Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is a no path and leave a trail.Ralph Waldo Emerson
About the Park
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia stretches for 80 beautiful miles in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which bridges the northern and southern Appalachians. It includes nearly 500-miles of hiking trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Skyline Drive runs the park length and takes about three hours, offering many scenic viewpoints along the way. Autumn is a great time to visit to see the colorful fall foliage.
Check out the view from the park!
Live it up!
Best Things to do in the Park
- Take the fantastic 105-mile long Skyline Drive along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains
- Hike to the top of Bearfence Mountain and scramble over rocks to the top for great views
- Hike a section of the Appalachian Trail, which is world’s longest hiking trail and runs through 14 states
- Taste some Shenandoah Valley Wines from over two dozen local vineyards
- Visit the highest vertical drop waterfall, east of the Mississippi River, at Crabtree Falls
- Walk under Virginia’s immense Natural Bridge, a National Historic Landmark
We stayed at an RV park near Shenandoah National Park, which happened to be the weekend before Halloween. We had so much fun giving candy to all the scary creatures that visited our campsite that evening! It turns out this is a big weekend for RV fun. So many older RVers love going there, decorating their RV with lights, and helping share in the happy fun!
Size of Park
Shenandoah National Park contains 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
The name Shenandoah is derived from the Algonquian word that translates into ‘great plains’ or ‘spruce stream.’ The park got its name because of its cascading waterfalls, wetlands, fields of wildflowers, valleys, and rocky peaks.
Located near Washington, D.C., the park has an area of over 200,000 acres. Many animals, such as black bears, deer, and songbirds, have found a home in this region and play a role in preserving this habitat. Shenandoah National Park also includes part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, among the oldest mountains in the world.
Best Shenandoah Hikes
The Shenandoah national park has around 500 miles of hikes, including 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail. All these trails lead to scenic views of the Shenandoah Valley.
Upper Hawksbill Trail
Starting at the Upper Hawksbill parking area, Upper Hawksbill Trail is a 2 miles round-trip that takes you to Hawksbill Mountain. The trail is not difficult, and its gradual elevation makes it suitable for everyone.
Once you reach the final lookout, you will have an unblocked view of the entire region. As the highest point in the Shenandoah National Park hikes, Hawksbill Mountain offers expansive views of the surrounding valleys.
Rose River Loop Trail
With a length of 4 miles and an elevation of over 250 meters, the trail starts at Fishers Gap Overlook Car Park. After you begin your trek on this riverside track, you hop along different waterfalls before reaching a famous waterfall in the national park, the Rose River Falls. You can choose to take a swim in the plunge pool, or you can enjoy the views from a distance.
Stony Man Trail
Stony Man Trail is another effortless hike that is just 1.5 miles long. The trail has little elevation gain, so you get rewarded for doing the bare minimum. Starting at the Stony Man Parking Area, the path meets the Appalachian Trail and takes you straight to the Stony Man Viewpoint. The overlook is a rocky outcrop with a tiny rainwater pool that looks otherworldly up here.
Cedar Run Falls Trail
Cedar Run Falls Trail is almost 6 miles long and has an elevation of 685 meters. The trail is a bit more challenging and is meant for experienced hikers. There are natural water slides and cliff-jumping opportunities that avid hikers find hard to resist.
While trekking here, it becomes impossible to walk across without stopping as the route is dotted with plenty of natural pools and waterfalls. This is why many people allocate an entire day to this hike.
Whiteoak Canyon Trail
Whiteoak Canyon Trail offers a mildly challenging hike if you are looking for another long trail. This 9.5-mile-long trail has an elevation of over 700 meters. As soon as you begin your journey, you will walk along the riverside and cross many scenic spots until you reach a rocky ledge. Some people continue to the pool at the base of the Upper Falls.
Camping in Shenandoah National Park
Most of the park is open to backcountry camping; however, there are five designated campgrounds inside Shenandoah National Park; Big Meadows Campground, Mathews Arm Campground, Lewis Mountain Campground, Loft Mountain Campground, and Dundo Group Campground. All the campgrounds are open between early spring and late fall. The three most popular campgrounds in the park are listed below.
Big Meadows Campground
Big Meadows Campground provides access to many significant points in the park, which is why it is popular among campers. You can explore the Big Meadows and Dark Hollow Falls by camping here. The campground has more than 200 sites for both RVs and tents and includes a fire ring, a picnic table, toilets, and showers.
Loft Mountain Campground
If you want to experience the park’s wilderness, you should camp at Loft Mountain Campground. This is the largest campground in the park and has more than 200 sites that accommodate both tents and RVs. By camping here, you can enjoy spectacular views of two waterfalls that are located nearby. Amenities and essentials in the campground include both toilets and showers.
Mathews Arm Campground
Located in the park’s northern section, the campground has 166 tent or RV sites, including a fire ring and a picnic table. Elkwallow Wayside is located two miles from the campsites so you can access camping supplies and food service.
Camping options near the park
A few camping options near the park are more diverse and provide basic amenities. Two of the nearby campgrounds are Candy Hill Campground and Camp Roosevelt Recreation Area, both of which are located less than an hour away from the national park.
- Candy Hill Campground has 88 sites that can accommodate tents and big Rigs. Moreover, there is also laundry, Wi-Fi, and showers.
- Camp Roosevelt Recreation Area offers tent camping, RV parks, glamping, and cabins. You will also have access to potable water, picnic tables, and toilets.
Dark Hollow Falls
While the waterfall is stunning, the journey to get here takes work. Even though the trail is quite short, hikers still need proper hiking gear and water to get to the falls.
The 70 feet high waterfall becomes even more beautiful during spring as pink flowers cover the forest floor. Then, as autumn arrives and leaves turn yellow, the landscape exudes different beauty. This is also a favorite spot for photographers as the lighting here is fantastic for long-exposure photography.
Lewis Spring Falls
Lewis Spring Falls is one of the best waterfalls in Shenandoah. It is 81 feet high and the fourth tallest fall in the park. Getting to the viewpoint also means crossing various picnic spots so you won’t be exhausted as you can trek at your own pace.
As you explore the falls, you will discover beautiful flora and witness deer grazing. The trail to the falls is well-maintained.
Thorofare Mountain Overlook
Thorofare Mountain Overlook allows you to enjoy the mountain views from a unique perspective. The overlook is located near Skyland Resort, so you should add it to your itinerary if you are a guest.
If you time your trip right, you can catch the sunset views at the overlook, where the silhouettes of Hazel Mountain and Robertson Mountain look unreal with a yellow and orange backdrop.
The Blackrock Summit Viewpoint is situated on a rocky talus slope. From up here, you get to enjoy the beauty of the Massanutten Mountain and the Shenandoah Valley.
The hike to the summit is easy, so this self-guided trail is suitable for beginners as well as families. Once on the top, you will witness how remarkable the boulder field is. If you look closely, you can differentiate between the rocks’ different layers of quartzite patterns.
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