Park Guide: Shenandoah National Park

Park Guide: Shenandoah National Park

In this post, we will introduce you to Shenandoah National Park and all that it offers so you can plan the perfect trip.

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For the most part, Northern Virginia is a crowded region, given its close proximity to Washington D.C. But just an hour and a half away from the nation’s capital is a land of idyllic meadows, breathtaking mountain vistas, and quiet tranquillity.

Shenandoah National Park offers you over 200,000 acres of beautiful parkland to enjoy in the Blue Ridge Mountains. While you are here, you will truly feel you have escaped from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

In this post, we will introduce you to Shenandoah National Park and all that it offers so you can plan the perfect trip.

Shenandoah National Park: Things to See and Do

Where should you get started in exploring this beautiful park? Here are a few key highlights to add to your bucket list:

  • Skyline Drive: You literally can’t miss Skyline Drive, since it is the main road that takes you through the park. This road is named well, since it offers you breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge mountains, making it a destination unto itself. There are many spots along the drive where you can pull over to take photos or simply marvel at the splendor of it all.
  • Old Rag: This is a mountain that you can hike to the summit of for more impressive views. It is best to do the hike during the off-season or on a weekday to avoid the crowds. You should also be aware that the hike requires a lot of endurance (as well as agility when you get to the part near the top that involves traversing large rocks), so prepare accordingly.
  • Big Meadows: Don’t want to do such a vertical hike? Consider exploring Big Meadows instead. As you hike the meadow, you will be able to see different plants and animals than you do in the wooded parts of the park, offering a unique experience. Big Meadows may seem like a less dramatic location than Old Rag, but it is guaranteed to be just as memorable.
  • Waterfalls: There are many stunning waterfalls in Shenandoah. A few you might want to hike to include Overall Run, Whiteoak Canyon, Cedar Run, Rose River, Dark Hollow Falls, Lewis Falls, South River Falls, Doyles River Falls and Jones Run Falls.

Sometimes Skyline Drive is foggy. When that happens, you cannot see the views of the mountains. But actually, those foggy days hold their own special magic; looking out into the mysterious white mist that surrounds you, you will feel like you are on the verge of entering another world.

Here are some of the activities you can do while you are visiting Shenandoah National Park:

  • Look for wildlife such as bears, skunks, bats, bobcats, moles, voles, shrews, squirrels, deer, snakes, turtles and more.
  • Birdwatchers can spot Carolina chickadees, red-tailed hawks, wild turkeys and others.
  • Check out an exhibit or participate in a ranger program.
  • Go on a bicycle ride or horseback ride.
  • Stargaze without the light pollution you get in most parts of northern VA.
  • Try your luck fishing.

Where to Stay in Shenandoah National Park

One nice thing about visiting Shenandoah National Park is that there are a ton of options for where you can stay.

If you want to camp, there are five different campgrounds:

  • Matthews Arm Campground
  • Big Meadows Campground
  • Lewis Mountain Campground
  • Loft Mountain Campground
  • Dundo Group Campground

Additionally, if you are tent camping (not RV camping), you are allowed to do backcountry camping as well.

We recommend you set up a pop-up canopy tent in addition to your regular tent. You are probably going to be doing a lot of hiking in the park, which means you are going to want a nice shady spot where you can kick back and relax afterwards while still enjoying the outdoors.

In addition to camping, you can stay at the historic Massanutten Lodge at Skyland, which has a history going back all the way to the end of the 19th century!

Even if you do not stay in the lodge, we do suggest you drop by Skyland anyway. You can enjoy a delicious meal in the dining room there, hang out in the tap room, or listen to a talk at the ampitheater. This is also where you can go on a horseback ride with a guide.

Frequently Asked Questions About Visiting Shenandoah National Park

To wrap up this post, let’s answer a few frequently asked questions about visiting Shenandoah.

Q: What is the best time to visit Shenandoah National Park?

A: We suggest visiting in either fall or spring. In fall, you get to enjoy the autumn leaves. Spring is a good season for avoiding crowds as well as summer heat.

Q: How long does it take to drive through Shenandoah National Park?

A: You can drive from one end of the park to the other in about 3 hours.

Q: How many days do you need in Shenandoah National Park?

A: At a minimum, we suggest you spend at least 2-3 days and nights in Shenandoah. That said, the real answer is, “as much time as you can get!” There is a ton to see and do in Shenandoah. You will always wish you could spend more time in this wonderful park.

Q: How likely is it to see a bear in Shenandoah National Park?

A: It really is impossible to say whether you will see a bear in Shenandoah or not. Some locations bears reportedly frequent include Rose River Falls, Trayfoot Mountain and Bearfence Mountain. Dusk and dawn are the ideal times of day to spot bears and other wildlife.

Have Fun Exploring Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is the idyllic mountain getaway that you will never forget. Whether you are admiring the views from Skyline Drive, hiking to the top of Old Rag, exploring Big Meadows, or doing any number of other activities in the park, you will be experiencing the best the Blue Ridge Mountains have to offer.

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