Almost 40% of the park has been designated as wilderness areas, which means that it is closed to any sort of development: that includes hiking trails, driving trails, and campsites. The highest peak in the park is Hawksbill Mountain, which reaches a height of 4,051 feet above sea level.
The park was established in 1935, and encompasses 199,100 acres. Roughly, 1,200,000 tourists visit the park per year. The 105-mile scenic driving trail, Skyline Drive, is a prominent and popular feature of the park, especially in the fall when the leaves are changing color.
Many tourists visit the park for a variety of reasons, from the casual visitor who takes a drive along Skyline Drive, to the hikers and backpackers who delve into the forest and peaks of the park, away from the rest of humanity for a restorative escape into nature. Birdwatching is popular in the park, as it is a stopover for many birds during the spring and fall migrations.
Surrounded by the majestic mountains of Virginia, the beautiful Shenandoah Valley offers a wide variety of outdoor and educational activities. The Shenandoah National Park contains spectacular waterfalls fed by the many mountain streams that traverse the park. Besides providing great natural photography opportunities, the park's mountain streams offer visitors the ideal setting for fishing and swimming. Those who wish to fish the streams should check state and local regulations regarding harvest locations, fish size, and the licensing needed to participate in this activity at Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.
A unique activity offered to the park's more daring visitors is hang gliding. Visitors may take advantage of the mountains and high altitude of the Shenandoah National Park to launch hang gliders in designated areas. The sport is not for everyone. Only gliders who have reached a documented experience level and have obtained a special permit are allowed to hang glide in the park.
Families visiting the Shenandoah National Park may choose to view the wonders of nature by bike and horseback. Cyclists are allowed to share the paved roads with other vehicles in order to enjoy this great way of exploring the area. Horses may be rented and taken on trail tours guided by staff members of local stables. The stables even have ponies available for small children to ride, which makes this activity truly fun for the entire family.
The area surrounding Shenandoah National Park is also rich in natural beauty as well as cultural and educational activities. The Natural Bridge, which is over twenty stories in height and composed of limestone rock, has formed naturally over centuries. Nearby underground caverns provide additional hidden places to explore. A visit to the Monacan Native American Village located on the Natural Bridge property lets guests peer into the past society of the early Americans who lived in the area. Guides dressed in the native attire take visitors on a tour of the village while presenting the daily activities of the Native Americans of that day.
Many of the most notable Civil War battles were fought in Virginia so it is only natural that the area has become home to some premier Civil War historic sites and museums. The Virginia Museum of the Civil War, which is located within the New Market Battlefield State Park, is one such museum. The museum exhibits cover a wide range of Civil War artifacts, but the museum's primary focus is on the Civil War battles fought in Virginia. Those who visit during the spring may be able to catch a showing of the award winning, annual New Market Battle Re-enactment.
Getting to the Park
Driving to Shenandoah National Park can be challenging because of the park's isolated location and rough terrain within the Blue Ridge Mountains in the state of Virginia. The national park stretches for more than 100 miles, and driving in your own vehicle is the only way of navigating the area because public transportation is out of the question. The biggest challenge of driving to Shenandoah National Park is that a GPS navigation system may not necessarily take drivers to roadways that lead to the park's entrances. What's more frustrating is that most of the parts of the national park don't have a physical address so you must input specific coordinates into your GPS system. The National Park Service emphasizes these warnings and driving directions.
The northern part of Shenandoah National Park is roughly located near the small town of Front Royal, Virginia. Front Royal can be reached by taking Interstate 66, which is an 80 mile highway that connects to Washington D.C. and Arlington, Virginia. From Front Royal, drivers must use Route 340 to get into the northern entrance of Shenandoah National Park. The Thornton Gap Entrance to Shenandoah National Park is accessible through U.S. Route 211 near the small community of Luray, Va. The Swift Run Gap entrance can be reached by taking U.S. Route 33 through Stanardsville, Virginia. Located along U.S. Route 250, the Rockfish Gap provides entrance to the southern part of Shenandoah National Park.
Interstate 81 runs several miles west of Shenandoah National Park. This 855 mile long highway goes through New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee. No matter where you are driving from, you must remember that Shenandoah National Park is only accessible through the four major entrances. Drivers can orient themselves by heading towards Harrisonbourg, Virginia, the largest city near Shenandoah National Park.
Anyone who is fortunate enough to take a flight in a small private airplane can get land at the Front-Royal Warren County Airport, the closest general aviation airport near Shenandoah National Park. Located less than 30 miles from Shenandoah National Park, The Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport is the nearest airport offering commercial flights. The Washington Dulles International Airport is the largest airport near the Shenandoah National Park area. Dulles Airport is served by more than 20 airlines and offers flights to dozens of domestic and international destinations. Taxis and private charter services have to be used between the airports and Shenandoah National Park.
While you are visiting the Shenandoah National Park, be sure to stop by the Elkwallow Wayside for everything from a great breakfast to souvenirs and travel guides. The Wayside includes a number of supplies that you might need during your visit such as batteries, gasoline, groceries, camp supplies and much more. You can also get lunch or dinner at the wayside as well as many other items you might need.
Skyland Resort Gift Shop
When you are traveling through the Shenandoah National Park and are near the Skyland Resort, check out the Resorts gift shop for everything from clothing and cleaning supplies to snacks and souvenirs. You can also find many items that are designed after the local environment and wildlife such as wind chimes, local jams and jellies, wines, pottery and jewelry. The gift shop also includes books and maps about the local area as well as the surrounding region.
Big Meadows Wayside
Whether you need a good meal or to replenish your supplies while traveling through the Shenandoah National Park, you will find what you need at the Big Meadows Wayside. The Wayside Restaurant includes everything from soups and salads to sandwiches and hot entrees like fried chicken while the gift shop features Virginia pottery items, maps, books, jewelry items, camping supplies, postcards and more. You can also get anything from food supplies to batteries and sunglasses.
Big Meadows Lodge Craft Shop
When you are staying at the Big Meadows Lodge in the Shenandoah National Park, be sure to visit the lodges craft shop for your supplies or souvenirs. You can get everything you need for your trip as well as great items that remind you of your adventure such as clothing with prints of local animal life and attractions, custom made jewelry from local crafters, jams and jellies made in the area and much more. Whether you need camping supplies or just some snacks to enjoy during your travels you will find it here.
Lewis Mountain Gift Store
Whether you need groceries or souvenirs, you can find them at the Lewis Mountain Gift Store at mile marker 57.5 on Skyline Drive. The Gift Store includes everything from clothing supplies and postcards to beverages and maps. The Lewis Mountain Gift Store can provide you with anything you need for your trip through the Shenandoah Valley. They also have camera supplies and batteries so you can take pictures to remember your trip by.
National Trails Day
National Trails Day is a great opportunity for both new and experienced hikers and backpackers. Shenandoah National Park has teamed up with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club to teach and practice trail skills. The day is filled with demonstrations, presentations, and of course hiking. There will be a number of Trail Patrol members leading hikes for all ages and experience levels. This is a family friendly event. Make sure to wear appropriate clothing and shoes and to bring water.
National Park Service's Birthday
Celebrate the National Park Service's birthday with Founders Day Celebration activities and programs for children of all ages. The events will highlight the Park Service's role in preserving and protecting natural areas so that they can be used by future generations. The United States is the first country to establish national parks and now has nearly 400 of them, each of which has its own identity. Parks can offer recreation, education, and commemoration for notable individuals and their achievements while preserving stunning natural wonders and landscapes.
National Public Lands Day
Join fellow volunteers in an effort to preserve the Big Meadows cultural landscape during National Public Lands Day. All participants will lend a helping hand with the field work. The work will include the use of folding handsaws and loppers to remove the black locust saplings. Long pants and closed toe shoes are highly encouraged. Volunteers should bring food, water, bug spray, and sunscreen. Tools and leather gloves will be provided.
Civilian Conservation Corps Reunion
Shenandoah annually honors the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) with a Civilian Conservation Corps Reunion. This is a great chance for the public to interact with alumni and hear about their experiences firsthand. The CCC was created in the early 1930s as a work relief program, giving young men jobs on State and Federal lands during the Great Depression. The national parks that exist today would not have been possible with the CCC's efforts.
Celebrate America's wilderness during the annual Wilderness Weekend at Shenandoah. This event is a collaboration between the park, the park association, and the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC). During the weekend, PATC volunteers will be stationed at multiple Skyline Drive overlooks to share their expertise with park visitors. Visitors will have the opportunity to try the standard tools that are used for wilderness trail maintenance. They will also get knowledge about the vital role that trail upkeep plays in preserving wilderness for future generations.
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