A classic hike, the trail begins by piggybacking on the AT for a half mile or so, a steady climb up to a stellar ridge with unobstructed views west across the valley to the Allegheny Mountains beyond. It’s along this rocky ridge that you discover how the trail earned its name; though rocky, the trail does a good job of avoiding scrambles (unless you want to). About 2.5 miles in, the trail drops down the ridge into Cold Spring Hollow for a long, mellow descent, the trail’s namesake creek your constant companion.

At about the 3-mile mark, hollow gives way to gorge, then a steep drop, where Cold Spring becomes Cold Spring Falls, splashing over several five- to ten-foot drops. There are five stream crossings along the way, all of which are rock hops that should be navigable except at high flow.

At mile 4.5, pick up Wildcat Ridge Trail, a steady climb for more than a mile. Crest a knob and while you’re still climbing for the next mile and a half, you’ll find relief along the way. At mile 7, go left on the Appalachian Trail, which surfs the ridgeline along its return to the trailhead.

A classic Shenandoah hike, with views, rocks, waterfalls, creek crossings, and non-stop great scenery.

Trails: Riprap, Wildcat Ridge, Appalachian Trail

More info: www.nps.gov/shen

Maps: Printable NPS map here;http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/upload/rip_rap_area_2013.pdf “Trails Illustrated Shenandoah National Park,” 1:75,000, 50 foot interval.

Getting there: From Charlottesville, take I-64 west to Skyline Drive; go north for 15 miles.


Difficulty: Strenuous (length, prolonged climbs)

Distance: 9.8 miles

Time to hike: 3.5 to 6 hours, depending upon pace and objective.

Location: Milepost 90, Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park

GPS: 38.09640, -78.46385