5 Notes on Visiting Shenandoah National Park

Sunset in Shenandoah National Park

As part of a Eastern National Parks road trip, I got to visit Shenandoah National Park in northern Virginia. Here are a few notes on visiting for a few days.

A Hiker’s Park

Shenandoah National Park is all about hiking, and more hiking. There’s some fishing and lots of opportunities to explore wildlife. But when it comes to the main attraction – it’s all hiking. Now, the hiking is some of the best in the world, even though no trail will go over ~4000 feet in elevation. The whole Park has incredible topographical isolation, so there are views all around. There’s also amazing diversity among the trails. There are trails for kids and hard core backpackers. You can also leave the Park on the Appalachian Trail and head to Maine or Georgia.

Preserves an Era in National Park Development

Shenandoah was developed during the most iconic era of the National Parks (i.e. the Park Rustic era). There’s a surprising amount of lodging and in-park amenities, but they are all historic landmarks and blended into the landscape. The upside is that there are actual cabins and dining areas. The downside is that they are definitely of-the-1930s – so you’ve got to lean into the history and experience.

Highly Accessible To Cars & Kids

Skyline Drive runs the entire spine of the Shenandoah Ridge. There are frequent pullouts, trailheads and stops. In some ways, the road takes away from the Park, but after 100 years of “settling into” the landscape, the Drive is part of the landscape. And it does make the Park accessible to everyone, especially kids in ways that other National Parks are not.

Surprisingly Large for an Eastern Park

The Park runs on a narrow spine of the Appalachians. It’s not wide at all – you can see human infrastructure from basically every overlook. However, the Park is ~100 miles long…which is a very long ways. It’s surprisingly large once you start picking out trailheads and attractions to see.

Pairs With Acadia & Smoky Mountains

The Park preserves the middle section of the Appalachians while Acadia preserves a portion of the northern end and the Smoky Mountains preserves a portion of the Southern Appalachians. It’s fascinating to see how much of the landscape is the same, but still very different from North to South. Also – all of the Parks are of the same era, so they all sort of “go together” in a theme.

5 Notes on Visiting Shenandoah National Park 1
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