I visited Shenandoah National Park for the first time when I was a kid. My parents took my brother and I on a weekend trip to Virginia and we took the scenic route through Shenandoah to get there and I saw my first bear along the way.
The National Park is about 75 miles from Washington D.C in northern Virginia. It’s unique that it’s a narrow park that stretches for about 105 miles in length across the Blue Ridge Mountains with 69 scenic overlooks along the way. It also has about 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail that runs through it. Inside the park are are opportunities for hiking, camping, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, and picnicking.
When I moved to Florida in 2018, I drove down and made the 18 or so hours into a fun road trip. One of the first locations on my list to visit was Shenandoah National Park. I had a U.S. Park Pass so there was no admission fee. It was during June so pretty warm in the area, but the greenery of the grasses and trees were beautiful. I drove along Skyline drive for about 50 and enjoyed many of the scenic vistas before getting back on the highway about halfway through the park to continue my long drive south.
Then in 2020, I visited the park again. This time it was when I moved back to Pennsylvania and happened to also be during the pandemic. I knew this would be my only opportunity to really have a “road trip” this year outside of the state so I decided to take a few days off and make the most of it. One of the stops along the way was Shenandoah because I remembered two years prior how much I loved the views of the mountains and treelines. This time I booked a room overnight in one of the lodges in the park called Big Meadows Lodge. I was able to get a room right on the outdoor patio with the most incredible view and hiking nearby.
Although I only spent about 24 hours in Shenandoah, these are my top 3 recommendations for what to do in a day:
- Book an overnight at one of the lodges inside the park. I recommend big meadows for the views and nearby hiking but I’m sure all of them are great options.
- Find a hike (or two) that will suit your fitness level. I did the Lewis Falls trail which starts right by the hotel. It’s a 3 mile round trip trail and had a beautiful view near the top of a waterfall.
- Spend a few hours enjoying the views along the Skyline drive. Pack some food and enjoy one of the vistas as a picnic spot.
This is a beautiful park to visit no matter the season. Whether there to check out the wildlife, enjoy some time away with family, or go hiking, there’s something for everyone to do. Just check the weather and openings of the lodges and visitors centers ahead of time and you’ll be all set.