The first question my hiking partner asks as we hop out of our car along Skyline Drive is, “Why do they call him Little Stony Man? Is there a Big Stony Man out there?” That, I don’t have the answer to, but the “him” my partner is referring to? He’s a not-to-little rock feature jutting out of the Blue Ridge Mountains just off Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive, a famed winding road in Virginia stretching across some of the most scenic views on the East Coast. A short, gradual hike will introduce you to the man of the mountain—just keep your eye on the peak to see his forehead, long nose, and full beard (squint and use some imagination here). Hike a bit more and you’re standing on this nose, enjoying an unmatched view of the park from the second highest peak there.
What: Little Stony Man circuit hike is relatively easy and short, less than three miles of walking. The trail is well traveled but a bit rocky, and rock climbers can opt to take a break to climb up a trad rock face below Little Stony Man himself (warning, there’s some weak protection so top-roping might be your best bet—the Potomac Mountain Club has a great free guide). It’s well worth the pullover and the three hours it’ll take you … and that’s if you’re really taking time to enjoy the views.
The stats: Easy elevation gain of about 850 feet. Maintained trail, no pets. Sweeping vistas and rocky ridgeline. $10 per vehicle to enter the park.
Where: Mile maker 39.1 on Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.
How to get there: Turn off Skyline Drive into the parking lot and begin your hike on the left of the parking area at the trail junction. This a well-marked hike—but it is intersected by the Appalachian trail so it can get confusing. Pay attention to cement markers and follow to the Stony Man Mountain overlook.
When to go: Any time of year is beautiful here, but snow many cause safety issues and summer draws a big crowd. During the winter, call the park at (540) 999-3500 to find out if Skyline is open.
What to bring: Light hiking shoes, layers to fend off the wind or stay cool in the summer heat, sunglasses, a camera, water.
Do: Pick up a guidebook to the area at a visitor center or at the trailhead if you’ve never been before.
Don’t: Kick rocks off the side of the cliffs accidentally or otherwise—there could be climbers there!
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