North America

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is located above the Virginia Piedmont in the east and the Shenandoah Valley in the west in the US state of Virginia. It’s hard to believe that this spectacular creation is only 100 miles away from the nation’s capital. The park is absolutely gorgeous and you can simply lose yourself staring at the gorgeous backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There is so much to see and do here if you don’t get all dreamy eyed while gazing at the ancient granite and metamorphic formations which date back to over a billion years. You can anything from picking the Skyline Drive, a 105 mile road right along the mountain crest all the way through the woods and across the most stunning sceneries. Pack along your hiking gear and brace yourself for the wonder of the Appalachian Trail. Walk right under the shade of the ample oak trees and lose yourself in the stories from Shenandoah’s past.

I strongly recommend that you plan your visit in 2011 when the Shenandoah National Park completes 75 years. There will be anniversary celebrations and special events happening in the park. It will be a wonder you just should not miss.

Did I mention that the Shenandoah National Park comprises the Blue Ridge Mountains. Did I mention that it’s an entire 300 square miles of the mountains in the southern Appalachians. Both the Hawksbill and Stony Man are located in the park and exceed 4,000 feet. If you’re looking to mingle with nature then this is the ideal place for you. With the large range of slopes, elevations, types of soil and rocks, latitude and precipitation create a wide range of habitats, thus leading to abundant wildlife.

The park is home to the black bear and you’ll probably find him lounging in the shade of rock overhangs. There are the most exotic tiny aquatic insects flitting their way through the crystal clear mountain streams. The park is dominated by hardwood forests and is the result of several geographical influences. In fact, you may still find a few uprooted trees, evidence of the Tropical Storm Fran in 1996.

It’s impossible to leave Shenandoah without getting just a little bit inspired. The park is filled with historic buildings, three hundred of which are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

It’s best to rent a car to actually experience as much of the extensive park that you can. The park is open 365 days a year. However, portions of the Skyline Drive are shut between mid-November through early January and at nights during the deer hunting season. You get a single day pass, but it’s best to have an extended stay here. You should take the seven day permit. A week permit between Dec-Feb per car/individual costs USD 10/5, and in Mar-Nov costs USD 15/10 per car/individual. Each season here is like an enigma from nature. The best season to visit is probably during the fall where everything reflects a red, yellow and orange hue. This is followed by spring and summer where the wildflowers explode and you see fields of colours. Winter too has its own beauty wherein a starkly, cold and beautiful hibernation period sets in.

In terms of accommodation, there are plenty of budget options from camping grounds which are the cheapest to tents, cabins, bungalows and hotels. Food is reasonable and well priced. All in all the Shenandoah National Park is a great place to explore and it doesn’t cost you a bomb.