Shenandoah National Park lies along 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.
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 oakhickory forest. In season, bushes and wildflowers bloom and fill the open spaces. Apple trees, stone foundations, and cemeteries are reminders of the families who once called this place home.
The true beginning of Shenandoah National Park is over a billion years ago, when magma deep beneath the earth's surface moved upward, eventually to become the park's granite peaks. Eons later, after many geographic and geologic changes, Native Americans began the human history of the park area, followed by the early European settlers and mountain residents. In the 20th century, human beings have continued to make the history of what is now the parkthose who envisioned and established the park; those who built Skyline Drive; and those who cleared the Appalachian Trail.
The park was authorized by the U.S. government as a national park in May 22, 1926 and fully established December 26, 1935. The park's total acreage is a little over 196,000 acres, including 79,579 acres of congressionally designated Wilderness area. The park offers hiking, horseback riding, biking, educational programs, and fishing. Shenandoah National Park welcomes visitors in all seasons. Most facilities and services are open spring through fall. Be aware that there is a $10 per person entry fee, and you must register and obtain backcountry camping permits at any of the park's information centers.
Special feature of the park is Skyline Drive, which is a worthwhile tourist attraction in and of itself. Skyline Drive is not just a road through the park; it is a way to experience it. Drivers will pass rock cliffs, and vistas, and probably deer and other wildlife; they will drive through tunnels of trees, past wildflowers and ferns, and (in late spring) by banks of mountain laurel in bloom. 75 overlooks offer a place to stop and absorb the view and the peace. The 35milesperhour speed limit allows drivers the opportunity to truly enjoy the ride and helps to ensure the safety of wildlife along the road.
Area Overview:Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
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Location: Western Virginia
Size: Over 196,000 acres, including 79,579 acres of congressionally designated Wilderness area
Directions: You can access Skyline Drive from four different points. Rock Fish Gap is the southernmost entrance point, easily accessed off of I-64 between Charlottesville and Staunton. The northernmost entry point is the Front Royal Station, located off Route 340 just south of I-66. In between you have the Thorton Gap and Swift Run Gap entrances.
Trails: More than 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
Accomodations: There are visitors centers at Loft Mountain, Big Meadows, and Dickey Ridge. Overnight lodging is provided at Skyland and Big Meadows Lodge. Campgrounds can be found at Loft Mountain, Lewis Mountain, Big Meadows, and Matthew's Arm. There is no utility, sewage, or water hookups available.
Activities: Hiking, horseback riding, biking, educational programs, and fishing
Admission, fees, permits, etc.: $10 per person entry fee, and you must register and obtain backcountry camping permits at any of the park's information centers.
Contact: Shenandoah National Park, US Highway 211 East Luray, VA 22835