Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park winds along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with 516 miles of hiking trails and astounding views.
Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park winds along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with 516 miles of hiking trails and astounding views. A weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains with a short hike was a perfect addition to my stay in Washington D.C. Shenandoah National Park is stunning, and this national treasure, only 75 miles outside Georgetown in Virginia, is an ideal family outing. And for those craving adventures, hiking Shenandoah National Park can be a real challenge requiring excellent body strength and stamina. Wild yet serene, I marveled at the natural beauty and the vastness of this fantastic patchwork of forests, fields, and orchards covering over 500 miles of sprawling trails.
Planning a Visit for Hiking Shenandoah National Park
It took us about two hours to get to Shenandoah National Park from Georgetown. We visited in early May when the wildflowers began blooming.
Getting information at the entrance station was easy. We collected maps and took the magnificent Skyline Drive, a long stretch of road with sweeping views. The entrance was only $30 per car, not a lot when considering the arduous work involved in creating this road right on the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Driving peacefully while observing the speed limit of 35 mph is a must; every twist and turn has fantastic panoramic views. It is best not to be too distracted; we discovered this when a white-tailed deer suddenly darted in front of us.
We decided against staying at one of the four campgrounds and chose one of the detached cabins at Skyline instead. We booked our room a few months beforehand, which afforded us a room with spectacular views from our balcony at Skyline, the highest altitude point on Skyline Drive. Another plus was being near the Pollock restaurant.
The dining options were fantastic: a full-service dining room with a splendid view or lighter snacks in the adjoining Mountain Taproom. The latter is excellent for after-dinner drinks and chatting with other lodgers.
Tackling The Stony Man Trail
After reading the brochure, we settled for the Stony Trail, one of the easiest and shortest trails. It was a leisurely upward amble taking in the wildflowers, eventually reaching the summit of Shenandoah’s second highest mountain. This viewpoint looking down into the valley and mountains was simply stunning. Luckily it was a breezy, clear day, and not too many folks were hiking, so we got some lovely photos.
I’d secretly hoped we’d come across a black bear during the steady loop of 1.6 miles through forest and beautiful ferns; I’d already rehearsed what to do—not turn my back and certainly not run away. After all, we are the intruders at Shenandoah; this is bear territory.
Old Rag Mountain Hike
Old Rag is one of the most popular but dangerous trails, and this was confirmed by one hiker we talked with after dinner. This serious thirty-year-old hiker told us that the trail was a lot of fun but challenging, especially with the wind at Shenandoah, which could change at any time.
The hiker went with his friends and their dogs. The group chose to do this trail last spring – a 9.4-mile round trip hike involving a lot of scrambling over numerous rocks, but he said it was worth the crawling and sliding. He told us camping works on a first-come, first-served basis at Shenandoah.
Curious about the name Old Rag? Old Rock granite is the name of the rock that forms Old Rag.
Short Hikes in Shenandoah National Park
Luckily not all hikes are long and laborious. The Shenandoah National Park guidebook lists at least seven short walks under 2.5 miles that are not too strenuous. Little Stony Man, for example, is only .09 miles roundtrip, a quick option but steeper than the Stony Man Trail.
Medium Hikes in Shenandoah National Park
Medium hikes are probably what the average visitor prefers. Shenandoah describes a medium hike as three to just under seven miles in length. Shorter hikes don’t mean easier, according to the website. What’s appealing is that medium hikes often lead to waterfalls and beautiful terrains.
My Weekend in Shenandoah National Park
Besides not encountering a bear, my main regret on leaving Shenandoah was that I did not have enough time to fully embrace this sanctuary, learn more about the lives and communities of the past mountain residents, and explore the world of the many plants and animals with the rangers. I also wonder about the seasonal changes in Shenandoah, especially in the fall and winter. Like humans, I guess Shenandoah’s residents—the deer, bear, and birds—adapt to each season.
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A weekend at Shenandoah is not enough. Outdoor adventures are wonderful for families, couples, friends, or even solo. When planning to go hiking in Shenandoah National Park, consider spending more than just a few days exploring the area. Whether hiking in Virginia or another national park, let Wander with Wonder be your guide.
Hiking Shenandoah National Park
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Published for: Valentino Pattaya