As you travel along Skyline Drive on the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park, stop to enjoy views of forested ridges, one behind the other. Challenge the family with the question, “How many ridges can you see?” As you observe hills near and far, you’re likely to see nothing but forest stretching for miles and merging into a blue haze at the far horizon.
The park offers beautiful sights in all seasons. Spring hiking may be muddy, but delicate wildflowers in a range of colors appear along the trails. Over 800 different flower varieties have been spotted here.
In summer, through-hikers traveling north or south on the 2,160-mile (3,480-kilometer) Appalachian Trail enjoy the shade of oak, poplar and spruce trees. About 100 miles (160 kilometers) of the Appalachian Trail run through the park. Follow the white markings on trees to complete a peaceful section of this famous hiking trail.
Visit in autumn when deciduous trees turn their leaves to brilliant yellows, oranges, reds and browns. Fish in some of the 70 mountain streams. In winter, when light snow cover turns the Blue Mountains to white, watch for deer, rabbits and other wildlife moving silently through the forest.
The park uses a system based on length and elevation gain to rate its hiking trails. Most tie to mile markers on Skyline Drive or points on the App Trail. Fort Windham Rocks is very easy with little vertical rise. The nearby moderate Compton East trail has unusual hexagonal greenstone. Tackle Old Rag Mountain for one of the most challenging hikes.
Shenandoah National Park is highly accessible to the metropolitan center of Washington D.C. Drive to the park’s northern entrance at Front Royal in less than 2 hours. The Skyline Drive Blue Ridge highway stretches north and south through the park for 105 miles (170 kilometers), with more than 75 scenic outlooks to stop and take photos, have a picnic, complete a short hike or simply enjoy the serenity of the mountains.
Like other U.S. national parks, Shenandoah National Park offers affordable adventure for all types of travelers.