Shenandoah National Park – Trails, What to See & Best Tips

Petr Novák

Shenandoah is a national park located in the state of Virginia on the eastern side of the USA. Although it isn’t one of the most renowned, its proximity to Washington D.C. makes it a convenient day trip for visitors to the capital. It is nestled within the Blue Ridge Mountains, contributing to its unique, oblong shape. The park stretches 105 mi from north to south, with a width just shy of a 0.16 mi.

Shenandoah NP | © daveynin

Table of Contents
  1. Information About Shenandoah National Park
  2. What to See and Do in Shenandoah National Park
  3. When to Visit Shenandoah National Park
  4. Entrance Fees for Shenandoah National Park
  5. Directions to Shenandoah National Park
  6. Accommodation Options in Shenandoah National Park
  7. Tips and Recommendations for Visiting Shenandoah National Park
  8. Photos of Shenandoah National Park

Information About Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is named after the river which forms its western boundary, while the eastern boundary is constituted by the Virginia Piedmont. Covering an area of 311 mi2, it is of moderate size compared to other parks. An impressive 40% of the park is dedicated wilderness, attracting 1,592,312 visitors in 2021.

The park’s highest point is Hawksbill Mountain at 4,052 ft. Shenandoah National Park was established on December 26, 1935, on land previously used by ranchers.

Shenandoah National Park is teeming with wildlife, including deer, black bears, bobcats, raccoons, skunks, opossums, foxes, coyotes, and over 200 species of birds. The park’s vegetation is predominantly oak and walnut trees, sprinkled with pines. Other plant species found in the park include prickly pear (which is actually a type of cactus), ferns, and daisies.

What to See and Do in Shenandoah National Park

Your exploration of Shenandoah Park will inevitably begin with the 105 mi Skyline Drive, the sole road that runs from the park’s northern to southern tips. A non-stop drive would take approximately 3 hours, but that would mean missing out on the 75 scenic spots just off the road. Key points along the drive are clearly marked with signage.

The park features over 497 mi of trails, 62 mi of which are part of the popular Appalachian Trail. Hiking enthusiasts will find plenty to enjoy:

Old Rag

The park’s most popular trail spans 7.15 mi, ascends 2,510 ft, and can be traversed in 6 hours. The lengthy trail provides stunning views of the park and its diverse terrain, including forests and rocks. Entry requires a permit.

Stony Man

This shorter 1.55 mi trail can be completed in 1.5 hours and offers potentially even more captivating views. It culminates at the summit of Stony Man Mountain, which stands at 4,009 ft. The trailhead is located at milepost 41.7 on Skyline Drive.

Dark Hollow Falls

Dark Hollow Falls is a favorite among park visitors. The 1.43 mi trail to the falls begins at mile marker 50.7 of Skyline Drive and takes about 1.5 hours to complete.

The National Park Service has prepared convenient maps for hikers, which can be printed or saved to your phone.

For those seeking a social experience, there are ranger programs available. Park rangers regularly conduct lectures, discussions, or guided hikes around the park.

When to Visit Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is open year-round. However, some sections of the Skyline Drive are closed from mid-November to early January due to adverse weather conditions and hunting activities.

Summer is the busiest time for visitors when the weather is most favorable. Fall is also a popular season to visit, when the foliage turns vibrant shades of color. Springtime brings a resurgence of life to the meadows and flowers in the park.

Whether you’re planning a visit to Shenandoah in April or August, keep in mind that the varied altitudes within the park can cause a temperature difference of up to 43°F.

Average Temperatures and Visitor Numbers at Shenandoah National Park

The average temperatures in Shenandoah National Park and visitor numbers are based on the average from 2017-2021. The source of the data is the National Park Service.

Max Temp Min Temp Precipitation Days Visitors Popularity
January 45°F 27°F 6.4 23 644 🟩
February 48°F 28°F 6.2 20 841 🟩
March 57°F 36°F 8.2 52 522 🟩
April 68°F 43°F 9.1 104 011 🟨🟨
May 75°F 54°F 11.7 142 025 🟨🟨
June 84°F 61°F 11.6 160 802 🟧🟧🟧
July 86°F 64°F 12.2 187 840 🟧🟧🟧
August 84°F 63°F 10.5 180 070 🟧🟧🟧
September 79°F 55°F 7.7 150 265 🟧🟧🟧
October 68°F 45°F 6.4 248 362 🟥🟥🟥🟥
November 57°F 36°F 6.5 134 525 🟨🟨
December 48°F 30°F 6.8 30 876 🟩

Entrance Fees for Shenandoah National Park

If you plan on entering the national park by car, there will be a fee of $30. The fee for motorbikes is $25. These fees cover all passengers in the vehicle and are valid for seven consecutive days. For those entering Shenandoah National Park on foot, the fee is $15.00 per person.

Should you plan to visit more national parks in the USA, it may be worthwhile to consider purchasing the America the Beautiful pass. This pass costs $80, and grants you unlimited entries to any national park or national forest in the USA.

Directions to Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is just a short drive from the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. The most convenient way to get there is to rent a car and drive. You can enter the park from four points – the intersection of Skyline Drive with Routes 33 and 211, and through two gates. The northern gate is located in the town of Front Royal, and the southern gate is at Rockfish Gap Entrance Station near the town of Waynesboro.

Driving distances and times to the park from surrounding cities are as follows:

From / To Distance Driving Time Route
Miami 1,053 mi 15 hours 30 minutes View Route
New York 327 mi 5 hours 40 minutes View Route
Philadelphia 240 mi 4 hours 20 minutes View Route
Pittsburgh 263 mi 5 hours View Route
Washington 101 mi 2 hours 40 minutes View Route

Accommodation Options in Shenandoah National Park

🏨 Hotels

A variety of hotels, motels, and bed-and-breakfasts are available in the nearby towns of Manassas, Woodbridge, Dumfries, Triangle, and Centreville, covering all price ranges.

⛺ Campsites

Shenandoah National Park has four campgrounds for campers and adventurers. To reserve a spot, visit

  • Mathews Arm Campground – Situated at mile 22.1, it’s the first campground for those entering the park from the north. The park’s longest waterfall, Overall Run Falls, is a short drive from here. The camping fee per site is $30.
  • Big Meadows Campground – Located at mile 51.2, this campground is ideal for visitors who plan to hike. It is near several popular trails. The overnight fee is $30.
  • Lewis Mountain Campground – This smallest campground at mile 57.5 is perfect for those seeking some privacy. The price for a standard tent or RV site is $30.
  • Loft Mountain Campground – Located at mile 79.5 on top of Big Flag Mountain, this is the largest campground. In addition to great views, it has two waterfalls and trails leading into the popular Big Run Wilderness. The camping fee per site per night is $30.

Tips and Recommendations for Visiting Shenandoah National Park

ℹ️ Visitor Centers

Shenandoah Park has three visitor information centers where you can get answers to your questions and purchase souvenirs:

  • Dickey Ridge Visitor Center – Located at mile 4.6, it is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Byrd Visitor Center – Located at mile 51, it’s open daily during summer and in winter when Skyline Drive is passable.

👍 Things to Know

Unlike some parks, Shenandoah does not operate a bus service. Therefore, you will need to rely on your car. Drive cautiously, respect the 35 mph speed limit, and be on the lookout for wildlife.

It’s recommended to start your park tour early in the morning for a peaceful experience, beautiful sunrise views, and possibly wildlife sightings.

Before embarking on your exploration of the park, download the park administration’s mobile app. This free app provides maps, up-to-date information, important phone numbers, and more.

Photos of Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park | © daveynin

Stony Man Mountain in Shenandoah National Park | © m01229

Shenandoah National Park in Virginia | © Madeleine Deaton

Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park | © David McSpadden

Waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park | © m01229

Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park | © Yuefeng D

US National Parks

  1. List of US National Parks
  2. America the Beautiful Annual Pass
  3. Timed-Entry Reservation for US National Parks

Travel Guides to USA National Parks

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