National Parks

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia


Shenandoah National park is located in Virginia, USA. It offers stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are some of the most beautiful mountains in the eastern United States. The park officially became a national park on Dec 26, 1935 and it is renowned for its scenic Skyline Drive. The park is located just 75 miles from Washington D.C. and preserves a section of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The park offers 500 miles of hiking trails including 101 miles of the Appalachian trail, beautiful cascading waterfalls, panoramic views of the Shenandoah Valley with fields of wildflowers, historic lodges and wildlife.  

These photos showcase the breathtaking beauty of Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, captured on our one-day drive along Skyline Drive on August 27, 2023. Click below to explore more. Click below to see more photos of Shenandoah National Park.

Quick Facts and Tips

  • Best time to Visit: April to mid November.
    • April to May (Spring): Mild weather, blooming colorful wildflowers, azaleas and mountain laurel, less crowds.
    • June to August (Summer): Hot and humid weather, offers lush foliage and waterfalls, expect more crowds.
    • Late September to mid November (Fall):  Mild weather, colorful foliage, expect more crowded.
    • December-February (Winter):  Cold and the weather can be unpredictable, less crowds, good time for snowshoeing and skiing.
  • Fly Into
    • Major Airports:
      • Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), 56 miles east of Front Royal Entrance Station.
      • Reagan National Airport (DCA), 70 miles east of Front Royal Entrance Station.
      • Richmond International Airport (RIC), 92 miles east of the Front Royal Entrance Station. 
    • Nearest Airports:
      • Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport (CHO), 31 miles east of Rockfish Gap Entrance Station, smaller airport, but offers direct flights from/to some major cities in the eastern United States.
  • Clothing:
    • Summer: Casual t-shirts, tank tops, shorts/pants/capris, rain jackets, comfortable hiking shoes, light jackets for the cool morning and evenings.
    • Fall and Spring: Dress in layers. Long sleeves, fleece and warm jackets, vests, scarf, hat, gloves, and comfortable hiking shoes
  • Accommodations:
    • Inside the Park: Less commute, but minimum options for hotels, restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations. There are lodging and cabins near Skylands, Big Meadows Lodge, Lewis Mountain Cabin, and campsites are also available along the Skyline Drive
    • Outside the Park: More options for hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores. There are a number of good hotels in Front Royal, Luray and Harrisonburg. 
  • What to expect
    • Forested Valleys, Rocky Peaks, Field of Seasonal Colorful Wildflowers, Graceful Cascading Waterfalls, Wild Woodlands, and Amazing Wildlife
  • How many days: One or two days
  • Entrance Fee: $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle and $15 per individual, valid for seven consecutive days.
  • Be sure to check the Park Website for current updates on road closures and trails conditions.
  • The Park is open year-round depending on weather conditions. Be aware that most visitor facilities and services are available only from mid March to late November.
  • Reservation is needed between March to November to visit Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park. All visitors including hikers will need to purchase a day-use ticket. 
  • Front Royal and Thornton Gap entrances are the busiest among the four entrances to the park (Front Royal Entrance Station: North Entrance, Thornton Gap Entrance Station: East of Luray and west of Sperryville, Swift Run Gap Entrance Station: East of Elkton, and Rockfish Gap Entrance Station: South Entrance). 
  • Expect crowds in the mid section of the park (Thornton Gap to Swift Run Gap) from Spring through fall, as it offers many of the hiking trails and best overlooks.
  • Take food and water so you can spend the day touring.
  • Starting early is the best way not only to beat the traffic, but also for the best lighting, more elbow room, and an increased chance of seeing wildlife.
  • The trails are busy during the summer season. Bring plenty of water and snacks.
  • Weak/no cell phone signals, highly recommend to have maps downloaded or printed.
  • There is a lot to capture, so keep your camera ready. Make sure that camera is fully charged and also keep backup battery and memory cards.
  • Best things To Do
    • Skyline Drive: Without any doubt the best and most popular thing to do is drive the scenic Skyline Drive. The Skyline Drive is a charming drive which runs 105 miles and offers spectacular panoramic views of the Shenandoah valley. It is the only public road through the park and offers stunning views of the mountains, forests, and valleys. The Skyline Drive starts at the Front Royal entrance in the north and ends at the Rockfish Gap entrance in the south. It takes three hours to drive the entire Skyline Drive which provides numerous spectacular overlooks, visitor centers,  and gives access to many trailheads. 
    • Hike some easy/moderate trails to get a memorable experience of the gorgeous waterfalls and the high peaks that feature spectacular 360 degree views of the Shenandoah valleys.
      • Dark Hollow Falls: Hike the short, about 1.5 mile round trip, trail to one of the tallest falls of the park. It is an easy downhill walk from the Dark Hollow Falls Parking area and the uphill walk from the base of the falls is challenging. Dark Hollows Falls parking area is located at mile 50.7 on Skyline Drive.
      • Bearfence Mountain: It is a short, thrilling, 1 mile round trip, considered as moderate with a bit of rock wall and jagged boulders scrambled hiking. The 360 degree views from the top of the Bearfence are spectacular. The trail is slippery and not safe in wet and icy conditions. Wear sturdy and comfortable shoes. The parking lot for the Bearfence Mountain Trail is located at milepost 56.4 on Skyline Drive
      • Stony Man:  It is an easy and short 1.5 mile round trip hike that leads to an outstanding view of the Shenandoah Valley, Massanutten Mountain, and much more. Expect crowds through spring to fall as it is a very popular hike. The parking area is located at mile marker 41.7 on Skyline Drive.
      • Hawksbill Mountain: 1.7-mile round trip hike that takes you to the viewing platform that sits on top of Hawksbill Mountain. The summit of Hawksbill Mountain is the highest point in Shenandoah National Park and offers a magnificent 360-degree panoramic view of the Shenandoah Valley, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Virginia Piedmont. The trailhead starts at the Hawksbill Gap Parking area , mile marker 45.6 on Skyline Drive.
      • Rose River Falls: A 4 mile moderately challenging in-and-out hike takes you to a dazzling 67-foot waterfall. The hike goes through the beautiful wilderness area with several waterfalls and takes more than 3-4 hours to complete. The parking area is at Fishers Gap on mile marker 49.5 on Skyline Drive.
      • Mary’s Rock: A 3.7-mile round trip hike takes you to the summit of one of the highest peaks with scenic views of Shenandoah National Park. The trailhead is located at the back of the Panorama parking lot at milepost 31.6 on Skyline Drive. 
      • Humpback Rocks: A short hike located on the Blue Ridge Highway just a few miles south of Shenandoah National park. The hike offers bird eye views of beautiful valleys.
  • Nearby attractions:  Mcafee Knob, Luray Caverns, Natural Bridge and Great Falls

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