Setting Foot On The Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah National Park

As the title suggests, I did walk on the Appalachian Trail for a few hundred yards! I guess it’s not a big of a deal, but apparently, it was a famous trail, which I didn’t know about until my visiting friend told me.

During this pandemic, air travel is off the table — ethically. As I said many times before, I could hop on the plane and fly somewhere even domestically. But I choose not to — it’s the right thing to do. Instead, I recently frequent the outdoor recreation destinations around the area.

I wrote about Brookside Gardens in Maryland and Kenilworth Aquatic Garden in DC. Now it’s time to write about the Shenandoah National Park.

Ticket

The entrance fee to the National Parks and Recreational Parks varies. Quite frankly, I’m still confused between the two! 😉 The entrance fee to Shenandoah National parks are as follows:

Park-Specific Annual Pass: $55
Per Vehicle: $30
Per Person: $15
Per Motorcycle: $25

Though, if you plan on visiting more parks throughout the country, I highly recommend getting America the Beautiful Passes. It costs $80 and gives you access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites in the United States. The pass is valid for a year.

Pro tip: you can even share the pass with up to two households including the pass holder.

Entrance

  • Front Royal (North Entrance)
    Near Front Royal, Virginia, off of Route 340 (also called Stonewall Jackson Highway).
  • Thornton Gap
    East of Luray, Virginia and west of Sperryville, Virginia. Off of Highway 211 (also called Lee Highway).
  • Swift Run Gap
    22591 Spotswood Trail, Elkton, VA
  • Rockfish Gap (South Entrance)
    A few miles east of Waynesboro, Virginia, off of Highway 250.

Shenandoah National Park’s main road is Skyline Drive, which runs 105 miles north and south on the eastern part of Virginia. There are multiple entrances and the closest one from DC being the Front Royal Entrance Station near Rt. 66 and 340. On my subsequent visit, I tried the second farther entrance — Thornton Gap Entrance Station at Rt. 211.

If you have the annual pass, you can get through a special lane and wave your card at the entrance. Though during peak season, the line stretches for miles, so it wouldn’t make much of a difference.

Best Time to Visit

Fall is the peak time of the year, though it has passed. The leaves have fallen as it gets colder and colder. That being said, there are still many visitors, especially outdoor activities are the few covid-friendly adventures you can do nowadays.

I would say, arrive early — no later than 9 am, unless if you couldn’t mind queueing. Keep in mind that Shenandoah National Park opens 24/7, though Skyline Drive may be closed during the snowy and icy conditions.

Another thing to point out is that, based on my experience visiting Instagram-worthy places, I recommend visiting around sunrise or sunset because that’s when the photos look the best. If it’s a cloudy day, then I lean towards visiting later in the day as the clouds or fogs will likely clear out as the day progresses.

Activities

Campground

Currently, the campground facility is open at full capacity on a first-come-first-served basis. Once again, I’m an indoor cat, so it’s not for me. 😉

Backcountry Camping

At first, I didn’t know what backcountry camping is. After some googling, it looks like overnight camping where you can use shelters and huts. Backcountry cabins are also available for rental on select trails.

Hiking Trails

There are “countless” hiking trails throughout the Shenandoah National Park. As the title suggests, one of them is the Appalachian Trail. Some of these trails have limited parking, so plan your trip and don’t get towed!

Visitor Centers

There are three visitor centers at Shenandoah National Park:

Dickey Ridge Park Store and Outdoor Ranger Contact Station: Open 9-5 Friday – Tuesday.
Big Meadows Park Store: Open 9-5 Thursday – Monday.
Big Meadows Outdoor Ranger Contact Station: Open 9-5 daily.

Lodging

As of now, most lodging facilities and concessions are currently open with mask requirements for entry.

Elkwallow Wayside (mile 24)
Skyland Lodge (mile 41.7 or 42.5)
Big Meadows Showers and Woodyard (mile 51)
Lewis Mountain Cabins and Campstore (mile 57.2)
Loft Mountain Campstore (mile 79.5)
Big Meadows Lodge (mile 51)
Loft Mountain Wayside (mile 79.5).

Picnic

I love picnicking! The facilities are available throughout. The last time Kevy and I visited, we made some Bánh mì sandwiches and packed them with us. Have hand sanitizer handy, don’t feed the wild animals (yes, there are signs there!), and pick up your trash. In other words, don’t litter!

Conclusion

I enjoy nature more and more, especially during the pandemic where indoor activities are limited. Since we can’t travel virtually anywhere, parks and recreation sites are one of the few options. Shenandoah is the closest National Park to where I live. No doubt, it becomes the favorite place to go for Washingtonians. Personally, it’s worth getting the annual pass that entitles you to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites in the United States. We are planning to go back in the winter and I will write a follow-up story. Stay safe!

Credit:
Shenandoah National Park (U.S. National Park Service)
U.S. Geological Survey

One comment

  1. I like your post…I thoroughly enjoy the outdoors and hiking. I still remember the visit to Great Falls Park on spring…a lovely day.

    The Appalachian Trail is such an iconic long-hike trail with many breathtaking views. I was privileged to do a 2-day hike of a 16-mile section of the trail in upper East Tennessee. It was an adventure. Keep sharing your adventures!

    Liked by 1 person

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