Saturday, July 15, 2017

Incredible Hiking Trails and Views in Shenandoah National Park

View of Shenandhoah Valley

Shenandoah National Park includes some of the most incredible views in the U.S.A. I first visited as a child and have been mesmerized every since. The park is full of incredible landscapes, views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, valleys below and a plethora of wildlife. On my first visit as a child, we encountered deer that virtually walked up to us. We had a similar captivating experience on our visit this year!



Deer in Shenandoah National Park
Deer in Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is quite large encompassing 200,000 acres of protected land. You can meander through on Skyline Drive and take stops along the way at lookouts. When you stop at the lookouts, you will notice the stonewalls. An interesting fact about the stonewalls -- they were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps under FDR.

View of Shenandoah from Skyline Drive
View of Shenandoah from Skyline Drive including wall constructed by CCC.
The views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, various rock outcrops and valley below are stunning. Skyline Drive is the route through the park. It is a little over 100 miles and will take a few hours to drive through with stops. Your fee for entering the park will allow you to re-enter over the next 7 days. So, you do not need to complete the entire park in one day if you are intending to drive the whole length. We spent about a day and a half in the park and barely scratched the surface!

Shenandoah Valley
Shenandoah Valley view from one of the Visitor Centers.

Take Advantage of Visitor Centers:

There are two Visitor Centers in the park. They are the perfect places to orient yourself. I recommend stopping in one before venturing on the trails. Staff at the centers can help you better navigate the park and choose trails. We wanted to make sure that we hiked portions of the Appalachian Trail specifically, so a guide helped us locate several options on trail maps. Since you are hiking in the mountains, some trails are a bit tougher than others. A guide at the Visitor Center can help you determine trails at your speed. Plus, it will benefit you to stop at the restrooms before journeying too far out!

View of Shenandoah Valley from hiking trail.
View of Shenandoah Valley from hiking trail.

Enjoy the Scenery But Be Prepared for Terrain:

Some of the trails are full of rocky terrain. I recommend bringing plenty of water, using a walking stick and pacing yourself. The views are spectacular and you feel on top of the world! Some of the trail offshoots lead you to unique landscapes like the area of columnar jointing that we discovered.

Columnar jointing at Shenandoah Valley
Columnar jointing
The are other trails that do not have as steep of climbs. In fact, the trail were we encountered the deer was quite moderate, so check with a guide before choosing your trails and you will be able to choose ones appropriate for you.

Wooded path in Shenandoah Valley
One of the flatter wooded paths in Shenandoah Valley
Skyland:

Skyland inside of  Shenandoah has a hotel, cabins, restaurants, a gift shop, horseback riding and more. We stopped there for two meals and loved the food! We were happy with the quality, portions and price. If you stop in at the right time, you can get a seat by the windows for a view. The gift shop does have a few local items for souvenirs.

Skyland in Shenandoah
Skyland
Shenandoah Reflections:

Breathtaking! The views, wooded paths, wildlife and outcrops provided many breathtaking moments. We also felt a sense of accomplishment after hiking up several steep inclines to discover magnificent views. What a thrilling feeling to be virtually in the clouds with the valley below and many more mountains in the distance. Shenandoah is truly a place to take it all in!

Tips:

  • Bring lots of water.
  • Pack some snacks. Consider packing picnic food in a cooler for the car.
  • Make sure to use bug spray. We did find a couple of areas that were particularly buggy.
  • Obtain trail information and guide maps from Visitors' Center.
  • Be aware that there are bears in Shenandoah. They normally are not an issue. We did not see any but several hiking groups said that they did. The NPS website has some great tips to seeing bears safely: https://www.nps.gov/shen/learn/nature/bear_safety.htm
  • Bring a walking stick and wear hiking shoes.
  • The Shenandoah Valley area is rich in Civil War history. The mountains themselves were useful in hiding troop movements. Consider pairing a Civil War site or two with your visit.
  • We found so many friendly hikers on the trails! Enjoying saying hi and even conversing with others reveling in nature! Maybe you can share tips!
**Disclosure: No compensation was received for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.
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