"A Thin slice of country" Top 5 Page for this destination Shenandoah National Park by chewy3326

Shenandoah National Park Travel Guide: 163 reviews and 534 photos

Heart of the Blue Ridge

Few things are like Virginia in the fall- and few Virginia things are like Shenandoah National Park in the fall. Despite its modest size and its lack of sizable wilderness, Shenandoah is one of my favorite American national parks- not only is it my "home" park (I live a half hour away), but every October it puts on a spectacular show of color that can only be described as breathtaking. The park offers incredible scenery on its many hikes; visitors who choose to leave Skyline Drive to hike through the forest to waterfalls and rocky mountaintops won't be disappointed.

I have prepared what I hope you will find to be a comprehensive page on the park, Skyline Drive, and the park's better-known (and a few less well-known) hikes. If there are any Shenandoah hikes that you'd like to know about, tell me and I'll go hike it!

In conjunction with this page, I have begun a standalone blog about Shenandoah.

To make things more convenient for you when you're traveling in the park itself, I've developed a smartphone app for hikes around Charlottesville.

Shenandoah National Park is a thin and long park that stretches from Waynesboro on I-64 to Front Royal on I-66. 100-mile Skyline Drive runs the length of the park, and the park also contains about 105 miles of the Appalachian Trail. The park is divided into three sections: the north, central, and south sections.

Shenanodoah National Park was established during the Great Depression of the 1930's. The Blue Ridge Mountains were originally inhabited, but the state of Virginia helped to relocate and resettle those who lived in the mountains and reforested the land, which is gradually returning to its natural state. Since Congress refused to appropriate funds to purchasing land for the park, the state of Virginia ended bearing the costs and donated the land to the US Government.

Problems with the park? There are tons- for one, the park isn't terribly wild, as it's bounded on one side by the farms of the Piedmont and on the other by the towns in Shenandoah Valley. There are also tons of visitors- on fall weekends, you can expect traffic jams on Skyline Drive! There's also a major smog problem during the summer, when visibility is often very reduced.

To compare the smog in the Blue Ridge at different times, look at this photo from fall....

... and then this one from summer. The sky is probably clearest during winter and fall; often, if you're driving US 29 between Culpeper and Charlottesville, the Blue Ridge Mountains will be visible during those times.

Autumn is generally considered the best season to visit Shenandoah. Fall foliage is spectacular and skies are clear. In winter, trees in the park are bare and beautiful in a different way, with good views through the forest; though snow does beautify the scene. However, after heavy snowfall, Skyline Drive is usually closed (the park receives about 40 inches of snow a year in higher elevations).

A highlight of the park is Old Rag Mountain, a rocky peak that stands separate from the crest of the Blue Ridge that offers an incredible rock scramble and some of the most jaw-dropping views in the state. It is one of my favorite hikes in any national park; if you ever visit the park, consider that hike!

There are some inconsistencies between my oldest tips (written 2004-2006) and my newer tips (written 2011-2012); my views on many things about the park have changed. In some cases, I've updated those things, but I've overlooked plenty of other mistakes; I'd take the older tips with a grain of salt until I get around to fixing them.

  • Last visit to Shenandoah National Park: Oct 2011
  • Intro Updated Jun 5, 2013
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Reviews (55)

Comments (7)

  • starship's Profile Photo
    Sep 19, 2007 at 11:54 AM

    Nice page!! It brings back great memories of visiting Shenandoah Nat'l Park when I turned 12 & went on my first camping trip at Sherando Lake, AND it was the first time away from home without my parents!

  • mtncorg's Profile Photo
    Sep 7, 2006 at 9:02 AM

    Nice look at your 'home' Park. Hopefully they aren't star gazing in the summer ;-]

  • lou31's Profile Photo
    May 29, 2006 at 5:03 PM

    Enjoyed this page. I like the idea of star gazing in the meadow. Great pics!

  • karenincalifornia's Profile Photo
    Feb 23, 2006 at 7:06 PM

    Thanks for you comments on my Lassen National Park page. I've never been to Shenandoah, but would love to visit it sometime! It looks beautiful!

  • acemj's Profile Photo
    Feb 20, 2006 at 5:52 PM

    Great views from skyline drive. I'm sure the star-gazing is great too.

  • goingsolo's Profile Photo
    Feb 8, 2006 at 4:55 PM

    I was never crazy about the eastern US parks until I visited Smoky. This one looks like a great stop as well. The Smokies are so spectacular that they're worth the bad weather. Another great page. Can't wait to read more!

  • evaanna's Profile Photo
    Jan 31, 2006 at 1:21 AM

    Like the wilderness of the area. Star-gazing programmes are a great idea. We don't even see stars in Warsaw for all the street lights.

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chewy3326

“Climb the Mountains and get their good tidings -John Muir”

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