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Located just 75 miles outside of Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park is a beautiful and picturesque escape for busy families and solo travelers. Reaching over 200,000 acres in size, the park is filled with breathtaking vistas, impressive waterfalls, wooded trails and a variety of wildlife. It’s the perfect place for some time in nature this spring, whether you’re into recreation or relaxation.
If you want to get some exercise, clear your head and enjoy nature all at the same time, why not go for a hike on one of the park’s 500 miles of trails. With so many different trails available, you can find one that will match your ability level, how much time you have and what you’re hoping to see while you’re hiking. There are trails that go through peaceful wooded areas, up to majestic mountaintops and alongside calming waterfalls. This is one of only a few national parks that allow pets on trails too, so make sure to bring Fido along for the fun.
If you’re ready to expand your adventure into a full-blown weekend getaway, you can stay at one of the park’s five campgrounds or register for a permit to go backcountry camping. All the campgrounds are open from the spring to the late fall, while amenities vary from campground to campground but include picnic tables, fire pits, RV dump stations, drinking fountains, water spigots and parking areas. They do not, however, offer RV hookups. For those who want a more one-with-nature type experience, you can obtain a backcountry camping permit through the backcountry office and explore some of the 196,000 acres of wilderness the park has to offer.
For those that are looking to learn more about wildlife and the Park, especially the little ones, the Park also offers a wide variety of educational programs including self-guided and ranger-led field trips and pre-written programs for teachers (or parents) to use with their students while in the park. Since the park itself is also one giant outdoor laboratory for researchers and scientists, you can also apply for a permit to do your own research while visiting the park.
One of the best things to do at Shenandoah National Park doesn’t even require you to get out of your car – driving along Skyline Drive. This 105-mile stretch of road runs along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains and offers breathtaking views that are hard to match. Although it takes about three hours to travel the entire road, there are also almost seventy “overlook points” where you can stop and enjoy beautiful views of the Shenandoah Valley. Since lots of wildlife call the park their home though, you have to be careful and maintain the Park’s 35 mph speed limit, so you don’t have any unwanted collisions!
There are also several places to stay in the park is you don’t want to camp, including Big Meadows Lodge, which is made up of a main lodge, separate cabins and multi-unit lodges, as well as Skyland and Lewis Mountain Cabins. All the cabins are furnished and have bathrooms. For a completely primitive experience, you can also check out the six primitive cabins operated by The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. But be forewarned – they only contain a mattress, a blanket and some cookware!