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Shenandoah National Park

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Shenandoah National Park, VA

About Shenandoah National ParkEstablished in December 1935, the destination extends approximately 70 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, between Front Royal on the north and Waynesboro on the south. In one of the most beautiful and historic regions of the East, Shenandoah National Park embraces one of the highest and most scenic portions of the Blue Ridge. Shenandoah, a Native American name, is thought to mean “Daughter of the Stars.”

Spur ridges from the mountain crest blend into the rolling land of the Shenandoah Valley on the west and the wooded hills, orchards and fields of the Piedmont on the east. Between these ridges are deep, timbered hollows, cascading streams and other things to see.

The 4,050-foot Hawksbill Peak and the 4,010-foot Stony Man are among the highest points in northern Virginia; hiking and adventure travel opportunities abound. Notable among the passes through the Blue Ridge are Thornton, Swift Run and Rockfish gaps, which form three of the four primary entrances into the park.

There are many fun things to do in Shenandoah National Park. The 197,439 acres contain hundreds of miles of trails and scenic viewpoints and are home to many species of plant and animal life. The park is a wildlife sanctuary harboring about 50 varieties of mammals, from chipmunks and groundhogs to deer and bears. Some 200 kinds of birds and a number of reptiles have been observed. The only poisonous snakes are rattlesnakes and copperheads, neither of which is encountered often. It is illegal to feed or harm wild animals.

Nearly 100 species of trees can be found. Most common are the hardwoods, which produce the annual blaze of autumn color; their height of brilliance usually occurs from mid- to late October. About 1,100 species of flowering plants have been identified. Wildflowers typically bloom from May through late fall. Azaleas and mountain laurel are strikingly beautiful in late spring; redbud and dogwood trees also flower at lower elevations in early spring.

Adventure travel and other things to doShenandoah National Park is open all year, although facilities close in winter. Permits for backcountry camping at the destination are required and are available free of charge at the park headquarters, entrance stations and visitor centers.

Free guided hikes and walks, slide shows and campfire programs are available; schedules of what to do are posted on park bulletin boards and published in Explore Shenandoah, a park guide.

Information is available on weekdays at park headquarters, approximately 4 miles west of Thornton Gap on US 211.

Harry F. Byrd Sr. Visitor Center, at Big Meadows (Milepost 51), offers interactive exhibits and films about the park. Dickey Ridge Visitor Center (Milepost 4.6) offers an orientation program and exhibits. Harry F. Byrd Sr. Visitor Center is open daily 8:30-5, Apr.-Nov. Dickey Ridge is open 8:30-5, early spring through late fall. Both centers offer extended hours in summer.

There are plenty of adventurous things to do in the park. Hiking trails within the park cover more than 500 miles, including a 101-mile section of the Appalachian Trail, the mountain footpath from Maine to Georgia. Among the most fun places to go are the Whiteoak Canyon Trail and several shorter trails, including Limberlost, Stony Man and Frazier Discovery. Trail maps are available at park entrance stations, visitor centers and concession units.

Guided horseback rides leave April through November from Skyland Stables; phone (540) 999-2212 to make reservations in advance or (540) 999-2210 for same-day bookings.

Free picnic grounds with water, fireplaces, tables and restrooms are found at Dickey Ridge, Elkwallow, Pinnacles, Big Meadows, Lewis Mountain and South River.

ADMISSIONADMISSION to the park is $30 (per private vehicle); $25 (per motorcycle); $15 (per person arriving by other means of travel). Admission may vary according to season; phone ahead. Permits are valid for 7 days. An annual pass is $55.

PETSPETS are permitted in the park only if they are leashed, crated or otherwise restricted at all times. Some trails and adventurous things to do are closed to pets; phone ahead.

ADDRESSADDRESS travel inquiries to the Superintendent, Shenandoah National Park, 3655 US 211E, Luray, VA 22835; phone (540) 999-3500.

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Shenandoah National Park, VA

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