Shenandoah, Virginia, is truly a beautiful place. And Shenandoah National Park highlights this beauty in a vast array of stunning views, gently flowing streams, and fresh green forests.
The Shenandoah Mountains offer spectacular vistas against the blue sky above, providing a respite from the bustling cities of ordinary life. And the Shenandoah Valley below is a haven for all sorts of wildlife, making it a major destination for birdwatchers and nature buffs.
So how can you enjoy this paradise to the fullest? Read this guide to discover the best of what this dynamic park has to offer.
Shenandoah National Park Accessibility
While most of our national parks are located far out in the wilderness, Shenandoah is only 75 miles outside of Washington, D.C. That makes it easily accessible to nearly everyone along the Atlantic seaboard. You’ll find a lush sanctuary of 200,000 acres outside of some of the nation’s busiest cities.
Shenandoah National Park has Hiking for Everyone
Hiking is one of the main attractions of Shenandoah. The Virginia Mountains are just not to be missed. Explore them fully through 500 miles of hiking trails. Here you’ll encounter every level of difficulty and all the adventure you could possibly want.
Hit the Appalachian Trail
The Shenandoah National Park contains 105 miles of the famous Appalachian Trail. This icon of American achievement is free and open to the public year-round. Explore its wild beauty with abandon!
Discover Amazing Waterfalls
Hiking in Virginia means running into a vast quantity of waterfalls, many of which you can hike to. Make your way up the Big Meadows Trail to see Rose River Falls, a dazzling waterfall towering 67 feet up in the sky.
Make sure to climb Loft Mountain to immerse yourself in the beauty of Jones Run Falls. It’s one of the best hikes in Virginia. If you’re seeking out the peacefulness of nature, this is the waterfall for you.
Hiking Through It All
Hiking in Virginia provides you with a surefire way to get back to nature. The park website offers a detailed information page on all the hikes you can undertake. Make sure to consult the page before embarking on a journey.
You’ll find distances, levels of difficulty, and elevation information. And who knows? You just might discover the hike of a lifetime!
Shenandoah National Park has Activities for All Tastes
The park has a plethora of other activities to enjoy. Make sure you pick up a Shenandoah National Park map at one of the Visitor’s Centers.
Biking in the park is encouraged on Skyline Drive and all paved roads. Areas where you can and cannot bike are clearly marked with signs, so you won’t have any trouble figuring out where you’re allowed to go.
There are over 70 mountain streams located throughout the park. Trout are abundant in these mountain waters, so fishermen will have a ball. Make sure to check out the various rules and regulations on fishing, in order to have a fun and safe fishing expedition in the park.
Shenandoah National Park is a fun destination for experienced climbers and rookies alike. Here you’ll find all sorts of rock-climbing opportunities. In order to maximize your experience, pay attention to the climbing guidelines put into place by the park. Here you’ll find safety tips and rules.
Shenandoah features several events throughout the year for astronomy enthusiasts. You can sign up for a guided twilight hike from May through October. Or join one of the free presentations for visitors with an ambassador from NASA at one of two locations. Learn about the solar system, meteor craters, the life of stars, or even the basics of astrophotography.
If you plan your visit for August, you can participate in the annual Sky Festival. Enjoy constellation tours, telescope viewing, and hands-on activities for the kids.
Shenandoah, Virginia, is for Foodies
If you’re into the culinary arts, you’ll find things to do at the park. September offers the Apple Butter Festival where you can watch staff process the apples in copper kettles over open flames. You’ll also be able to enjoy apple-adorned dishes like pork with apple BBQ sauce, hot dogs with apple relish, and a selection of apple pastries from cobbler to turnovers to strudels.
The park also hosts several wine tastings throughout the year, featuring products from local farms and wineries. Or take a trip on the Skyland Wine-Whisky Shuttle and take a tour of local distilleries and wineries.
If you’ve had enough hiking for a while, check out the Skyline Drive. This scenic route takes you through 105 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and you can enjoy the spring scenery or take in the change color of the leaves in the fall. It takes about three hours to navigate the entire length, but it’s well worth it.
Note that the speed limit on Skyline Drive is only 35, which makes it safer for the animals that inhabit the park to pass from one area to another. You’ll also find 70 overlook points to stop for a photo op.
Special Events at Shenandoah National Park
Along with all the beautiful wildlife to discover on your own, you can also stop in for special events and classes. Learn about the native trees that inhabit the park or learn how to safely forage for mushrooms in the wild. You’ll also find it a popular spot for field trips and learning opportunities. Take advantage of self-guided and ranger-led programs for children and adults. They also have professional development programs that teachers from a variety of disciplines to enjoy.
Staying the Night (Or Week!) in Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park weather can be cruel in the winter. Because of that, camping and lodging are possible from early spring to late fall. During the season, you can choose to go tent-tastic or opt for full-on luxury.
National Park Lodging
You have options with Shenandoah National Park lodging. There are a few lodges to choose from, but check out the website for exact dates since they change from year to year.
- Big Meadows Lodge: This lodge is located in the heart of the surrounding national park. It’s open May to November, and reservations are required.
- Skyland: Open from March to November, this lodge offers everything from rustic cabins to luxurious rooms.
- Lewis Mountain Cabins: Open March to November, some of these lodges are pet-friendly. Go rustic or choose luxury.
- PATC Cabins: There are six cabins operated independently by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club available for rent in the park. Reserve yours quickly! These are rustic.
National Park Camping
Shenandoah National Park camping is not to be missed. There are a few campgrounds to choose from.
- Shenandoah Acres: Deep in the Shenandoah Valley, this site is a must-see. Enjoy the beach as you frolic near the water and explore the surrounding park.
- Big Meadows: Walk to many of the waterfalls from this campground and see the iconic Big Meadow. You’ll find it on Skyline Drive at mile 51.2. The fee is $20 per night.
- Lewis Mountain: The smallest and most intimate campsite, is located on Skyline Drive off mile 57.5. There is a $15 fee.
- Loft Mountain: Located on mile 79.5 of Skyline drive, this is the largest campground in the park. The fee is $15 per night.
- The Backcountry: Backcountry camping is allowed throughout the park. Make sure to read up on rules and regulations on the park’s backcountry camping page.
Don’t Miss Out on Shenandoah National Park
This park offers an incredible experience, allowing you to truly connect with nature in the heart of Virginia. Make sure you take advantage of every opportunity this park has to offer. Get started planning your visit today!
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