Complete Guide to Visiting Shenandoah National Park
The Blue Ridge Mountains run northeast to southwest through Virginia in a perfect mount ridge full of waterfalls and dreamy mountain views. With over 500 miles of hiking trails, visiting Shenandoah National Park is the perfect way to get out into the mountains and explore forested walks and rocky summits. Just 75 miles from Washington DC, Shenandoah National Park is easy to access and whether you’re driving Skyline Drive for the view or looking to hike, it’s an amazing year round destination.
Essential Guides to Visiting Shenandoah National Park
Highlights of Visiting Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah is an easy park to visit and is full with wonderful outdoor activities and adventures. Some of the highlights of visiting Shendoah National Park include:
- Driving Skyline Drive: Skyline Drive runs right down the center of Shenandoah NP and most of the best hikes and viewpoints are directly off this 105-mile road.
- Many easy to moderate hiking trails: Many of these shorter trail end at a summit or waterfall.
- Hiking part of the Appalacian Trail: The Appalacian Trail travels right down the length of Shenandoah and many of the hiking trails are also on part of the Appalacian Trail.
- Exploring US history: Shenandoah has a long history and you can explore the story of the park’s creation and early segregation with the park.
- Looking for wildlife: You can find bear, white tailed deer, and many other forest loving animals when visiting Shenandoah. The best place to look is in the Big Meadows Area.
How to Visit Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah receives about 1.4 million visitors each year. Many people visit Shenandoah on a day trip from Washington DC or other nearby areas. Many other people plan a long weekend make it a 2-3 day trip on it’s own or part of a longer road trip.
If you are visiting Shenandoah for one day, you’re one day Shenandoah itinerary should including driving Skyline Drive and stopping at several of the overlooks and shorter hikes along the way. If you get an early start, you can hike Stony Man, Bearfence and Rose River in one long day.
If you have more time, you can divide the park up into 2 sections and explore the northern section one day and the southern section on another day. There are campgrounds within the park or you can drive out of the park to stay at a hotel. Staying longer gives you a chance to try one of the longer hikes in the area.
Things to Know About Visiting Shenandoah National Park
Best Time to Visit
Shenandoah is a great year round destination. If you are planning to visit in the winter months, you can expect cold temperatures and potentially icy trails (make sure to get a good pair of microspikes). Spring and fall are great times to hike and may be less crowded compared to the summer. Summer temperatures are often pleasant, but can be hot and humid. If you are hiking June-Sept you can expect mosquitos, especially at dusk and dawn.
The table below shows the average weather for each month in Shenandoah. Also note that
How to Get to Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is easy to reach from Washington DC on Route 66. It takes about an hour and a half to make the drive. The closest airport to Shenandoah is Charlottesville (24.5 miles). The best way to access Shenandoah is from the north off Route 66, from the South off Highway 64 and in the middle of the park off Route 33. From all of these places, you can access Skyline Drive.
Need to Know About Shenandoah
You will need to pay an entrance fee to get into Shenandoah. You can find information on the fee here, or use your National Parks Pass to get into the park for hiking or driving.
How Much Time do you Need in Shenandoah National Park?
Depending on your schedule, you should plan on visiting Shenandoah National Park for 1-3 days. If you are driving through, you can easily drive the Skyline Drive and make a few stops at the viewpoint of hikes. If you have more time, 3 days will give you a chance to do this drive, some of the short hikes and 2 of the longer hikes.
Lodging Near Shenandoah National Park
There are several campgrounds within Shenandoah National Park. You can find 4 campgrounds here:
- Mathews Arm Campground – mile 22.1
- Big Meadows Campground – mile 51.2
- Lewis Mountain Campground – mile 57.5
- Loft Mountain Campground – mile 79.5
There are also several lodging options in the park: Big Meadows Lodge, Skyland, and Lewis Mountain Cabins.
If you are visiting Shenandoah, especially for more than one day, your best bet is to stay in one of the nearby towns if you don’t want to stay in the park. There are many options in the Virginia Piedmont and the Shenandoah Valley.
Looking for more information on visiting US National Parks? Check out our US National Parks Page.