The Shenandoah National Park in Virginia is one of the most beautiful locations on the east coast to hike, photograph, camp and witness some of the remnants of the history that shaped this nation. Here at Sudir Raju’s blog we have mentioned a few of its trails and some of the locations that make the park so special, so today we decided to look deeper into it and give you some information to help you see why you must visit this great location and take advantage of everything it has to offer. The park runs along the Shenandoah River and it is limited to the east by the Virginia Piedmont.
The Shenandoah National Park covers an area of about 125.000 squared miles, and almost half of that is considered wilderness and is protected by the National Wilderness Preservation System. One of the most amazing features of the park is the Skyline Drive, a 105-mile road that runs along the Shenandoah National Park and through the mountain ridge. The Skyline Drive offers a lot of great views and a unique perspective of some of the most beautiful areas of the park. It is designated as a National Scenic Byway and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
There are more than 500 miles of hiking trails to be explored at the Shenandoah National Park and that includes many waterfalls, mountains, rock formations, lakes and many more wonderful sights to see.
Camping at the park is allowed and it requires a permit at some of the more secluded areas. Bringing your pets along is also permitted as long as they are kept on a leash and some of the trails are actually perfect to bring your furry family members along with you. Lodging at the park is also available at many of the different accommodations the place offers for you and your family.
One of the best places to get started can be found by visiting the Stony Man Mountain. This short hike is less than 2 miles there and back and while the elevation gain is only that of a few hundred feet, the view is breathtaking. Here you can gaze upon the entire valley and the town of Luray, a great way to start your adventure.
Speaking of Luray, just outside of the park you can visit the town and experience one of the most wonderful sights around the area: the underground Luray Caverns. The place is filled with stalactite and they even have something called the Great Stalacpipe Organ, a console that makes its sounds by striking the formations inside the cave, it is truly something to experience.
Hawksbill Mountain is not just the highest point inside the Shenandoah National Park but also in all of Madison and Page County. At 4,050 feet the climb is quite a hike, but there is also another easier option called Lower Hawksbills that offers an easier climb but equally rewarding views. For those interested in challenging themselves, the route follows the Appalachian Trail for a while before hitting the mountain’s summit.
Old Rag Mountain is another iconic hike at Shenandoah and there are a couple of options for those who want to give it a try. There is a 7.1-mile hike that reaches the summit by going around and coming back by a different path, or there straight approach that can take you there and back walking about 5 and a half miles. The longer route is an excellent choice, but it does require more skill and endurance since you have to scramble through some rocks for just over a mile on your way there. There is also another trail you can find along the Skyline Drive that can take you straight to the top as well.
The Lewis Falls trail is another interesting option if you are more family inclined or are accompanied by people who are not experts at this and want to take it easy. The 3.3-mile circuit is an easy hike and leads you to an observation point where you can check out the beautiful 81-feet tall waterfall.
Out of the 500 miles of trails inside the Shenandoah National Park, 101 miles are part of the Appalachian Trail. The trail does run along the length of the park and more than 3 million people visit it every year. Just because this is the Appalachian it doesn’t mean that only the most experienced hikers can do it. There are in fact many stretches that can be reached by families and people of all ages and abilities will be able to enjoy this beautiful experience. The Park is opened all year round with the obvious seasonal closings. Information can be found at their website about entrance fees, parking, lodging, food options and many more surprises that Shenandoah National Park has in storage for you.