Strategically located within a day’s drive of a large portion of the U.S. population, Shenandoah National Park offers a relaxing respite for those who enjoy a quite natural getaway. Hiking, camping and cool weather providing relief from summer heat are some of the many great reasons to visit this national treasure that’s affordably accessible to all who make the journey. Whether you define camping as something you do in a tent, RV or comfy cabin, you’ll be able to have the experience you want less than two hours outside of Washington, D.C. Here’s a quick visitor guide to prepare you for the experience.
SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK LODGING
There are two main actual lodging options (aside from camping) in Shenandoah National Park. Both offer dining as well, and have Wi-Fi in the main lodge area. The views are phenomenal, and the buildings are rustic enough to feel like you’re in a national park, but comfy enough to know you’ve upgraded to the actual lodge experience.
Big Meadows Lodge
Big Meadows Lodge is the lodging option in the area of the park known as Big Meadows. It has sweeping views, comfy beds and a cozy lodge with fireplace and free WiFi. Those in the campground can stroll up to check their email, catch a meal, or grab a brew in the Tap Room. The restaurant at Big Meadows Lodge has a fun menu as well, featuring a scrumptious mushroom ravioli and seriously yummy blackberry cobbler.
The second main lodging option at Shenandoah National Park which offers camping with actual beds and private baths (glamping, really) is the Skyland Resort. With spectacular views of its own, this rustic lodging option features private rooms or cabins, a playground and campfire area for families and Wi-Fi within walking distance. (You’ll need to stroll up the hill to the main lodge and ask for the code at the desk.) Enjoy their once-a-month wine dinners, grab a hearty breakfast or enjoy local entertainment like the Shenandoah Valley Cloggers. Lots of options are available after a day of hiking and photography.
SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK CAMPGROUNDS
Campgrounds are expected with any national park experience, and Shenandoah National Park does not disappoint. Big Meadows Campground is walking distance to the above-mentioned Big Meadows Lodge, and provides easy access to the actual Big Meadows area of the park and the visitor’s center. Showers and water access are available, and wildlife abounds. There are other campgrounds at Shenandoah National Park as well, including Matthews Arm Campground, Loft Mountain Campground and Lewis Mountain Campground. You can make reservations online.
SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK HIKING TRAILS
Hiking enthusiasts have much to be happy about when it comes to the trails in Shenandoah National Park. With over 500 miles of trails to hike on, including a roughly 100-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail, the activity options are endless. And since the annual pass fee for Shenandoah National Park is only 30 bucks, this makes it a great source of frugal fun for families, couples and individual hiking enthusiasts. Another fun hike with a bit of history attached is Rapidan Camp, the former executive retreat of President Hoover, which was a precursor to Camp David. The site was previously adjacent to the national park and eventually donated by the Hoover family.
SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK AMENITIES
Along with free ranger hikes and the groomed trails themselves, travelers will find many other comfortable amenities at Shenandoah National Park as well. Gas stations, restaurants, visitor information centers and more are available to park visitors. Campers can expect shower facilities and water access that’s walkable from their campsite. Having spent several days at Shenandoah National Park, I can definitely say that the dining options were an exceptionally pleasant surprise. I expected burgers and fries only, but the lodge restaurants had a variety of gourmet entrée options on the menu, and the more casual wayside establishments had fairly diverse menus as well. Of course you can bring your own food to cook at your campsite, but if you’d like a break from that, you’ll have a number of delectable options at your disposal.
WEATHER IN SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK
While Shenandoah National Park’s weather obviously varies with the seasons, you can definitely count on it being a cool retreat from the summer heat that is typical down in the Shenandoah Valley. Thunderstorms are possible during all months of the year, and snowfall definitely occurs during the winter months. While the services in the park aren’t open during the winter, you can access the park and use the trails, which makes for a fun way to use those snowshoes you got for Christmas.
DAYTRIPS FROM THE PARK
If you’re going to be visiting the park long term and will be wanting to experience civilization from time to time, there are a number of daytrip options at your disposal. Visiting Luray Caverns is always a hit with geology fans for example, and there are many fun things to do in Harrisonburg, Virginia as well. The town of Culpeper is also known for its quaint atmosphere and souvenir shopping.
As you can see, a visit to Shenandoah National Park provides a number of family entertainment options at an affordable price. Superior hiking, gourmet dining, rustic back country access, Wi-Fi for working vacations and more are available for your convenience and enjoyment.
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