Just 75 miles from the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park feels a world away. With beautiful chestnut and red oak forests, abundant wildlife and panoramic views, this park exemplifies the best of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
While anytime of year is gorgeous in the park, fall is especially sought after thanks to the glowing autumn colors and cooler weather.
Get familiar with Skyline Drive, the 105-mile road that serves as the only public access to the park. You can enter the park at the Front Royal Entrance, the Thornton Gap Entrance, the Swift Run Gap Entrance or the Rockfish Gap Entrance and access Skyline Drive. Keep your eye out for mileposts as this is how your park map will identify points of interest such as visitor centers, viewpoints and hiking trails.
It takes three hours to drive across Shenandoah and along the way you’ll pass through the park’s three districts: North, Central and South. When planning your activities and lodging, it’s helpful to know which district your destinations are in as the park is quite large.
Hiking in Shenandoah
Shenandoah has more than 500 miles of hiking trails, including a large portion of the famous Appalachian Trail. There are hiking options for everyone, including those visiting with furry friends. Shenandoah is one of the few national parks that allows dogs on most trails.
If you’re looking for an easy hike, try the Fox Hollow Loop in the North District. The 1.2-mile trail features a cemetery in a stunning forest. For a more moderate hike, head to the Central District to the Rose River Loop to experience the 67-foot cascade of Rose River Falls. It’s 4 miles roundtrip. If you’re an experienced hiker and ready to tackle Shenandoah’s hardest and most dangerous hike, head to Old Rag in the Central District. This 9-mile hike is one of the park’s most popular and offers unparalleled 360-degree views of the surrounding area. This hike involves lots of scrambling over large boulders before reaching the summit.
History buffs shouldn’t miss Rapidan Camp, the summer home of President Herbert Hoover. The home has been historically refurnished and now serves as a museum documenting Hoover’s presidency. For a more in-depth experience, book a ranger-led tour on recreation.gov.
Shenandoah offers several lodging options from resorts to cabins to camping. Several options are available in the park for dining as well from grab ‘n go fare to the Big Meadow Lodge’s rustic dining room and more modern taproom.
As you drive Skyline Drive, whether as a scenic cruise or to access hiking trails and points of interest, be sure to stop off at a few of the almost 70 overlooks that offer gorgeous views of the surrounding wilderness. Keep your eyes peeled for the park’s abundant wildlife from white tailed deer to black bears to wild turkeys.
Learn more about Shenandoah National Park at www.nps.gov/shen/.
Purchase the detailed National Geographic Shenandoah National Park Map and Day Hikes Pack at Amazon.com to help you get around.
At the southern end of the park, meet up with the Blue Ridge Parkway, deemed “America’s Favorite Drive” for more stunning national park site experiences. If you need a detailed map of the Blue Ridge Parkway, purchase the National Geographic Blue Ridge Parkway Destination Map at REI.com.
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