Backcountry Trip Planning

A female park ranger standing behind a desk at a visitor center points to a map for 2 visitors.

When planning for your backcountry trip, you will want to do the following to ensure a safe and memorable experience:

Learn the Backcountry Regulations

How far must your camp be from a creek or spring? What are the two options to store your food? How many nights can you camp in one location? All these answers and more can be found on our Permit and Regulations page.

Obtain a Good Map

You'll want a detailed map to help plan your route and to help navigate when on the trail. Maps can be purchased online through the SNPA and PATC websites.

Plan Your Itinerary

Use your map and the interactive map on to determine where you will enter and exit the backcountry and in what zone you will camp in each night. This information is necessary when obtaining your permit. Do you know which trail(s) you want to hike but having a hard time figuring out which zones they are in? Use the list below to help find the zone you will camp in each night:


Camping Zones and Associated Trails

Front Royal - Dickey Ridge

Dickey Ridge Trail
Fox Hollow Trail
Hickerson Hollow Trail
Lands Run Gap Road
Snead Farm Loop Trail

AT - Gravel Springs - Big Devils – Compton

Appalachian Trail
Big Devils Stairs Trail
Bluff Trail
Browntown Trail
Compton Gap Trail
Harris Hollow Trail
Jenkins Gap Trail
Jordan River Trail
Mt. Marshall Trail

Tuscarora - Overall Run Trails

Beecher Ridge Trail
Heiskell Hollow Trail
Matthews Arm Trail
Overall Run Trail
Tuscarora Trail
Weddlewood Trail

AT - Jeremys - Neighbor – Knob

Appalachian Trail
Jeremys Run Trail
Knob Mountain Trail
Neighbor Mountain Trail

AT - Thornton River - Piney - Little Devils

Appalachian Trail
Hull School Trail
Little Devils Stairs Trail
Piney Branch Trail
Piney Ridge Trail
Sugarloaf Trail
Thornton River Trail

AT - Pass Mtn – Oventop

Appalachian Trail
Pass Mountain Trail
Rocky Branch Trail

AT – Pinnacles

Appalachian Trail
Crusher Ridge Trail
Leading Ridge Trail

Hazel - Hannah - Buck Hollow

Broad Hollow Trail
Buck Hollow Trail
Buck Ridge Trail
Catlett Mountain Trail
Hannah Run Trail
Hazel Mountain Trail
Hazel River Trail
Hot Mountain Short Mountain Trail
Pine Hill Gap Trail
Sams Ridge Trail
White Rocks Trail

Corbin – Nicholson

Corbin Hollow Trail
Corbin Mountain Trail
Nicholson Hollow Trail
Indian Run Trail

Old Rag - Weakly Hollow

Berry Hollow Road
Weakly Hollow Road
Old Rag Ridge Trail
Old Rag Saddle Trail

White Oak - Cedar Run

Cedar Run Trail
Skyland-Big Meadows Horse Trail
Whiteoak Canyon Trail

AT - Skyland – Hawksbill

Appalachian Trail
Furnace Spring Trail
Hawksbill Trail
Passamaquoddy Trail
Stony Man Trail

Rose River

Rose River Fire Road
Rose River Loop Trail
Skyland-Big Meadows Horse Trail
Stony Mountain Trail
Upper Dark Hollow Trail

AT - Big Meadows

Appalachian Trail
Lewis Spring Falls Trail
Mill Prong Trail

AT - Laurel Prong - Jones Mtn

Appalachian Trail
Fork Mountain Horse Trail
Graves Mill Trail
Jones Mountain Trail
Laurel Prong Trail
Staunton River Trail

Naked Creek

Powell Mountain Trail

AT - Bearfence – Pocosin

Appalachian Trail
Conway River Trail
Pocosin Hollow Trail
Pocosin Horse Trail
Slaughter Trail

AT - South River – Saddleback

Appalachian Trail
Dry Run Falls Trail
Saddleback Mountain Trail
South River Falls Trail
South River Road

Rocky Mount - Onemile Run - Gap Run

Gap Run Trail
Onemile Run Trail
Rocky Mount Trail

AT - Hightop - Simmons Gap

Appalachian Trail
Hightop Hut Road
Simmons Gap Road
Smith Roach Gap Road

Big Run - Madison Run

Austin Mountain Trail
Big Run Loop Trail
Big Run Portal Mountain Trail
Lewis Peak Trail
Madison Run Road
Patterson Ridge Trail
Rocky Mountain Run Trail
Rockytop Trail

AT - Loft Mtn - Ivy Creek

Appalachian Trail
Frazier Discovery Trail
Loft Mountain Trails

Furnace - Trayfoot - Paine Run

Furnace Mountain Trail
Trayfoot Mountain Trail
Paine Run Trail
Stull Run Trail

AT - Black Rock - Doyles River - Cedar Mtn

Appalachian Trail
Browns Gap Road
Doyles River Trail
Jones Run Trail

AT - Riprap – Wildcat

Appalachian Trail
Riprap Trail
Wildcat Ridge Trail


North Fork Moormans River Trail
South Fork Moormans River Trail
Turk Branch Trail

AT - Sawmill - Rockfish Gap

Appalachian Trail
Turk Gap Trail
Turk Mountain Trail

Trip Details

Physical Ability

Are you used to hiking in steep mountain terrain with a loaded pack? How many miles and what elevation gain can you hike over multiple days? Be sure to gear your hike to the least-fit member of the group so that everyone can enjoy the trip.

Skill Level

An experienced backpacker will be able to read a topographic map, orienteer with map and compass, find an appropriate campsite if pre-existing sites are unavailable, properly hang a bear bag, know how to cook over a camp stove, bury human waste properly, and otherwise practice Leave No Trace principles. If you don't know these skills, but are planning a trip with someone who does, we would suggest that your backpacking group has at least one highly-skilled person for every four beginners, with a backup plan in place if the highly skilled person is incapacitated.

Trip Length

Consider how many miles you plan to hike each day. For adults of average fitness, we suggest 1-4 miles on the first day, assuming you start by noon in the spring or summer, or by 10:00 a.m. in the late fall or winter. Then 6-8 miles each day thereafter. If you will not have time to travel, hike, and set up camp before dark on the first day of your trip, consider spending your first night in a nearby campground, lodge, or motel. For your return journey, include some time to clean up your camp, pack up the car, and travel safely home.

Trip Terrain

Shenandoah National Park has mostly steep and rocky terrain! While there are a few short, rolling hikes, if you go any distance, you'll be climbing and descending mountains. Finding campsites is often challenging, and areas that seem like promising camps on topographic maps could be covered in a briar patch or under a dangerous snag. Because of this, identify several potential areas to camp before you set out.

Avoiding Crowds

May through June are peak months for "through hikers" heading northbound on the Appalachian Trail, while September is the peak month for southbound hikers. In order to minimize resource impact, it is best to plan a trip that avoids camping on the Appalachian Trail during these months.

Selecting a Backcountry Trip

With over 500 miles of trails in Shenandoah National Park, it can seem like a daunting task to choose the right backpacking trip for you. To help you choose, we've put together a list of suggested backcountry trip itineraries.

Last updated: January 11, 2024

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Mailing Address:

Shenandoah National Park
3655 U.S. Highway 211 East

Luray, VA 22835


540 999-3500
Emergency Phone: 1-800-732-0911

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