The Rolling Hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains await
Mountaintops have always beckoned humans. To stand at the top – to see as far as the eye allows, to take in the vastness of our world – is to be awed and humbled and inspired all at once. -The Shenandoah NP Brochure
BRIEF INTRO AND FYI'S
This calm, less trafficked National Park has a little something for everyone. To put it in perspective, SNP gets about 1 million visitors a year, while it’s sister to the SW, Great Smokey Mountains NP, gets about 14 million. If you’re looking to hike, you’ll find over 500 miles of trails. If you prefer a scenic drive with a ton over overlook spots, you can follow Skyline Drive for 105 miles through the entire park.
There was some debate in our group on “mountains” versus “rolling hills.” While the scenery here may not compare to my beloved Rocky Mountains, it’s still beautiful and worth the trip. Especially since Shenandoah comes with the added bonus of being surrounded by wineries.
There are 2 lodges as well as some cabin rentals inside the park. They are located near the middle of the park. The lodges offer dining as well as small convenience & gift stores. You can find lodging, restaurants, grocery, etc., in the nearby town of Luray.
There are 2 visitor centers. Harry F. Byrd,Sr. is in the Big Meadows area close to the lodging, and Dickey Ridge is close to the Northern entrance.
This area is known for it’s high concentration of black bears. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see one, but if you do – PLEASE don’t be the person who tries to approach it! (Or any wildlife, in any park, ever).
Hiking In Shenandoah National Park
The park boasts 500 miles of hiking trails and has something for all levels. There is a section of the Appalachian Trail that runs through the here, so you may pass some of these intense through hikers during your day trip. You can find all kinds of options whether you’re looking to view wildlife, see a waterfall, or get to one of the many scenic overlooks. Hiking Hawksbill Loop will put you at the highest elevation point in the park. Old Rag offers a bit more distance and challenge with a great payoff. Stony Man is the quickest bang-for-your-buck with a relatively easy hike and a beautiful view. The other honorable mention hikes that didn’t make it in to our itinerary were Bearfence Mountain Trail, Dark Hollow Falls, and South River Falls.
This is a 9.5 mile loop. Elevation gain is 2,683ft. It is rated as “hard” and requires the ability to scramble up, over, and through large boulders. The view at the top is breathtaking (and super windy!)
This hike now requires a day use ticket.
Highest elevation point in the park. This is a 2.7 mile loop. The 748 ft. of elevation gain makes it much easier than Old Rag, with a great overlook view.
The entire loop is 3.3 miles, with 807 ft. of elevation gain. If you just want to get to the summit, it’s a quick 1.5 m with 318 ft. of elevation. If you want to feel on top of the world with minimal effort, this is your best bet. But we’d advise taking the whole loop – it’s worth it!
Lets Talk About the (2nd) Best Part of Shenandoah Valley
The state of Virginia is home to over 300 wineries. You can find 30(ish) of them close to the National Park. Sadly we only had time for 2 of the 25 that were on my list – you can view the entire list on the attached map.
You can also check out this super amazing resource: The Blue Ridge Whiskey Wine Loop.