Shenandoah National Park lies astride a beautiful section of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which form the eastern rampart of the Appalachian Mountains between Pennsylvania and Georgia. The Shenandoah River flows through the valley to the west, with Massanutten Mountain, 40 miles long, standing between the river's north and south forks. The rolling Piedmont country lies to the east of the park. Skyline Drive, a 105-mile road that winds along the crest of the mountains through the length of the park, provides vistas of the spectacular landscape to east and west. The park holds more than 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Trails may follow a ridge crest, or they may lead to high places with panoramic views or to waterfalls in deep canyons. Many animals, including deer, black bears, and wild turkeys, flourish among the rich growth of an oak-hickory forest. In season, bushes and wildflowers bloom along the Drive and trails and fill the open spaces. Apple trees, stone foundations, and cemeteries are reminders of the families who once called this place home. Shenandoah National Park has many stories waiting to be told, and a world of beauty that can renew and bring peace to the spirit.
Nothing compares to sleeping under the stars. And, there's no better place to do it than Shenandoah! With five beautiful campgrounds, each with unique features and nearly 200,000 acres of backcountry to explore, your choices are limited only by your desires!
Shenandoah National Park has 196,000 acres of backcountry and wilderness and over 500 miles of trails to explore. Backcountry camping allows you to immerse yourself in the beauty and challenge of Shenandoah's wild side. With some preparation, you can discover a world beyond where the pavement ends.
Bicycling is permitted along Skyline Drive and on paved areas in the park. Bicycling (road and mountain bikes) is not permitted on trails, unpaved roads or in grassy areas.* Because Skyline Drive is a two-lane road with steep hills and numerous blind curves, cyclists are urged to use extreme caution.
Visitors should be prepared to operate their bicycles during periods of low visibility, or while traveling through a tunnel, or between sunset and sunrise, by exhibiting on the operator or bicycle a white light or reflector that is visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and with a red light or reflector visible from at least 200 feet to the rear. During periods of fog, reflectors will not provide necessary safety for bicyclists. Lights on both the front and rear of the bicycle are required. Mountain areas can experience dramatically different weather than what is being experienced in the lowlands, so be prepared!
Donations were received by the Shenandoah National Bicycle Coalition and Planet Bike of 150 lights to be given to visitors at the entrances for safety of the bicyclists arriving without a rear light. Lights are supposed to be dropped off as the visitors exit.
*Bicycling from Skyline Drive is permitted on Rapidan Fire Road for approximately one mile. At the end of this mile, there is a sign indicating no bicycles are permitted beyond that point.
Camping in Shenandoah can be an amazing experience with the right preparation. Learn about staying in one of our campgrounds here. If you would like to experience solitude and are prepared for backpacking
Shenandoah National Park contains over 70 mountain streams that support diverse aquatic resources including brook trout populations. Fishing opportunities are abundant but are also regulated in order to preserve and protect fish resources.
In order to protect eastern brook trout populations Park Rangers strictly enforce these regulations. If you see someone violating fishing regulations please tell a Ranger or call (800) 732-0911. Thank you and happy fishing!
Anglers are encouraged to consider the following ethical fishing techniques for hooked fish:
All fish that are to be released must be carefully handled and immediately returned to the stream. Try to release fish without removing them from the water.
Maintain control of fish with wet hands and only a slightly firm grip.
Avoid contact or damage to sensitive gills.
Never leave litter, hooks, or spent fishing line in the park-pack it out
Hiking in Shenandoah
Carry water, at least 20 oz (.6 L), and more on warm days. Do not drink water directly from any streams without boiling or purifying it first.
Wear appropriate clothing including sturdy hiking shoes and layers. Temperatures on the mountain can be 10 to 20 degrees cooler than in the valley.
Follow trail blazes and use a map. Blue blazes indicate a hiking trail, white blazes indicate the Appalachian Trail, yellow blazes indicate horse trails.
Know the difficulty level of the trail and evaluate your physical abilities and limitations. Different people experience hikes at different difficulty levels.
Follow Leave No Trace principles including staying on trail, carrying out all trash, and leaving what you find.
Never walk around the top of a waterfall. Wet rocks are slippery and can lead to dangerous falls, potentially causing serious injury or death.
Follow these guidelines on wildlife viewing safety and know what to do if you encounter a bear.
Choosing a Hike
With over 500 miles of trails, choosing the right hike for you will depend on how much time you have, where you are going in the park, the physical ability of yourself and your fellow travelers, and what you want to get from your experience.
Overview of hikes in Shenandoah: This table contains an overview of suggested hikes including distance, difficulty, and trailhead location.
Waterfall hikes: An overview of hikes that lead to waterfalls.
Brochures and Trail Maps: Trail maps for day hikes for different areas can be found on the Brochures and Trail Maps page.
Appalachian Trail: Learn more about the Appalachian Trail, 105 miles of which is in Shenandoah.
Bringing Your Own Horse
Shenandoah National Park offers over 180 miles of trails open to horse use. Some of these trails are relatively smooth, wide, gravel paths, while others are steep, narrow, rocky mountain trails that will challenge the experienced horse and rider.
Whether you are new to this area, or are looking for a new place to ride, this website plus a good map will get you started on your Shenandoah adventure.
Rock climbing is a popular activity in Shenandoah National Park. Opportunities for all levels of climbers abound. Providing these opportunities are part of Shenandoah's mission as is protecting the resources. Responsible rock climbing practices will ensure that these opportunities will be enjoyed by future generations.
When you spot wildlife, getting a great photo or video from the safe distance is easy if you follow our advice. Although mobile device cameras are convenient, you may want to bring along a camera that has a zoom lens for better zoomed-in photos of wildlife. Keep at least 75 feet or two bus-lengths away from all wildlife in the park, and at least 150 feet or four bus-lengths away from more dangerous animals like black bears.
Time your outing when wildlife is active: dawn or dusk. These times also have some of the best lighting for photos!
Stay quiet and still. Noise and quick movements can threaten wildlife.
Look to the edges of the landscape (e.g. where forest trees meet a grassy area).
Use binoculars, a spotting scope, or a telephoto lens for a safe, close-up view.
Pull safely and completely off the road, and use your car as an enclosure for viewing and photographing from a distance. Not only do cars provide a layer of protection, they also provide surfaces for stabilizing your camera.
Use your zoom, and to steady your shot, touch your elbows to your ribcage, or rest your elbows on your knee or another stable surface.
On your mobile device, you can zoom in by placing your thumb and forefinger together on the screen and then draw them apart just as you do to zoom in on a web page.
Watch wildlife with your eyes rather than through your viewfinder/screen as you move. It’s easy to miss things in your surroundings that could hurt or trip you when you’re only focused on what you can see on your screen or viewfinder.
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