Rock climbing ropes attached to rocks on Little Stony Man Cliffs, in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.

The Best Climbing in Shenandoah National Park

A guide to the most classic routes and climbing areas in this stunning national park.

Put simply: Shenandoah National Park is home to the best climbing in western Virginia. The park’s high elevation keeps it cooler during the summer months, and its vast concentration of sheer rock outcrops means it’s home to dozens of well-shaded, highly textured granite crags. It’s also hard to beat the access: At less than three hours from Washington, D.C., and less than two from Charlottesville, Shenandoah is one of the best spots for weekend warriors anywhere in the region.

Old Rag Mountain

With its clean corners, textured granite, and splitter cracks, Old Rag Mountain has a well-earned reputation as the crown jewel of Virginia crags. Here, you’ll find over a hundred routes—mostly single-pitch trad—and several dozen boulders. For leads in the 5.4 to 5.9 range, head to the Summit Crags near the top of the peak. If you’re looking for top-rope access and a wider variety of grades, try the Skyline Wall, the crag just east of the summit outcrop.

Getting there

The climbers’ lot is the Berry Hollow Parking Area. It’s best reached by driving north from Syria, Va., along state Route 643/Weakley Hollow Road. The parking area is on the north side of the road after 5.3 miles.

Red tape

Old Rag is popular among climbers as well as hikers. Due to overcrowding in past years, you’ll need an Old Rag day-use ticket in addition to your parks pass. This reservation pilot program applies to any visit to the mountain between March 1 and November 30, 2022. You must purchase tickets online in advance

Guidebook resource

Rock Climbing Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland by Eric Horst

Little Stony Man Mountain

Another treasure tucked right off Skyline Drive, Little Stony Man Mountain offers great views, high-quality trad routes, and a blessedly short approach. The trail at the top of the cliff makes it easy to build top-rope anchors if you’re not yet up for leading (you just might have to get a little creative with your placements and extensions; see “Etiquette” below). New lead climbers can find a handful of high-quality, well-protected routes at the Ledge Area. The Dragon Area is another favorite; it offers several good crack lines in the 5.7 to 5.8 range.

Getting there

The parking area for Little Stony Man can be accessed from Skyline Drive. You’ll find the small lot west of the road, between mile markers 39 and 40, right by the trailhead. Take the trail uphill from the parking area and take your first left to gain the Stony Man Trail. To reach the bottom of the cliff, bear right at the second fork. (Bear left to reach the top.)


It’s easy to access routes and build anchors via the trail at the top of the cliff. Please avoid running slings, static lines, or other material across the trail, which can be a hazard for hikers. Instead, find ways to use the protection options available between the trail and the cliff. Also note that a few areas are closed (see the park’s climbing guidelines for details).

Guidebook resource

Whiteoak Canyon

If bouldering is more your jam, you’ll find a decent selection of smooth greenstone boulders in Whiteoak Canyon, just west of Old Rag. The canyon’s famously scenic Whiteoak Canyon Trail is lined with waterfalls, making it a popular bucket-list hike for tourists and locals alike. But venture a little deeper into the woods and you’ll be rewarded with a smattering of quiet, shaded blocks, many of which bear problems ranging from V1 to V7. If you’re new to the area, try Manhattan Boulder, which is home to a handful of moderates and is visible from the trail. Boulderers looking for a serious challenge should head to the steeply overhung Fraggle Rock, which hosts the area’s only recorded V7.  

Getting there

Park at the Whiteoak Canyon trailhead, which is 4.6 miles north of Syria, Va., on Weakley Hollow Road. Then, start hiking north. You’ll find boulders scattered all along Whiteoak Canyon trail.  

Roped climbing

You’ll find a few worthy rock climbs on the Upper Falls wall (one incredible 5.9 crack, and two top-rope-only 5.10s). However, if you want to climb on a rope, you’re best off waiting for winter: Whiteoak Canyon is home to some of the area’s most popular ice climbs.  


Rock Climbing Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland by Eric Horst, or Virginia Climber’s Guide by Jeff Watson

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.