Hiking the Shenandoahs - The Overall Run Trail
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia is located just 75 miles from the hustle and bustle of Washington D.C.. But the park is so different than the nation’s capital it might as well be on another planet. The 200,000 acre park is home to numerous waterfalls, deep valleys, and spectacular views. The hiking is glorious and even a bit strenuous. There are over 500 miles of trails in the park including 101 miles of the famous Appalachian Trail. This article takes an in depth look at the Overall Run Trail.
The trail is located in the northern section of the park, just south of the town of Bentonville. Finding the trailhead can be a bit tricky. From Highway 340 in Bentonville take Bentonville Road east to Thompson Hollow Road. This is a twisty route and the parking area for the trailhead is very small. In fact, you will feel that you are already in the middle of nowhere when you get out of your car.
The hike starts with a one mile section on the Thompson Hollow Trail. That ends at a T. Going left will take you to the Overall Run Falls, a 93 foot cascade, and a gorgeous view of the Shenandoah Valley. It’s about a 6 mile out and back round trip with minimal elevation change. However, turning right puts you on the 10.5 mile loop trail and gives you views of four other waterfalls and includes multiple stream crossings. There is almost 2,000 feet of elevation gain on the loop route.
Almost at the start of the loop trail you will come across a small waterfall that spills over several rock ledges as it drops about 25 feet. If the water level is low it is easy to scramble down the falls before making your way back to the main trail. This is a lot of fun, but probably not recommended by the park service. Soon after the first falls the trail makes a hard turn to the left and you get your first stream crossing. Some of the crossing are easy, just stepping on a couple of large stones. However, one crossing requires walking across a downed log like it’s an Olympic balance beam.
The trail soon splits and you’ll follow the blue blazes onto the Beecher Ridge portion of the trail. Being that you are at water level on the valley floor and the trail is called Beecher Ridge you can guess what happens next. You start going up, and then you continue going up, then you go up some more. Along the way you’ll come upon another waterfall. This one is a single cascade of about 30 feet. Again there is lots of exposed rock for the adventurous to scramble around on.
The trail next turns back to the north and you start to descend. You can hear the roar of the biggest waterfall on the trail before you can see it. The trail brings you around a bend, the valley opens up before you and to the left are the 93 foot Overall Run Falls. It is a site that makes the whole hike worthwhile. Now you just have an easy 2.5 mile walk back to the trail head.