Breathtaking Views from Skyline Drive.
Shenandoah National Park
The park protects the lands surrounding Skyline Drive and the Appalachian Trail through 75 miles of Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Starting outside Front Royal and travelling southwest toward the Blue Ridge Parkway, visitors enjoy panoramic mountain views, iconic hiking trails and beautiful waterfalls.
Open / Close / Reopening Status of Shenandoah National Park due to Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Last Updated: May 2, 2020
The national park was authorized on May 22, 1926 by Congress and President Calvin Coolidge. The official groundbreaking for Skyline Drive was July 18, 1931. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated Shenandoah National Park on July 3, 1936 with a speech at Big Meadows.
Front Royal is located 70 miles west of Washington DC in the northwest corner of Virginia. It is the home to the north entrance of Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive. Front Royal bills itself as the canoe capital of Virginia, with trips available on the nearby North and South Forks of the Shenandoah River. It is convenient both to travelers on I-81 as well as I-66 coming out of DC and NOVA.
Luray is located in the Shenandoah Valley west of the national park. Luray is known for the Luray Caverns – an underground cave system that formed millions of years ago and was discovered in 1878. The Thornton Gap Entrance Station at Skyline Drive Mile Marker 31.5 is accessible via U.S. 211 east of Luray.
Rockfish Gap / Waynesboro
The most southern entrance to Shenandoah National Park is at Rockfish Gap (mile 105.4 of Skyline Drive). Rockfish Gap is approximately 25 miles west of Charlottesville and is located at the northern entrance of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Waynesboro is the gateway to the southern entrance of Skyline Drive.
Busiest Months (Percentage of Annual Visits)
As you can see, October is typically the busiest month of the park. Fall foliage brings park visitors on road trips to enjoy the scenic overlooks of Skyline Drive. Be sure to make reservations for overnight stays well in advance of the Shenandoah fall foliage. Predicting the peak season in advance can be difficult though, but the peak season is usually a two week period in mid-October. You may be able to enjoy the changing colors at other times though, since the leaves change at different times depending on their elevation.
July and August are also popular months to enjoy the park. The elevations of the mountains provide respite from summer temperatures in Virginia with average high temperatures reaching only into the mid-70s. They are usually about 10 degrees cooler than in the valley.
Skyline Drive is a National Scenic Byway with 75 scenic overlooks running through the Blue Ridge Mountains. The road was created in the 1930s and bisects Shenandoah National Park. It is 105 miles extending from Front Royal, Virginia in the north to Rockfish Gap, Virginia in the south.
If you are planning to do Skyline Drive, consider adding on to your trip some or all of the Blue Ridge Parkway at the beginning or end. The 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway through Virginia and North Carolina south of Shenandoah national park is known as “America’s Favorite Drive”. Blue Ridge Parkway winds its way through the mountains, national forests, towns and historic sites south of the park.
The summit of Bearfence Mountain in Shenandoah National Park offers a 360 degree view of the surrounding area. It is considered by many one of the prettiest areas of the park. Bearfence trail is a short uphill hike from the parking lot followed by a rock scramble to reach the summit at an elevation of 3,553 feet.
Dark Hollow Falls
Dark Hollow Falls is a 70 foot cascading waterfall located in the Big Meadows area of Shenandoah National Park. It is accessed by a 1.4 miles roundtrip hike listed as moderate difficulty by the National Park Service.
Hawksbill Mountain is the highest mountain peak in Shenandoah National Park. The summit is reached by either Upper or Lower Hawksbill Trail and provides views of Betty’s Rock, Old Rag Mountain and the Shenandoah Valley. It is considered one of the best hikes in Shenandoah National Park and is located only a couple miles away from the Big Meadows campground and visitor center.
Shenandoah Hiking Trails:
Shenandoah is known for its hiking trails. There are more than 500 miles of trails in the park. Popular day hikes usually involve waterfalls, like Dark Hollow Falls and Overall Run Falls, or mountain summits, like Hawksbill Mountain, Bearfence Mountain or Old Rag Mountain.
The Appalachian Trail also runs through Shenandoah National Park as part of its more than 2000 mile route between Georgia and Maine. If you are thru hiking the AT from Spring Mountain in Georgia, you are likely to arrive in the park in June. If you are planning a day or section trip to the park (and not hiking the length of the AT), it is best to plan it for mid-July through mid-May because of the number of thru-hikers on the trail in the park in June. There will not be available camping in June due to the thru-hikers. If you are planning to hike the length of the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah, you should know that it is generally for experienced or advanced hikers due to a lack of access to water.
Recent Bird Sightings
The vast majority of Shenandoah National Park is composed of forests, making it an important area for birds amongst the planet’s economic development. Around 200 birds have been known to use the park, thirty bird species are year round residents and around 100 species breed in the park. The forests and mountains provide essential habitat for migratory birds moving through the area.
Current Astronomy Chart
Courtesy of the AstroViewer night sky map.
Shenandoah Weather Forecast:
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Average Temperature (Monthly)
There are four seasonal frontcountry campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park as well as a group campground and the option for backcountry camping.
RV camping is available at Mathews Arm, Big Meadows and Loft Mountain which all have pull-through and deep back-in sites which can handle most RVs and/or a tow vehicle, potable water and dump stations. Lewis Mountain is mostly tent camping but also has RV sites though it does not have a dump station.
The campgrounds normally open in the spring for a time first-come, first-served before most of them become a mix of reservable and first-come, first-served in the summer. They usually close for the year in late October or in the case of Big Meadows, in early/mid-November.
Shenandoah Hotels and Other Lodging Options:
Shenandoah National Park has three lodging options run by concessioners inside the park: Skyland, Big Meadows Lodge and the Lewis Mountain Cabins. They offer nearly three hundred room options a night in the heart of the park to guests from the spring to fall season.
There are also options for nearby Shenandoah hotels at Front Royal outside the northern entrance to the park, Luray near the center of the park, and Wayneboro outside of the southern entrance to the park.
Shenandoah Vacation Packages:
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Frequently Asked Questions
What is Shenandoah National Park known for?
The Virginia national park is known for Skyline Drive, the Appalachian Trail and its views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Blue Ridge Mountains are a section of the Appalachian Mountains that run through Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee. The Blue Ridge Mountains are among the oldest in the world, created by shifting tectonic plates over 1 billion years ago. They can be viewed in the park from the Appalachian Trail, which is a hiking trail that runs for over 2000 miles from Georgia to Maine, and Skyline Drive, a 105 mile road running north and south through the park that connects to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
What is the best time to visit Shenandoah National Park?
The best times to be at Shenandoah are sunrise and sunset. The eastern facing overlooks are enjoyed in the morning by early risers, and the setting sun makes the western overlooks popular in the evening.
The best month to visit the park is almost anytime from Spring to Fall. In the spring, visitors can enjoy the reinvigoration of the forests as they awake from the winter. Hiking is popular in the summer, with hikers on the AT passing through in July. And fall foliage brings leaf peepers to the park to enjoy the colorful, scenic views from the overlooks.
How much does it cost to get into Shenandoah National Park?
There are two annual passes accepted at Shenandoah. The America the Beautiful pass is accepted at shenandoah and more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. The regular price is $80. The Shenandoah Annual Pass provides unlimited entry for one year to the pass owner and passengers (not to exceed 4 adults) for a cost of $55.
There are entrance fees for a single vehicle, single motorcycle and individual person (walk-up or bicycling). They cost $30 for a vehicle and $25 for a motorcycle, which allows entry for seven consecutive days. There are around six fee free days every year where entrance fees are waived.
How long does it take to drive through Shenandoah National Park?
Skyline Drive is best enjoyed over a two or three day period. It would really only take three hours to drive the 105 miles of the road straight through, but this would cause you to miss
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah Lodging (In Park)
Shenandoah National Park Wedding
Skyline Drive Mile Markers
Shendandoah in November
Baldface Mountain Overlook
Dark Hollow Falls
Doyles River Overlook
Hemlock Springs Overlook
Hogwallow Flats Overlook
Indian Run Overlook
Jenkins Gap Overlook
Jewell Hollow Overlook
Marys Rock Tunnel Overlook
Moormans River Overlook
Signal Knob Overlook
South River Overlook
Thorofare Mountain Overlook
Trayfoot Mountain Overlook