Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park (Multi- Use/Royalty Free)

The Park is approximately 75 miles west of Washington, DC, and the Headquarters offices are located three miles west of Thornton Gap and four miles east of Luray, Virginia on U.S. 211.

3655 U.S. Hwy. 211 E
Luray, Virginia 22835-9036
Phone: 540-999-3500 (Information)

Shenandoah National Park lies astride a beautiful section of the Blue Ridge, which forms the eastern rampart of the Appalachian Mountains between Pennsylvania and Georgia. In the valley to the west is the Shenandoah River, from which some feel the Park gets its name, and between the north and south forks of the river is Massanutten, a 40-mile-long mountain. To the east is the rolling Piedmont country. Providing vistas of the spectacular landscape is Skyline Drive, a winding road that runs along the crest of this portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains through the length of the Park. Authorized May 22, 1926; fully established December 26, 1935. Total acreage is 196,466, including 79,579 acres of designated Wilderness area.

Nearly two million visitors come to Shenandoah National Park each year. The highest visitation is during the fall color season and the summer months. Traffic can be heavy on Skyline Drive during these weekends.

The park itself is always open, but Skyline Drive, the only road through Shenandoah National Park, closes some portions during hunting season from dusk to early morning. This road also closes in inclement weather for safety reasons.

The mountains in Shenandoah National Park are usually ten degrees cooler than the valley below. Winters can be severe with snow and ice and summer showers are the usual. Layered clothing is always suggested.

Taxi service is available from Front Royal, Luray, and Waynesboro to areas in the park, but since there are no bus, taxi, or shuttle services through the Park, a car is needed. Accessible by I-66 and 340 to the north entrance at Front Royal, 211 for the central entrance at Thornton Gap, 33 at Swift Run Gap, and I-64 at the Rockfish Gap entrance.

The main travel artery for Shenandoah is Skyline Drive. This is a slow-down-and-take-your-time road; the maximum speed limit is 35 miles per hour. As well as the south and north entrances, the park is cut by two roads, providing quicker access to central areas.

North entrance: Shenandoah is accessible by I-66 and U.S. 340 at Front Royal
Central entrances: U.S. 211 for the central entrance at Thornton Gap, U.S. 33 at Swift Run Gap
South entrances: I-64 at the Rockfish Gap entrance

Skyline Drive was built during the height of the U.S. infatuation with the automobile, and that is still the mindset that predominates. It is five miles from Front Royal to the first visitor center, Dickey Ridge, and 42 miles to Skyland. From Luray to Thornton Gap Entrance Station is 9 miles, to Skyland, 19 miles, and to Big Meadows, 29 miles. From Waynesboro to the Loft Mountain area is 30 miles and the distance to Big Meadows is 60 miles.

The closest airports are in Washington, D.C. (90 miles), Weyers Cave (45 miles), and Charlottesville, Virginia (50 miles).

Bicycles are permitted in the park on paved roads only. Skyline is cyclable, but you must be in good shape to endure the hills and prepared to brave the hazards of drivers paying more attention to the scenery than the two-wheeler coming around the bend. The speed limit is also 35 mph on the Skyline Drive for bicycles and ten mph in campgrounds.

The following are usually open late spring through late fall and closed during winter. Call 540-999-3500 for opening dates and times.

Dickey Ridge Visitor Center at Mile 4.6
Harry F. Byrd, Sr. Visitor Center at Milepost 51 (Big Meadows)
Loft Mountain Information Center at Mile 79.5
Here you will find exhibits, sales items, audiovisual programs, information, and conducted activities schedules.

Elkwallow at Mile 24.1
Big Meadows at Milepost 51
Loft Mountain at Mile 79.5

Elkwallow at Mile 24.1
Big Meadows at Milepost 51
Lewis Mountain at Mile 57.6
Loft Mountain at Mile 79.5

Wood, Ice, Showers, Washers, and Dryers
Big Meadows Wayside at Milepost 51
Lewis Mountain at Mile 57.6
Loft Mountain at Mile 79.5

Big Meadows at Milepost 51 (reservation campground through DESTINET, 800-365-CAMP)
Lewis Mountain at Mile 57.6 (first-come, first-served)
Loft Mountain at Mile 79.5 (first-come, first-served)
Dundo Group Campground at Mile 83.7 (reservation only for organized groups through 540-298-9625)

Lodges and Cabins
Skyland Lodge at Mile 41.7
Big Meadows Lodge at Milepost 51
Lewis Mountain Cabins at Mile 57.6
For Reservations and information, call 800-999-4714.

Dining and Food Service
Elkwallow Wayside at Mile 24.1
Panorama Restaurant and Gift Shop at Mile 31.5
Skyland Lodge at Mile 41.7
Big Meadows Wayside at Milepost 51
Big Meadows Lodge at Milepost 51
Loft Mountain Wayside at Mile 79.5

Picnic Grounds
Dickey Ridge at Mile 4.6
Elkwallow at Mile 24.1
Pinnacles at Mile 36.7
Big Meadows at Milepost 51
Lewis Mountain at Mile 57.5
South River at Mile 62.8
Loft Mountain at Mile 79.5
These areas have picnic tables, fireplaces, water fountains, and comfort stations.

Conducted activities change from year to year, as well as season to season. Call 540-999-3500 for a schedule of seasonal activities.

Special Events
Wildflower Weekend - activities about wildflowers, usually second weekend in May
Hoover Days - weekend of Camp Hoover tours, scheduled on the weekend closest to President Hoover's August 10 birthday
Anniversary of National Park Service - free entry into Shenandoah on August 25
CCC Reunion - the last weekend in September
Annual Bird Count - usually third Sunday in December

Recommended Activities
Hiking (over 500 miles of hiking trails), picnicking, camping in a regular campground or backcountry camping with a permit (available at visitor centers, entrance stations, or Park Headquarters), participating in conducted activities, watching the audiovisual programs and viewing the exhibits in the visitor centers, fishing in one of 30 legal Park streams, or just plain relaxing in the peaceful surroundings.

Basic Recommendations for Visitors
Since Skyline Drive is 105 miles in length, and the speed limit is 35 mph, it requires three to five hours to travel from north to south, stopping at some of the overlooks. To really "see" and enjoy all that Shenandoah has to offer, plan on one to two days for a good visit.

Adjacent Visitor Attractions
There are a number of interesting areas to visit all around Shenandoah National Park. There are many popular caverns, museums, antique shops, fairs, and festivals in season, two national forests, and historic towns.

Most comfort stations and buildings are accessible or accessible with help. Overnight accommodations are available at Lewis Mountain, Skyland, and Big Meadows Lodge. Picnic grounds and campgrounds have accessible sites. Restrooms at picnic grounds are accessible with assistance. Shower and laundry facilities are accessible at Big Meadows and Lewis Mountain Campgrounds. Limberlost Trail is accessible. It is a gently sloping 1.3 mile trail featuring a 5' wide hard-packed green stonedust surface with a less than 8 percent gradient and benches at frequent intervals.

The trail circles through an old-growth forest of magnificent hemlocks and includes a 65' bridge and 150' boardwalk.

Write to Park Headquarters for more information at Shenandoah National Park, 3655 U.S. Hwy 211 E, Luray, Virginia 22835-9036, or call 540-999-3500.

Books, maps and materials about Shenandoah National Park can be ordered from the Shenandoah Natural History Association, 3655 U.S. Hwy 211 E, Luray, VA 22835-9036, or call 540-999-3582.


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