Hiking Rip Rap Hollow

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This past weekend Michael and I decided to check out a trail in the southern portion of Shenandoah National Park. I've done a ton of stuff in the park but I don't usually go to the southern end so we decided to hike a trail called Riprap Hollow. It's a 9.5 mile long loop that has a ton of outlooks, a mountain river, streams, waterfalls, cascades, swimming holes... it has everything. We arrived at the trail head around 11am and hiked the loop counter-clockwise so we hit most of the main outlooks first, then hiked along the river and back up to the parking lot. For starters the day was b-e-a-utiful.... 60 something degrees, sunny, but also very windy. We started along the Appalachian Trail before taking a turn onto the Riprap Hollow Trail where we got to the first outlook pretty fast and enjoyed the view which had a good sized outcropping of rocks you could sit on. However, Michael and I both aren't big fans of views of civilization so we kept hiking. We then hiked down a little ways to the second outlook, also known as Chimney Rocks where there's still the view of the Shenandoah Valley but there's also a little bit more of a mountain view as well. After that view we hiked for a few miles along a ridge line and the views were endless. After hiking along the ridge line for awhile you start hiking down into Riprap Hollow where you continue to have a wonderful view of the mountains as well. As we were hiking down into the Hollow, a little mountain spring came from nowhere and started into a little stream that grew bigger and bigger the further down we hiked. Eventually the little stream flowed into another stream and turned into a river that immediately cascaded down a 20 foot waterfall and down into a gorge. The water was crystal-clear (which I guess is usually the case for mountain streams) and we enjoyed lunch right beside the waterfall. Michael and I both love hiking beside running water because the sound of it is so relaxing and I personally really love waterfalls, so the unexpected waterfall was such a treat. After lunch we kept hiking down into the Hollow and you cross the stream at least 4 times. Michael of course was leaping from one side to the next but a few times I had to take my shoes off and wade across the freeeeezing cold mountain river water (which was surprisingly refreshing) and in Michael's defense he did ask to carry me all four times but I insisted I wanted to wade across and let my feet breathe for a minute. A little ways down from the waterfall, the river cascaded down into an amazing swimming hole; the water was literally green and so clear. It was probably about 7-8 feet deep and there was even a rope swing! Too bad it wasn't 90 degrees out... we definitely would have taken a dip in the cool water. For the end of the hike we hiked up (and I mean steeply up) to the Appalachian Trail and then followed that for 2.8 miles back to the parking lot. The trail was constantly changing from rocky, to soft dirt, to pine needles and the whole time you could look out and see endless mountains. Overall the hike was hard, mainly because of the length and because of the few long steep inclines, but it was fun. I loved how it was constantly changing and there were so many things to see! To do this hike visit here.