Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park lies astride a beautiful section of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which form the eastern rampart of the Appalachian Mountains between Pennsylvania and Georgia. The Shenandoah River flows through the valley to the west, with Massanutten Mountain, 40 miles long, standing between the river's north and south forks. The rolling Piedmont country lies to the east of the park. Skyline Drive, a 105-mile road that winds along the crest of the mountains through the length of the park, provides vistas of the spectacular landscape to east and west.
The park holds more than 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Trails may follow a ridge crest, or they may lead to high places with panoramic views or to waterfalls in deep canyons. Many animals, including deer, black bears, and wild turkeys, flourish among the rich growth of an oak-hickory forest. In season, bushes and wildflowers bloom along the Drive and trails and fill the open spaces. Apple trees, stone foundations and cemeteries are reminders of the families who once called this place home. Shenandoah National Park has many stories waiting to be told, and a world of beauty that can renew and bring peace to the spirit.
Shenandoah National Park is an excellent location to birdwatch. More than 200 species of resident and transient birds are known to visit the park. Approximately half of these species breed here, including 18 species of warblers. Roughly 30 of the species--including tufted titmice, red-tailed hawks, Carolina chickadees, wild turkeys and barred owls--are year-round residents. Due to the park's location along the crest of the Blue Ridge and the extent of the forested habitat, Shenandoah provides essential habitat for neotropical migratory birds, both for nesting and as a travel corridor. Certain areas, such as Big Meadows, support species that can be found nowhere else in the park.
Bicycling is permitted along Skyline Drive and on paved areas in the park. Bicycling (road and mountain bikes) is not permitted on trails, unpaved roads or in grassy areas.* Because Skyline Drive is a two-lane road with steep hills and numerous blind curves, bicyclers are urged to use extreme caution.
*Bicycling from Skyline Drive is permitted on Rapidan Fire Road for approximately one mile. At the end of this mile, there is a sign indicating no bicycles are permitted beyond that point.
The Skyline Drive runs 105 miles north and south along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park and is the only public road through the park. You can enter Shenandoah at four places: Front Royal near Rt. 66 and 340, Thornton Gap at Rt. 211, Swift Run Gap at Rt. 33, and Rockfish Gap at Rt. 64 and Rt. 250 (also the northern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway). It takes about three hours to travel the entire length of the park on a clear day.
As you travel along Skyline Drive you will notice mileposts on the west side (right side if you are traveling south) of the road. These posts help you find your way through the park and help you locate areas of interest. The mileposts begin with 0.0 at Front Royal at the northern end of the park and continue to 105 at Rockfish Gap at the southern end of the park. The largest developed area, Big Meadows, is near the center of the park, at milepost 51. All park maps and information use these mileposts as a reference.
There are four campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park.
Mathews Arm (mile 22.1) Big Meadows (mile 51.2) Lewis Mountain (mile 57.5) Loft Mountain (mile 79.5)
Backcountry camping is also available.
The mountain streams of Shenandoah National Park are inhabited by a variety of species of fish. All streams are open for catch-and-release recreational fishing, approximately 25 of which are open for harvest. The fishing season is year-round for both stream classifications. Anglers must use a single-hooked, artificial lure (with or without barbs). The minimum size limit for trout is nine inches and the maximum creel limit is six fish. Size and creel limits for other game fish species follow Virginia regulations. A Virginia fishing license is required for anyone 16 and older. A five-day nonresident license may be purchased at Big Meadows Wayside or from local sporting goods stores. Ethical fishing techniques are critical to sustaining the park's eastern brook trout populations. For more detailed information, including a list of streams open for harvest, consult the updated Recreational Fishing brochure available at entrance stations, visitor centers, campgrounds and the park website. Fishing guides or paid instructors must obtain an Incidental Business Permit from the park superintendent before entering the park.
Shenandoah National Park has over 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Some trails lead to a waterfall or viewpoint; others penetrate deep into the forest and wilderness.
Shenandoah National Park offers over 180 miles of trails open to horse use. Some of these trails are relatively smooth, wide, gravel paths, while others are steep, narrow, rocky mountain trails that will challenge the experienced horse and rider.
Get back to nature and take advantage of one of Shenandoah's picnic areas, located at Dickey Ridge (Mile 4.6), Elkwallow (Mile 24.1), Pinnacles (Mile 36.7), Big Meadows (Mile 51.2), Lewis Mountain (Mile 57.5), South River (Mile 62.8) and Dundo (Mile 83.7). Each picnic area features tables, fireplaces, drinking fountains and restrooms. Note: The picnic area at Dundo has vault toilets only.
Swimming is permitted in all the streams in Shenandoah. Swim at your own risk, but be sure to wear old tennis shoes or water shoes, as the rocks underwater can be sharp and slippery.
There is a great variety of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish in the park. The opossum, groundhog, gray fox, and eastern cottontail are more commonly seen mammals in the park. Other species, including the eastern timber wolf, the eastern cougar, the white-tailed deer, turkey, black bear and bobcats are seen less frequently.
Winter snowfall sometimes makes cross-country skiing and snowshoeing possible on certain hiking trails or fire roads. Skiers and snowshoers must bring their own gear. Winter in Shenandoah is unpredictable. Be prepared for quick changes in the weather. Wear warm, layered clothing. Plan ahead so you don't have to rely on routine ranger patrols (no facilities are open in winter). Enter the park with a full tank of gas, first aid kit, snacks, water and maps. Always share the details of your trip with a friend or family member so that help can be summoned if you don't return as scheduled. For current weather and road conditions, call (540) 999-3500, Option 1. Note: All services and facilities are closed from late November to early April. Portions of Skyline Drive are periodically closed when there is inclement weather and at night during deer hunting season.
Spring and fall are generally comfortable with precipitation possible.
Summers can be hot and humid with average temperatures in the high 80s and with sudden thunderstorms possible. July and August are the hottest months.
Winters can be cold with average temperatures in the 40s with variable precipitation.
The Shenandoah National Park Association (SNPA) supports the interpretive and educational activities of Shenandoah National Park. The support comes from the sales of books, maps, videos, and other items about Shenandoah National Park and the National Park Service. These sales items help park visitors in planning and enjoying their experience in this great national park.(540) 999-3582
DNC provides lodging, food service, camping and grocery supplies, laundry, shower facilities, horseback rides and gasoline to visitors at Shenandoah National Park. DNC is a global leader in hospitality and food service that is grounded in a family ownership. Under the leadership of Jeremy Jacobs and his three sons, DNC has become one of the most admired family-owned hospitality management and food service companies. With more than 55,000 associates, it's one of the largest privately owned companies.(877) 247-9261
Shenandoah National Park is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia just west of Washington, D.C. and stretches 105 miles from its northern entrance at Front Royal to its southern entrance near Waynesboro. There are four entrances into Shenandoah National Park and numerous gateway communities that offer services.
NOTE: Using GPS and internet-based mapping services like Google Maps and MapQuest can be tricky. There are numerous state roads that enter the park but are gated at the boundary. These are service roads and the public cannot enter the park via these routes, even though your GPS unit or a map service may direct you to use them. You must enter the park via one of the four entrances. Consult a map to determine which of the four entrances best suits your plans.
The park's four entrances are located at: Front Royal (northern end of park), accessible via I-66 and Route 340; Thornton Gap, accessible via Route 211; Swift Run Gap, accessible via Route 33; and Rockfish Gap (southern end of park), accessible via I-64 and Route 250. (Rockfish Gap is also the northern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway).
From Washington, D.C. Metro Area To North Entrance - Travel west on Interstate 66 to Front Royal, Virginia (62 miles). Take exit onto Route 340 South and follow signs for Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive. To Thornton Gap Entrance - Travel west on Interstate 66 to exit 43A (32 miles). Take US Highway 29 South to Warrenton, Virginia (11 miles). Take US Highway 211 West to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive (28 miles).
From Richmond, Virginia Area To South Entrance - Travel west on Interstate 64 to exit 99 (87 miles) and follow signs to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive. To Swift Run Gap Entrance - Travel west on Interstate 64 to Charlottesville, Virginia (65 miles). Take exit to US Highway 29 North (14 miles). Turn left onto US Highway 33 West and follow 14 miles to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive.
From Pittsburgh, Pennsylvannia Area To North Entrance - Travel east on Interstate 76 to exit 161 (105 miles). Take Interstate 70 East to US Highway 522 South (25 miles). Follow 522 to VA-37 South (24 miles) to Interstate 81 South (7 miles). Follow I-81 South 9.5 miles to Interstate 66 East. Take I-66 to Front Royal, Virginia (7 miles). Follow signs to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive.
The closest major airports are:
Washington Dulles International (IAD): 56 miles west to Front Royal Reagan National (DCA): 70 miles west to Front Royal Shenandoah Valley Regional (SHD): 27 miles east to Swift Run Gap Charlottesville-Albemarle (CHO): 31 miles west to Rockfish Gap
There are no bus, taxi, or shuttle services through the park.