Shenandoah National Park
Located less than 100 miles from Washington DC (the capital of the United States of America), Shenandoah National Park has evolved into a must-visit destination for those adventurous, nature-loving types, looking to escape the hecticness of the city, to calm their minds, observe wildlife, and explore the 200,000 acres of pristine waterfalls, mountains, and wilderness, via hikes, rock scrambles and drives down the scenic Skyline Drive highway. There are many things to do and see in Shenandoah, and we’ll be dissecting all that and more, for the purpose of assisting you during the planning phase of your trip.
A Brief History
Shenandoah National Park was declared just that on December 26th, 1935, and was officially opened to the public on July 3rd, 1936 by then-president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, cousin of former president and pioneer of the National Park Service, Theodore Roosevelt.
The process of designating the area as a protected National Park was a lengthy ordeal; taking almost 35 years from the initial pitch to Congress by a freshman congressman in Virginia named Henry D. Flood in 1901, to its inception in 1936. Supporters of the National Park had to go through many hurdles to see their vision come to life. Two of the biggest issues preventing the expedited acquisition of the land was the cost associated with acquiring it, and the removal of those already inhabiting area.
In regard to the financial obstacle of purchasing the land, legislation passed by president Calvin Coolidge and Congress in 1925 prevented the use of federal funds to buy the land, forcing representatives in the state of Virginia to obtain capital through private means and authorized state funds. Once that was accomplished, the next step was negotiating with current residents to either purchase their property or come up with an alternative solution that both parties found beneficial. After years of arbitration a resolution was finally reached. Residents who fought to stay on the land were granted the right to do so, and with all the pieces in place, the state of Virginia begin the process of building roads and other amenities to make the land more accessible to the public.
Shenandoah National Park has many unique attractions embedded within, such as:
The Appalachian Trail – The legendary Appalachian Trail is a 2,181 mile stretch of public land, open to hikers and backpackers, spanning from Maine to Georgia (14 states). 101 miles of that nearly 2,200 miles of scenery is located within Shenandoah.
Skyline Drive – Skyline Drive is the parks most scenic route, winding north to south for 105 miles up Virginia’s iconic Blue Ridge Mountains; offering 75 overlooks of the stunning Shenandoah Valley. With a speed limit of 35 miles per hour, the trip, on average, should take around three hours to complete. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can make a day out of it by stopping along the way, to observe the natural beauty around you.
Fog Ocean – The fog ocean is just that, a sea of fog visible from the mountaintop a couple of times a week during the summer, and a couple of times a month during the winter. The fog is created as air rises to make its way over the mountains, and as the air rises it spreads and cools. Depending on if the air is moist, the cooling effect of the air may cause moisture to transition into droplets, which then produces the ocean of fog those who visit Shenandoah National Park have come to love.
Waterfalls – There are many waterfalls tucked away in crevasses of the Shenandoah National Park. All the waterfalls are accessible from the historic Skyline Drive. To enjoy the soothing sounds and breathtaking visuals of the water descending onto the rocks below, simply find a parking spot, and take a hike downhill to witness the nature in action. Waterfall locations in Shenandoah National Park include:
Rock Scrambles – Rock scrambling is a fun, adventurous activity for young, active adults. Rock scrambling isn’t rock climbing or walking. It’s a term used to describe an activity where “scramblers” use their hands to balance and travel from point A to point B, as opposed to rock climbers who use their hands to pull and hold their body weight. Rock scrambling usually involves jumping from rock to rock, over cracks, and should only be conducted by those who are fully prepared and accompanied by another, fellow scrambler. Skills needed by competent scramblers include hiking skills, mountaineering, and climbing. Rock scrambling locations in Shenandoah National Park include:
- Bearfence Rock Scramble
- Little Devils Stairs
- Old Rag
Rapidan Camp – Rapidan Camp is a piece of American history, restored to its original 1929 appearance when president Hoover and his wife used the location as a summer retreat during his presidency. Rapidan Camp predates the now well-known current presidential retreat, Camp David, and is kept in pristine condition to resemble the historical essence of the time period in which the site was inhabited. The camp is comprised of 13 buildings, all linked by a network of paths, designed to blend each one-story building in with the environment. During summer, ranger-led tours of the historic camp are available, departing from the Byrd Visitor Center at various times listed on the NPS (National Park Service) website.
Shenandoah Group Tours – If you want a tour as opposed to scouring the land in your automobile, tours of 25 people or more are available Monday through Friday. Gather the family and friends and travel with other adventurers down Skyline Drive and marvel at the natural beauty of the Shenandoah National Park.
- Pollock Dining Room (American, Vegetarian-Friendly, Gluten Free Options)
- Big Meadows Lodge Dining (American, Vegetarian-Friendly)
- Mountain Taproom (American Bar, Vegetarian-Friendly)
All of these restaurants are located on the fringes our surrounding area of the Skyline Drive highway, located within Shenandoah National Park.
Shenandoah National Park is a gem within America’s NPS (National Park Service), as it possesses a rich history, stemming from politics to origins (reaching back over 1 billion years). With an array of things to do and places to see, it’s no wonder why Shenandoah has to become such an attractive tourist destination. Check out some of these reviews to see what people have been saying about their experience at Shenandoah.