The Shenandoah national park is one of the places on the Blue Ridge Mountains that has been known to attract very many people, especially when they are in Virginia. Enjoying the 200,000 acres of fantastic countryside experience assures you that your decision to spend some time there will not be in vain.
It is one place that accommodates all the needs of a person. If you are there for research purposes or recreational needs, all of them will be met entirely. It is, therefore, one of those places that you would want to come back again.
This article will just but give you a slight in-depth explanation of what to expect when you are planning a trip to this park. Get to know what should be on your list and also some of the things that you should expect when you are going there. This also includes the path to use when you are going to this park.
Where is it located, and how to get there?
The Shenandoah National Park is located 70 miles from the west of Washington DC (map link). All you will need to do is to follow the path from the Interstate 495 to I-66 west to the Front Royal. This could take you around 1 hour 20 minutes However, during the fall and spring, there could be some delays because of the many people who are going there too.
There are several entrances to the park that are aimed to allow people from several places. You could use the Front Royal via I-66 and Route 340, Thornton Gap via Route 211, Swift Run Gap via Route 33, or the Rockfish Gap via I-64 and Route 250.
If you are interested in its geographical location in case you want to arrive there via air, it is located 380 32’N 78021’W. However, you should know that maybe only helicopters could land there because of the lack of an official runway for some of these bigger airplanes.
Things to do there
1. Skyline Drive through Shenandoah national park
Within this park is a 105-mile drive called the Skyline Drive, which cuts across the whole park. It is aimed to lead you to some of the most iconic areas that the park could have. This is usually one of the main things that people come to enjoy when they come to this park.
Having an easy drive as you enjoy the panoramic scene and have fun with your friends and family is usually very therapeutical. The exciting thing is that you could even drive for hours without feeling like you are reaching the end.
There are 75 distinct views places that you can stop to have a look at the fantastic scenery that would have been laid out for you. In most of these places, you could get someplace to sit and enjoy the view before you continue with the drive. You should also know that the speed limit on this specific trail is 35 miles/hr.
2. Hiking trail
The long stretch that this train goes for assures you that you are in the best of places for a good hike. Its location in the mountains also gives it a significant boost. The park has around 500 miles of trail: Appalachian Trail, that you could make use as you try and get to some of the attraction centers in the park.
You should, however, have a guided hike if you want to be able to get the best out of your time in the park. Get to visit the Dickey Ridge center at Mile 4.6 or Harry f Byrd Sr. Center at Mile 51 which are at several points on the drive if you need any guidance.
Nearby hiking trails
- Old Rag Mountain Trail (Hard, 8.6 miles)
- Bearfence Mountain Trail (Moderate, 1.1 miles)
- Stony Man via Appalachian Trail (Easy, 1.5 miles)
- Hawksbill Gap Loop (Moderate, 2.6 miles)
3. Horseback riding
The fact that it is in the countryside of the US itself is a possibility that there will be horses. However, this facility is only available between April and November. You can come and enjoy a good horse riding experience either as a pro or a learner. It will always be on your to-do list if you are in Virginia.
You will receive guided hikes and also pony rides for children if they are less than 4 feet 10 inches tall. You could also learn how to break your horse if you have one and even where you can get a horse on sale. This is just but a required height for horse riding in this park for safety purposes.
Nearby horseback riding services
- Fort Valley Ranch, 299 S Fort Valley Rd, Fort Valley, VA 22652
- Shenandoah Trail Rides Inc, 751 Mountain Rd, Front Royal, VA 22630
- Jordan Hollow Stables, 657 Pine Grove Rd, Stanley, VA 22851
- Mountaintop Ranch, Elkton, VA 22827
4. Visit the waterfalls
The park is known to harbor an outstanding number of waterfalls because it is located in the mountains. The waterfalls are found at different mile distances and are over 10 of them. You will not be able to exhaust all of them in one day.
We have the Overall Run (Moderate, 6.5 miles) at mile 21.2, Whiteoak Canyon (Moderate, 9.5 miles) at mile 42.6, Cedar Run at mile 45.6, Rose River (Moderate, 3.5 miles) at mile 49.4, Dark Hollow Falls (Moderate, 1.4 miles) at mile 50.7, Doyle’s River Fall (Moderate, 3.4 miles) at mile 81.1 and so many others. You could get a guide at one of the service centers so that you can have a better insight on where you should go first.
The park has some beautiful scenery that creates perfect spots and sources for amazing photos. You will be able to access fantastic forests, waterfalls, and even animals, especially the more than 200 species of birds that are visible when you decided to go through the trails within the park that vehicles cannot go.
Many of the nature photographers in Washington are known to source many of the images from these places. It happens to be a place you get to see the true nature at its best with the foreign relation that the fauna has that are around there.
The park is quite big, and that also includes several fishing spots that people can engage in for fun. However, you will need to have a fishing license that will then expose you to the regulations placed in those places.
You can access what they call a Virginia Fishing License at Meadows Wayside at Mile 51.2. Without this, you could be arrested for illegal fishing, which could even lead to imprisonment. This is important because the water bodies here are landlocked, meaning they have a controlled number of fish. Overfishing will, therefore, lead to them depleting messing with the natural reserve in the park.
7. Water sports
There are so many rivers in the park. That is why fishing can also be done here. Therefore, some of the water sports can also be practiced in the rivers and streams that are in the park. You could swim, canoe, tubing, rafting, and many others at your own risk.
The fun part is that some several private bodies could offer you equipment and necessary training before you go out and get into the water. They are like the Downriver Canoe Co. or the Shenandoah River Outfitters. They are legal, and among the few organizations allows jurisdiction inside the park.
The trails are amazing and slightly but not entirely rugged, which then allows you to be in a position to cycle around. However, you should be aware that there are rules against bikes on the unpaved roads or the grassy areas for safety purposes. You will find yourself refreshed physically and also mentally.
You could opt to come with your bike or hire bikes in the park through some private agencies. This is possible mainly through the guided bike rides that are offered for safety purposes.
9. Attend some of the ranger programs
All over the world, there are so many ranger programs that are aimed to train young children some core values that go a long way in shaping up their future habits. Several junior programs usually ruin during the summer to allow the children to both have an excellent time camping and also acquire some useful skills.
During this program, you should, however, be on the lookout of animals like the black bear, grey fox, chipmunks, beavers, and river otters that are known to be quite irritating at times. Some of them may not be dangerous, but they could mess around with many of your things, especially at night.
10. Visit the Shenandoah Vineyards
We all love a nice glass of wine. Now, during your visit to the Shenandoah Valley, you should visit this old winery that has been there for years. The 26-acre vineyard is home to many wine selections that are currently drunk all over the world. (map link)
You could get to learn the winery process if you have never been there, buy a few bottles for yourself and even participate in a wine tasting occasions. This is just basically tasting several wine brands to gauge which one is the best.
11. Visit the Caverns
In this area, two notable caverns will amaze you. The Luray cavern, which is the biggest and the Shenandoah cavern (location), which is smaller but preferred because it is less crowded. In both of these, you will be able to enjoy iconic stone columns, mudflows, stalactites, stalagmites, and crystal-clear pools. You will get to enjoy the history behind it and also learn quite the right amount about rocks if you are interested in them.
12. Sleep in the Skyland Resort
The largest lodge in the park is also the most significant way to crown your stay there. Having 178 units, including cabins and suites, you are assured that you cannot miss out on a place to rest during the night. It is located at the highest point of Skyline Drive, which means itself it gives you a great scene during the mornings and evenings too.
You get fantastic deals for ranger programs, horse riding experiences, dining, and also conference facilities if you were coming with a group of people.
Airbnb Search: Recommended places to stay
This is one of the areas with thousands of open land and amazing ground cover that gives you a perfect place to hold camping trips and adventures. You could decide to choose a site for yourself or sign up with one of the many camping grounds that are assured of your getting a perfect camping place.
You could work with Mathews Arm, Big Meadows, Lewis Mountain, Loft Mountain, and Dundo Group Campgrounds. They are open between April to November because of the favorable weather conditions during this time.
However, they have strict rules that you should follow. The foods must be suspended from trees to prevent feeing of the animals that could come strolling around and a keen, ‘leave no trace’ policy where any rubbish or excrement should be buried. No campfires are also allowed in the camping grounds.
Campgrounds along Skyline Drive
- Big Meadows Campground (Skyline Dr, Stanley, VA 22851)
- Loft Mountain Campground (Crozet, VA 22932)
- Lewis Mountain Campground (Skyline Dr, Stanardsville, VA 22973)
- Mathews Arm Campground (Rileyville, VA 22650)
- Dundo Group Campground (Crozet, VA 22932)
14. Visit museums
Here you will be able to learn most of the history that is attached to the Shenandoah National Park. This goes back from when it was formed to slight explanations of how some of the iconic features came to develop like the caverns. It is also the go-to place if you are unable to have a hands-on experience of flora and fauna in the park. There is always a summary of the things that the park offers the people who tour there.
- Luray Valley Museum, 11 miles from Thornton Gap Entrance Station (map link)
- Virginia Museum of the Civil War, 26 miles from Thornton Gap Entrance Station (map link)
- Cooter’s Luray, 15 miles from Thornton Gap Entrance Station (map link)
- Virginia Beer Museum, 2 miles from Shenandoah National Park, Front Royal Entrance Station (map link)
The Shenandoah National Park is one place that has been known to attract very many people over the years. The fact that it is located in one of the amazing towns in the world, Virginia, only makes it holds more water when it comes to the placing that you should visit. Being in a position to enjoy the fantastic mountain climate and the attractions that go with it is something you should not ignore. The greatest thing about this park is the Skyline Drive that allows someone to enjoy 105 miles of clean, uninterrupted drives that have been known to be perfect for therapeutic needs. You will leave this place feeling so relaxed and refreshed. You get a new psych to take on life again. It is something you should not miss out on.