A loop run through federally designated wilderness areas with streams, cascades, and a few waterfalls.
Park at the Fishers Gap Overlook and head out of the north entrance. Cross the Skyline Drive to access the Rose River Fire Road
. About 50 feet down the fire road, you'll see a trail veering off to the left, which is your starting point for the Rose River Loop Trail
. You'll be returning up this fire road once your trip is complete.
The beginning of this trail is a foot trail and horse trail combined (see Skyland-Big Meadows Horse Trail
); note that horses have the right of way. About 0.6 mile from the start, the horse trail turns off to the left, while the loop trail continues straight ahead on the blue-blazed trail.
A hundred yards beyond, the Rose River comes down on the left and parallels the trail. As you go, the stream is rarely out of sight, and it has an endless variety of cascades and pools. After another quarter of a mile, you're at the Upper Rose River Falls
, which consist of several separate cascades. Just below the upper falls, off the trail, you can opt to head down steeper terrain into a rock gorge, where the Lower Rose River Falls
will come into view from your left.
Continuing along the trail, after leaving the waterfalls, you'll descend to flatter terrain. The trail will now parallel another stream to your left, named Hogcamp Branch, which drains Big Meadows
Swamp, and flows through Dark Hollow, and then becomes the principal tributary of Rose River.
Further along the trail, you'll approach the filled-in shaft of an old copper mine, and to its left is a weathered concrete block; it supported an air compressor that supplied the pneumatic drills. Less than a tenth of a mile beyond the copper mine, cross the foot bridge over Hogcamp Branch and turn right. The trail ascends through lower Dark Hollow, with the Hogcamp Branch now on your right, and reaches the fire road after 0.9-mile of climbing.
When you reach the fire road, turn right and cross the bridge, where to your left is a long, narrow waterfall which descends from Dark Hollow Falls
. Thirty yards beyond the bridge, the blue-blazed Dark Hollow Falls Trail
goes uphill on the left. If you make a side trip to the base of these falls you'll add 0.3 mile and 145 feet of climbing to your trip. About 0.6 mile from the bridge is the Cave family cemetery, on the left side of the road.
Continue steadily uphill back to Fishers Gap Overlook, about 1.1 miles from the bridge.
Thanks to Larry W. Brown, for sharing this description. If you’re interested in learning more details about great hikes, weather, camping / lodging, wildlife, and scenic drives, check out the comprehensive Guide to Shenandoah National Park
Black bears can sometimes be seen along this trail from spring through fall.