-- Last Updated: Jul-06-13 1:59 PM EST --
There is an entrance to Skyline Drive off Hwy. 211, Thornton Gap just east of Luray, convenient to where you'll be staying. There are many fantastic hiking loops in the SNP and it'll be hard to choose just one. Keep in mind that if you start from Skyline Dr, you're hiking down off the mountain and then back up, which many folks are not prepared for. Carry good maps and plenty of water too, there are some springs, but you have to know where they are, and generally not easy to access off the A.T.
Some of my favorite hikes (so far) starting from Skyline are the Camp Hoover (aka "the Brown House") loop, Jeremy's Run, and Doyles River.
There are some hiking routes available that are up first then back down. The classic one is Old Rag Mountain -- about an 8-mile loop, with the top mile being all rock scramble, with breathtaking views of the Rapidan/Rappahannock valley. Not far from Stanley, but you have to drive across the mountain and around the other side, so probably about an hour. DON'T go there on a weekend, too popular and too many people blocking up the choke points on the rock scramble. Also near there is White Oak Canyon, a steep waterfall hike in a cool hollow, great to see after a good rain. There is a stunning overlook of the biggest falls that is worth the effort. If you're motivated you can climb all the way to the source of the Robinson River, near some interesting rock formations, and the Limberlost Trail which leads up to Skyline. Another up-and-back hike is Hawksbill Mountain, the highest point in the SNP at 4050 ft. Carefully research proper directions to the trailheads, Google Maps may steer you down restricted mountain roads.
The Duncan Knob/Strickler Knob hikes I mentioned are not in the SNP; they're on the Massanutten Mountain side, just west of Luray. It's possible to hike/climb both knobs by linking them together via the west side of the mountain and not going down into the hollow as shown on the map, which makes for a shorter hike, although there's a nice stream and campsites down there.
HikingUpward.com has a nice interactive map that will help you find what routes are nearby, and you can print out basic maps.
If you're there later in September, you may catch the trees changing colors at the higher elevations. :)
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