Shenandoah National Park


Mar 10th, 2015, 09:15 AM
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Shenandoah National Park

Our family (me, husband, 2 boys - 15 yr old and 12 yr old) are considering driving from Philadelphia, PA area to Shenandoah National Park in August. I'd love advice on a few things:

1. What trails would be good - lots of scenary, but not too taxing? We love to hike near water.

2. What else should we do in and out of the park - besides enjoy the park to the fullest?

3. Where to stay, we are quite content with a simple clean room that has a bathroom and fridge.

4. Can anyone give us ideas on good stops on the way down? Either somewhere to stop and enjoy for a few hours and stay overnight OR just neat things to see/do? I already know about Luray Caverns and the Car Museum in that town.

5. We are big birders - can anyone tell us where the best bird watching is?

6. Any other advice would be appreciated

SLDA is offline  
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Mar 10th, 2015, 10:08 AM
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Gettysburg, Harpers Ferry, and New Market are all on the way and are historically interesting. Harpers Ferry is also scenically interesting.

There are cabins in state parks but it may be a bit late to get one. Harrisonburg is a university town with a lot of reasonable motels and places to eat, pretty centrally located.

Others will chime in.
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Mar 10th, 2015, 11:21 AM
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This Philly resident has been to Shenandoah eleven times, and has hiked innumerable miles in that park.
My first suggestion is to buy these books:

to help you decide which trails to start with.

If the weather is bright, clear, and sunny; walk to overlooks.
If the weather is wet and cloudy; hike to waterfalls -- but be careful!
And note you might see animals just about anywhere.

As for lodging, I strongly urge staying within the Park
even if you have to forgo a refrigerator.

Here's info on birds:

> Any other advice would be appreciated
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Mar 10th, 2015, 04:50 PM
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PaulRabe has some good suggestions.

White Oak Canyon/Limberlost trail is busy but popular and leads to some nice falls--not as robust in August but nice nevertheless. Little Stony Man overlook is also good for views.

Near the north end of the park, Luray and especially Front Royal have a variety of lodging.

Old Rag Mountain may be the most popular hike, but also the most strenuous -- access is from outside the park. I used to hike along the Nicholson Hollow Trail from the Old Rag trailhead. There are streams nearby. I once ran into a bear cub and momma along that trail on a 95-degree August afternoon, which prompted me to turn around and walk quickly in the opposite direction. Sperryville, which is also nearby, might be worth a stop for craft brews, antiques, etc.
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Mar 10th, 2015, 07:02 PM
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One of our favorite places to visit within the park is Rapidan Camp, which is the restored summer getaway of President Hoover and his wife. As I recall it is about a 3 mile round trip hike through the woods along a stream down to the camp and back. We did not find it strenuous. There was also a van that takes passengers. The trail begins near the visitors center at Big Meadows, which is worth a visit itself.
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Mar 10th, 2015, 07:44 PM
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We have always enjoyed hiking the Rose River Loop Trail. This moderate trail is a 4-mile loop and at least half of it follows the water. (You can go wading in the water when it's warm--like August.) There are cascades and a waterfall too.

If you have not already seen it, the SNP website has a lot of good information about the hikes in the park:

I, too, would recommend staying in the park even though you'd have to get one of the few cabins with a kitchenette if a refrigerator is a must for you. The rooms are not fancy at all, but the location in the park cannot be beat.

If you make a stop at Harpers Ferry, you can enjoy river tubing, kayaking or ziplining. We did river tubing with Harper's Ferry Adventures and had a great time!
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Mar 24th, 2015, 01:25 PM
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I have another question for you all!

We will be staying in the park. Which of the 3 locations does everyone prefer - between the lodges and cabins? We will not be camping in tents.

We do not have an itinerary planned yet, so as of now, we do not need to be at any certain mile marker.
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Mar 24th, 2015, 02:21 PM
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We have stayed in the lodge rooms at both Skyland and Big Meadow. There's not a lot of difference between the rooms, but we like the more central location of Big Meadow. We also like the amenities at Big Meadow, e.g. the Great Room overlooking the valley, the dining room with the picture windows, the Tap Room with free entertainment each evening, etc. Being at Big Meadow also puts you within easy walking distance of the Byrd Visitor Center.
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Mar 24th, 2015, 05:02 PM
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Just FYI, as a general rule for Shenandoah, the hikes to scenic vistas/viewpoints are uphill then downhill, while the hikes to waterfalls are downhill then uphill.

Also, keep in mind that given speed limits and numerous curves you probably won't be driving much more than 30 mph, so driving times on the parkway can be longer than you expect.
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Mar 24th, 2015, 06:24 PM
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Not sure on dates, but I think sometime in late July/early August there is a night sky presentation complete with telescopes in Big Meadow. The guy giving the presentation will talk about all the interesting things you can see (stars, planets, satellites, etc.) and answer all your questions. He gives everyone a chance to look through the telescope to see different interesting things, and also gives some history and astrologists' projections for the future. I went once 4 or 5 years ago and thought it was great. Just make sure to pack layers, blankets, and lawn chairs because you will want somewhere to sit and it got pretty cold on us even in the middle of the summer. It might be worth checking out, especially if you are staying in that area one night.
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Mar 25th, 2015, 04:22 PM
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Luray caverns, north of Shenandoah, is a must. Absolutely beautiful.
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Mar 25th, 2015, 05:43 PM
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Bookmarking-- never been to Shenandoah but it sounds pretty good!
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Mar 26th, 2015, 04:39 AM
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Hi All!

How does this itinerary sound for an August trip to Shenandoah (not sure of exact dates yet)?

Sat morning - drive from PA to Antietam, arriving around 12 noon. Explore National Park. Drive to Harpers Ferry. Stay overnight.

Sun - Explore Harpers Ferry National Park (will fit in on Sunday if have time). Go tubing, canoeing or white water rafting and stay overnight again OR head to Skyline Drive and stay overnight at Big Meadows. Advice?

Mon - Skyline Drive, with stops for hiking, picnic. Check in at Big Meadows Lodge (if did not on Sunday night).

Tues, Wed, Thurs - enjoy park, do ranger programs, hike! Is there canoeing in the park or is it better to do elsewhere? Maybe do some horseback riding. See the Cloggers at Big Meadows. One of these days will go to Luray Caverns.

Thurs afternoon - drive along Skyline Drive south to Natural Bridge, VA. Eat dinner, stay overnight.

Fri - See the Natural Bridge. Do Virginia Safari Park?

QUESTION - Is it worth it to drive south of Big Meadows to do rest of Skyline Drive and then also Natural Bridge?

Friday evening - Drive back up to park to do night star program at Big Meadows at 8:30pm. Stay overnight in Big Meadows cabin.

Sat - enjoy park a bit in morning, then drive north on Skyline drive to go home.
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Mar 26th, 2015, 10:26 AM
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In my opinion, I don't think it's worth it to do the drive all the way down to Natural Bridge just for one day. However, there are some fun things along the way if you want to make it a little more leisurely and maybe take all of Thursday and Friday to go down and come back. Natural Bridge is very pretty and worth seeing, just wouldn't drive that far out of my way to see just that. Skyline Drive turns to Blue Ridge Parkway around Waynesboro. On the BRP, there is a great short hike called Humpback Rocks that is a very pretty overlook of the Shenandoah Valley. Can't remember the MM, but I'm thinking it's around 5 or so? It's very close to Waynesboro. Raven's Roost is also a good overlook that is close to Waynesboro.

I also suggest Panther Falls near Buena Vista. It's not really a hike, but a little waterfall with swimming area that would be great in the heat of August. You can jump from rocks into the pool (about 20-25 ft height). You could spend a couple hours here just relaxing, there are plenty of large rocks to lay towels out and sun on.

I also don't know if I would drive the entire way down the Skyline Drive/Parkway to Natural Bridge. It's a lot of winding road, and some of it can get monotonous, especially if you are trying to get to a destination. I also am not a huge fan of the Safari Park, but I grew up in the area and have been to the zoo and Safari Park many times, so take that for what it's worth. You and your family may love it. On the way back, Lexington might be a cool little town to drive through. The downtown area is pretty, as are the campuses of Washington & Lee and VMI. The boys might enjoy walking around the campus of VMI.

There are places all around the Skyline Drive in that area that rent out canoes or kayaks, just Google them. Most places aren't too terribly expensive and can haul them for you if need be! I would definitely do this one morning or afternoon, the river is fun to be on. Also, if you spend a day in Luray at the caverns and your boys like baseball, the Valley Summer League may still be going on at the time (depends on when in August you are coming), and you could stay for the evening and watch a game before heading back to Big Meadow. The league has teams in New Market (Rebels) and Harrisonburg (Turks). It's all college baseball players, and Waynesboro will actually get guys from schools like LSU to play for them.
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Feb 3rd, 2016, 03:14 AM
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hey there everyone love to tell you guys we are one of the best in Shenandoah if you ever want to come and visit by our place you guys are most welcome please see what kind of attraction we have for all of you ! and the park is just a few KM away !
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