike is one of our most-repeated hikes in Shenandoah National Park. It has some great views of running water throughout the trail. This isn’t the most secluded trail since it connects to Dark Hollow Falls. However, you should normally only come across a few other people on this trail. There are some good places to do some trout-fishing along the river. The man pictured a few photos down had caught a 8.5 inch trout the day before at the same spot.
The hike starts off at the parking area just north of the Fishers Gap Overlook. Cross the road and follow the Skyland-Big Meadows Horse Trail for .5 mile. There is a steady downhill grade, but it’s not too steep. At .5 miles, you’ll reach the junction of the Horse Trail and the Rose River Trail. Go right and follow the Rose River Trail, continuing downhill. Once you reach the bottom of the trail in about a mile, you’ll hear the water. The trail continues alongside the stream for a ways. You will reach Rose River falls at 1.3 miles. They are impressive, but more beauty awaits along the trail. For fans of long-exposure photography, this is a paradise.
The trail will pass an old copper mine at 1.8 miles. Some people like to explore the old mine, but we don’t think there is anything worth seeing there.
For the next mile, the trail closely follows the stream. It is very rocky and can be icy or muddy depending on the weather. There are tons of small waterfalls, slides, and plunge pools to explore.
At 2.7 miles, you will reach the footbridge at the bottom of Dark Hollow Falls. Turn right, cross the bridge, and follow the Rose River Fire Road uphill. At 3.3 miles, you will pass the Cave Cemetery on the right. At 3.7 miles, you will arrive back at Skyline Drive and your vehicle.
You can see from some of Christine’s pictures that there is really a lot of nice water to see on this trail. I highly recommend doing this if you have a day or two in the park.
As I usually like to comment, there is a geocache located here. For those that are unaware, physical geocaches are not allowed in National Parks. However, there is a small cemetery located off of the fire road that is considered private land and not owned by the Park Service. The cemetery was used by the people who used to live in the mountain hollows before the government took their land for the park in the early 1900’s. The Cave family gave permission for a geocache to be placed here called Viking Treasure Cave. ETA: This cache has since been removed from the park (September 2010)
When we started down the Rose River trail, I couldn’t help but skeptically watch the blue sky peeking between openings in the trees above. The local weatherman had forecast a cloudy morning, but as we hiked along the sun began sending down rays and making a dappled pattern across the forest floor. It was lovely to look at, but was definitely not the kind of light I was hoping to have for the stream and waterfall photos I wanted take. You see, the Rose River Loop is one of the very best hikes in Shenandoah for folks who enjoy photographing running water. It’s also the place where my brother proposed to his now wife. They were engaged on a bitter cold New Year’s Eve camping trip somewhere along the Rose River.
Even though the light made photography a challenge today, I found several spots to shoot along the Rose River. We had to bushwhack off the trail a couple times, and all I could think about were ticks. I don’t think I’ve recovered from our walk down the Dry Run Falls fire road yet.
One bushwhack in particular was especially steep, slick and muddy. As luck would have it, it also offered the prettiest of all the little cascades along the walk. When I looked down the ravine, for some reason my inner girly-girl came out. I announced to Adam that I wasn’t going down there no matter what. He said “Yes, you are!” and took my camera away and starting climbing down without me. I was left with no choice but to follow. I got really muddy and touched a gross centipede-like creature. I’ll never like bugs!
We stopped at Rose River Falls for a few shots. For the past few years, there has been a huge fallen tree lying across the waterfall. It’s still there, but now there is a new downed tree stuck at the crest of the waterfall. Both trees are way too big to move, and will likely be there for years to come.
We paused at a couple other places along the Hog Camp Branch for photos, but there was another photographer who was consistently about ten minutes ahead of us on the hike. Each time we got to a spot I planned on photographing, he was already there. He looked pretty serious getting his shots. At one spot, he even donned chest high waders and water shoes so that he could get to the middle of the stream for an ideal composition. I skipped a lot of my favorite photo spots along the Hog Camp because I always feel a bit rude stepping into somebody’s shooting space.
We finished the loop hike on the Rose River fire road. The last mile on the road is always my least favorite part of the hike. The fire road is easy walking, but yawn… it’s a bit on the boring side. Despite the dull last leg, the Rose River loop is a must-do hike for anyone visiting Shenandoah.
- Distance – 3.7 miles loop trail
(Check out the stats from Map My Hike)*
- Elevation Change – Around 900 feet
- Difficulty – 2. Some downhill and uphill, but it’s not too bad.
- Trail Conditions – 3.5. There are some areas along the river that are more like a 2, but there are some areas that where it is more like a 5. Footing is tricky around the climb up after the red bridge.
- Views – 0. Just waterfall and stream views.
- Waterfalls/streams – 4.5. Some of the most continuous views of water that allow for some great water photography.
- Wildlife – 1. Some birds and chipmunks, but not much else here.
- Ease to Navigate – 5. Trail is well-marked and there aren’t any spurs until you get back to the fire road.
- Solitude – 3. Not the best on solitude, but you won’t run into a ton of people.
Directions to trailhead: The trail is located on Skyline Drive. Park at the Fisher’s Gap Overlook (at mile marker 49.4 miles), cross the road and pick up the trail. The Rose River Loop starts to the left of the fire road. You will see a cement marker.