It is rare when the name given a scenic area can capture and convey its essence and natural beauty. Shenandoah National Park is just such an enchanted place. Sitting astride the lovely Blue Ridge Mountains of western Virginia, Shenandoah is a true collage of forest, flowers, rocks, waters and meadows. The park encompasses over 190,000 acres of deciduous forest and exhibits inspiring vistas of the valleys some 4,000 feet below. This beautiful park is a camper’s wonderland — providing many great outdoor delights.
Shenandoah National Park is located about 75-miles west of Washington D.C., between Interstate-66 (north) and I-64 (south). Skyline Drive is a scenic two-lane road that runs the length (105 miles) of the park and has 75 overlooks and three waysides along its winding route. Most of the parks’ attractions and facilities are accessed from this gorgeous byway. Front Royal is the northern park entrance, while the Rockfish Gap Entrance Station is the southern terminate.
A tour of Skyline Drive alone is worth a visit to the park. The many overlooks provide spectacular views of the Shenandoah Valley and river to the west and the rolling hills and deep valleys of the Virginia piedmont to the east. Fall is the most popular season, with the vibrant changing colors of the 100 plus tree varieties. However, it is also the most crowded time to visit. My wife Pam and I camped here in early spring and greatly enjoyed the budding trees and blossoming wildflowers — and no crowds! Although the park is open year round, Skyline Drive is closed on occasion in winter.
In addition to Shenandoah’s serene atmosphere, campers have a host of things to do and see. There is over a dozen waterfalls to enjoy (mostly found in the central park area) and over 500 miles of trails to walk and hike. The Appalachian Mountains are the oldest mountains in the world, and offer some very unusual rock formations. Well maintained picnic areas, dining facilities, lodges and stores are scattered throughout the park. Wildlife is abundant and can often be observed grazing in Big Meadow. Fishing here is very good in the parks many mountains streams, but requires a short hike. There are also interesting remnants from past mountain folk settlements for the history buffs. Once a busy farming and livestock region, Shenandoah National Park has now been returned to nature.
There are four very nice public campgrounds and a small group camp in the park.All have fresh water and trash pickup, but no RV hookups are available.
Big Meadow Campground (mile 51.3, 217 sites) has a dump station, showers, laundry and camp store. Reservations are required between May 14th and November (Call: 1-800-365-camp or online at: http://reservations.nps.gov). We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here. Big Meadow has lots of trees and large paved campsites. We had deer wandering behind our site on a few occasions. Mathews Arm Campground (mile 22.1, 179 sites) has a dump station and store, but no showers. Loft Mountain (mile 79.5, 219 sites) provides a dump station, showers, laundry and store, while Lewis Mountain Campground (Mile 57.5, 32 sites) has showers, laundry and store, but no dump station. Dundo Group Campground (mile 83.7, 7 sites) requires reservations (1-540-298-9625) and is open to educational groups only.
Private RV Parks
There are some very nice private campgrounds near the park. The Yogi Bear Jellystone Park and Resort is located about five miles west of Park Headquarters on U.S. 211, near Luray, Virginia. At the southern entrance, you?ll find the Waynesboro North 340 Campground (no web site) and the Front Royal KOA near the northern park entrance.
The lovely and historical Shenandoah Valley presents numerous attractions and activities for visitors. The South Fork of the Shenandoah River offers camping, fishing, canoeing and whitewater rafting. There are also a number of caves to explore in the area. We very much enjoyed the brilliantly colored rock formations of Luray Caverns, and the unique stalagmite pipe organ! The rich history of the valley is displayed in community museums and memorials — especially on the Civil War period.
The famous 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail runs down the length of Shenandoah National Park and is prime hiking and backpacking territory. The home of Thomas Jefferson is only a short drive from the park. We visited Monticello and found the beautiful home to be fascinating. Finally, Skyline Drive ends where the Blue Ridge Parkway begins. The Parkway continues through South Carolina and is a gorgeous drive that is well worth your time.
Shenandoah — the word exudes a feeling of peace, serenity and inspiring beauty! Shenandoah National Park lives up to its name and is the reality of all that its name suggests. Camping in this magnificent park is enjoyable and a very relaxing experience. The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia are, in fact, inviting the year around and make an excellent summer camping destination.
For more information on the park and Virginia’s attractions, consult the below listed resources: