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Hiking Stony Man at Sunset

After our sunrise hike to Hawksbill, my daughter proclaimed she wanted to return to see a sunset. She, amazingly enough, had a free Saturday this past weekend so off we went to Shenandoah National Park. This time through I bought the annual pass! I should have done this the first time I went earlier in the summer. It is well worth it when making return trips.

There are a couple of different ways to reach Stony Man Summit. You can park at the overlook and do a longer hike or drive to Skyland Resort and pull into the parking lot that’s immediately to your right as you turn off of Skyline Drive. This makes for a very short and easy hike. We chose the shorter version since we’d be coming down in the dark. The trail map says the hike is 1.6 miles round trip. It does have some elevation gain but it is very minimal. This is why many say it is a perfect hike for families.

As we drove to Shenandoah National Park I was worried about rain. It had rained off and on for three or four days. It was supposed to have cleared up by Saturday but didn’t. The mist still lingered in the air. The rain started to fall, lightly, when we were about 20 mins from the park. I asked the kids if they wanted to proceed and to my delight they said, “Yes! Let’s do it!”  I offered up some alternatives in case it was raining. We could hike to a waterfall or just roam around the resort area until we saw if it would clear up for the sunset. My son was intent on hiking to the summit while my daughter wanted to see a waterfall. I figured I’d decide once we got up into the mountains a bit.

Sperryville, VA lies right outside of Shenandoah National Park. It is a small, picturesque town with a creek that runs beside it. I saw a pull-over area and asked the kids if they wanted to hike down to take pictures next to the creek. They agreed until we walked to the edge. Unfortunately, that pull-over seemed like an unofficial dumping ground for the area. Tires, dirty diapers, socks, sunglasses, and more were strewn all over. I often have a bag for trash but did not this time due to the short hike. We did our best to get past the trash and made it to the gorgeous creek. I attempted to take some pictures of the kids. I failed miserably but I did get some good ones of the running water.


Thanks for not dabbing, kids.


As we drove up into the mountains the clouds were parting and there was sun and blue skies. I was so happy and relieved. We reached the parking lot and started our hike. It didn’t take us much time at all to reach the summit. I was a little disappointed to see it so crowded. I thought, perhaps, the rain would have kept people away. Taking photos was difficult. However, it wasn’t too long before they all left. The clouds were like a blanket over the mountains below us. At times it felt like you could jump and land on a big, comfy pile of clouds.


Clouds. Clouds everywhere.


Sitting alone this whole time was a single dude. I felt bad for the guy. I’m sure we disturbed him a lot. My son kept messing around and I kept yelling at him. How peaceful… He didn’t seem that angry as he didn’t move. We explored the rocks and climbed around and attempted to take cool photos. I’m still a photographer-in-learning so some look great and some look stupid. And then the sun began to set. It was really beautiful and I know my kids loved it. Even my son took an amazing photo.


Beautiful sunset


The wind began to pick up and it got chilly. We were prepared this time and put on gloves and my daughter wrapped herself in a blanket. The single guy stood as if to fully take in the whole sunset. He pulled out his flip phone and took a couple of pictures. And then he left. Then we did, too.


The guy who stood/sat alone. He made for an amazing photo.

We hiked back down the short trail. My daughter looked like a warlord with the blanket billowing behind her with her light of her flashlight outlining the edges. My son felt the need to ask for photos along the way with the flash illuminating the whole area (and somehow kept his eyes open). At the bottom we piled into the car to drive to an overlook. We wanted to see the stars while we were there. We ended up at the Stony Man overlook. The sky had turned a beautiful color which I attempted to capture. And soon the stars flooded the sky. It is overwhelming to me to stand and look at the stars like that. Soon the Milky Way appeared above us. I laid down in the parking lot to fully immerse myself. Amazing. I don’t have the right instruments to take a night photo to show what I saw so you’ll just have to believe me.


My first attempt at long exposure at night

Finally, we started the drive home. 8:40 pm. It felt like midnight.  My son had been struggling with hiking with me recently – even telling me he didn’t want to go anymore. So this trip made me incredibly happy. Not only because they wanted to go but even when it was raining they wanted to continue. I may end up with outside, adventuring kids after all!