Head to Skyline Drive and be amazed at the incredible beauty of Shenandoah National Park. The park is 90 miles from DC, making it a popular destination for weekend trips and outdoorsy getaways. Shenandoah runs along the Blue Ridge Mountains and as you drive down Skyline Drive you’ll see stunning views of the valleys beyond. Visit during the fall and you’ll be delighted by the foliage that surrounds you or head there in spring and hike amongst the flowers in bloom. Find out what to do in Shenandoah for a fantastic trip!
There is plenty to see on a trip to Shenandoah. As a Maryland/DC native I have been to the park many times and each time I find something new to do! You can stay in the park and hike the trails or head to the towns nearby to visit a brewery or pick fresh apples.
There are over 500 miles of hiking trails in Shenandoah, so you can pick anything from an easy loop to a strenuous day long journey. If you want to camp here, make sure to look at the website for reservations or try your luck at one of the spots that is first come-first served. Below you will find my recommendations for great ways to spend your time in the park and its surrounding areas!
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Table of Contents
Guide to Shenandoah Valley
Drive Through the Park
Don’t have the time to hike? Don’t worry there are 70 lookouts in the park where you can see the stunning valleys beyond. The hardest part is choosing where to stop! Here is a list of a few favorites to help you narrow it down.
- Range View Overlook (MP 17.1)This overlook provides a stunning view of the area. The Blue Ridge Mountains look as if they go on forever and you’ll be able to spot Stony Mountain.
- Hogback Overlook (MP 20.8) Get out of your car to see the full impact of this overlook. It is one of the longest views in the park and you’ll be able to see the Shenandoah River, the Alleghenies, and the ridges of Massanutten Mountain.
- Tunnel Parking Overlook (MP 32.5)You will be able to get an amazing view over the East part of the park. However, the coolest part of this overlook is Mary’s Rock Tunnel. This tunnel, built in 1932, was carved through the rocky portion of the mountain and it’s pretty amazing to see!
- Hazel Mountain Overlook (MP 33)Rock climb over the boulders that sit at this lookout. The boulders are the perfect perch for sitting and taking in the view over Eastern side of the mountains.
Complete a Short Hike
If you are limited on time or you want to see a few different things than don’t worry there are plenty of short hikes that offer great views for minimal effort.
Best Short Hikes:
- Mary’s Rock (2.4 miles)There are two options for this hike either to go from the south along the Appalachian or from the north with a higher elevation gain. The hike leads to a rocky outcrop where you will get stunning views of the area beyond.
- Blackrock Summit Hike (1 mile)This hike may be short, but it can be difficult in areas. You will have to climb over various rocks and use your hands to get over the features. The halfway point of the loop provides a 180 degree view over the area.
- Dark Hollow Falls Trail (1.4 miles) This hike is very close to the Bryd Visitor Center and it’s fairly easy. You’ll hike .7 miles through the forest along the river downhill until you reach the running falls. The walk back is uphill so make sure you save some energy!
- Upper Hawksbill Summit (2.2 miles)As the tallest point in all of Shenandoah National Park, the views will amaze you. You start at 3,000 feet, so you won’t be climbing too far up the mountain. Spend some time at the top looking out at the forested valley below.
Spend a Day Going on a Long Hike
Shenandoah has plenty of trails that will satisfy the more adventurous at heart. Use the majority of your day to complete some longer treks through the valley.
Long Hikes in the Park:
- Old Rag (10 miles)This is the most iconic hike in the park. I love it so much that I keep going back to do it again. You will have to climb over huge boulders, snake through narrow passageways, and leap over a couple gaps in the park. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with remarkable vistas. You have to exit Skyline Drive to access this hike, so allow time to get there.
- White Oak Canyon (9.5 miles)This hike is another popular with six waterfalls and plenty of swimming holes to jump in for a quick dip. Some areas of this hike can be steep and be a bit more strenuous. It’s definitely a fun hike for a warm day!
Watch Sunset over the Valley
If you’re a sunset chaser like me, then you will surely want to know the best spots in the park to see the colors change over the mountains. There are a few great spots that face west and provide stunning views.
- Stony Man Mountain (1.5 miles)This trail takes you to the second highest peak in the park, which has a great view to the west. The loop is fairly easy and there are plenty of rocks to sit on to watch the sunset through the sky.
- Rockytop Overlook (MP 78)This is one of the best overlooks to watch the sunset. Pull out on this overlook and sit along the stone wall while the sun sets. There is a wonderful panoramic view over the mountains.
- Bearfence Summit (1 mile hike)This is a quick hike to the peak that gives 360 degree views of the Shenandoah Valley. This spot is great for both sunrise and sunset.
Visit a Town Nearby
In the Shenandoah Valley there are plenty of cute towns to stop in for a quick tour or stay overnight. We stayed in a tiny home near the park, but we stopped in Harrisonburg for a bite to eat.
Towns Near Shenandoah:
- Sperryville- Sperryville sits directly outside of the park. It’s a quaint town with plenty of farms and antique shopping. Don’t miss the Copper Fox Distillery where you can try the local apple-aged whiskey.
- Harrisonburg- Home to James Madison University, Harrisonburg is a short drive from the park. Visit the campus or eat a delicious burger at Jack Brown’s.
- Winchester– This town is famous for changing hands many times during The Civil War. Head there to learn more about their history or spend time at the various apple orchards.
- Charlottesville–This gorgeous college town is easily a destination of its own. However, if you have the time you can drive there to tour the campus of UVA or visit Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello.
Let me know if you found this guide helpful in the comments!
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