Photographing Shenandoah NP: Little Stony Man
Photographing Little Stony Man
Location: Shenandoah National Park: Central District
Best time of year to photograph: Year Around
Subject Focus: Sunset, Landscape
Distance: 0.9 miles out and back
(Facing Northwest, 24mm, 1/20sec, F/16, ISO 100)
To reach Little Stony Man, also known as Stony Man Cliffs, park at Little Stony Man parking area located at mile marker 39.1 along Skyline Drive. This is a VERY small parking area and can fill up fast because it only fits 6-10 vehicles. Don’t worry if the parking lot is full; drive 0.4 mile north along Skyline Drive to the Stony Man Overlook located at mile marker 38.7. The Stony Man Overlook is large and has lots of parking spots. No matter what location in which you park, to reach Little Stony Man just hop on the AT, and head south.
(Facing Northwest, 35mm, 1/10sec, F/16, ISO 100)
From the Little Stony Man parking area, it is about 0.9 miles to the outlook, and you will gain about 400 feet in elevation. Follow the trail from the parking lot to the Appalachian Trail (AT). Once on the AT, turn left (south), following the white blazes of the AT as it winds up the mountain. About 0.3 miles up the trail, you will reach a trail junction to an overlook that is just off the trail (marked with sign). I usually skip this overlook because the main overlook is a lot better and less than 0.25 miles up the trail. Just before you reach the top of Little Stony Man, the AT makes a 180 degree turn as you crest the summit, revealing the beautiful vista. Little Stony Man is a rocky cliff that offers an outstanding western-facing view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley, making it an ideal location to photograph the sunset.
(Facing North, 105mm, 1/6sec, F/16, ISO 100)
Photographing Little Stony Man is awesome because of the ability to take so many different types of images. With unobstructed views from the southwest through the north, you are able to photograph the sun setting no matter the time of year. To the southwest is a view of Stony Man Mountain, the second tallest mountain in Shenandoah National Park. To the west is a view of the mountains as they lead to the Shenandoah Valley, and to the north is an outstanding view of the multiple mountain ranges that make up the North District of Shenandoah National Park (for landscape photo tips, click here). There are also a couple of rocks spires that pop out of the cliff face, which can be used as a foreground element. The rocks also form a small shallow pool at the base of one of the rock formations and fills with water after rainstorms, which can also add a cool reflection to your image. The AT also runs right next to these rock formations, which could also be used as a leading line to the mountain ridges in the background (click here for more landscape composition techniques).
(Facing Southwest, 30mm, 1/2sec, F/16, ISO 100)
The outstanding view plus a short hike makes Little Stony Man a very popular hike, especially during peak season. The trail is moderately difficult, but since the trail switches back up the mountain, the trail steadily climbs to the outlook. Kids should be able to hike to the point with no problem, and dogs are allowed on this trail making it a fun adventure for the whole family. My six and three year olds hiked to the view point and back with no problem. Remember: if you are going to photograph the sunset, bring a flash light with you for the return trip. To return to your vehicle, follow the AT back down the mountain (north) to your vehicle. If you continue to follow the AT south, it will lead you to the top of Stony Man Mountain.
To learn more landscape photography tips click here.
To find more locations to Photograph in Shenandoah National Park click here.
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