A Day In Shenandoah National Park

I recently spent two nights and one full day in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. I thought I would share what I did and what I hope to do whenever I get a chance to go back.

This was my second time in Shenandoah but the first time it rained the whole time I was there and you couldn’t see two feet in front of you. This time the weather was perfect though. The overlooks on the side of the Skyline Drive (the 105 mile road that is the backbone of Shenandoah) had just been fog before but now I could see for miles across the Blue Ridge Mountains, surrounding farms, and small towns. I left Atlanta at 5am and drove about 8 hours to the park, arriving around 1pm. Almost as soon as I pulled into the park my low fuel light came on with the nearest gas station being about 40 miles down the 35mph curvy mountain road. It took an hour to reach the Big Meadows area where there is a lodge, campground, visitors center, store, and gas. I filled up my tank and checked out the visitors center before heading back to my campground on Loft Mountain. The drive back was nice and I stopped at many overlooks to take in the views and the cool mountain air. I checked into my campground and set up my tent. It was 4pm now and I still had a couple more hours of sunlight so despite being tired from my long drive I decided to check out the Loft Mountain store and go on a quick hike. The hike I chose was the Frazier Discovery Trail, a short 1.3 mile loop from the Loft Mountain wayside and led to my first views overlooking the Shenandoah mountains. As I arrived the first rocky overlook there was an Appalachian thru-hiker making himself dinner (The Appalachian Trail goes throughout Shenandoah National Park and many of the parks trails are at least partially on the AT). I looked out at the view and enjoyed it before carrying on a bit further to the next overlook that was more open and arguably prettier! With a big smile on my face I sat down and stared at the view and took some pictures too. I then headed back down the second half of the trail and then headed back to my campsite. I made myself dinner of ramen noodles and coffee and as I cleaned up my stove and dishes it began to get dark so I walked down to the camp store where there was a beautiful view of a purple, yellow, pink, and blue sunset sinking below the mountains. It began to get a little chilly so I hurried back to my tent and cozied up in my sleeping bag, ready for the next day of hiking.


I woke up at 6:30am and waited around for the sun to rise around seven and I made my oatmeal breakfast and of course more coffee. My first hike of the day was just a few miles down the road from my campground in the Doyles River trail. It is a 3.2 mile round trip trail to the upper and lower Doyles River Falls. The hike goes downhill until you reach the second waterfall and your turn back to go all uphill to the parking lot. The waterfalls were impressive and a great way to start my day. The second half of the trail took me by surprise with how quickly it took my breath away but I still finished fairly quickly. I stopped by the Loft Mountain wayside for an early lunch and to refill my water.


I carried on to my next hike (stopping at a few overlooks on the way) at Bearfence Mountain. A short hike but loads of fun as it features a rock scramble across the top of the mountain with a 360 degree view of everything around you. The return trail follows the AT before returning to the parking lot.

My next hike was the Little Stony Man and Stony man hikes together. Being close to the Skyland area this hike was my most populated of the day. After about fifteen minuted I passed a man going back down to the trailhead with a suit on and a cocktail in one hand and a huge lit cigar in the other. I kinda laughed to myself and carried on the the Little Stony Man Cliffs where some people were rock climbing and others just enjoying the view it offered. I then continued to the peak of Stony Man Mountain at 4,010 feet above sea level. The trail from Little Stony Man was unpopulated and followed the AT the whole time until it met up with a large horse path the went straight to the Skyland lodge area to the left and a loop to the peak and back to the right. The trail became more populated now and the overlook at the peak was very crowded but still had a beautiful view where I could see the Little Stony Man cliffs that I just been at. After I returned to my car I pulled into the overlook area just by the trail and sat and ate a granola bar before heading back down the road to my campground. I got back to the Loft Mountain Campground around 4:30pm and went to the camp store to buy some cheese fries and a cream soda for a pre dinner snack. After that I chilled out, had coffee, and read my book before making dinner and turning in for the night at sundown.


So that was my day in Shenandoah National Park. I had a blast in the park and am excited to return. I would love to do the Hawksbill Gap trail, White Oak Canyon, and the Little Devils Stairs whenever I get to go back!



The Best Bargain in Travel

The best bargain in travel is the United States National Park Pass.   The cost is negligible really.   We purchased an annual family Interagency National Park Pass last June for $80.   If you are a senior, it is only $10 for a lifetime pass and the US Military get in free always.


Having the National Park Pass gets you into all National Parks, Monuments, and Federal Recreation sites at no additional cost with no limitations on visits.   Before I had the National Park Pass I had been to 6 National Parks in 43 years.   Since June, I have been to 9 National Parks with 7 of them new.   In addition, my adult children have used the pass to visit 3 other National Parks and between all of us have scheduled trips this winter and spring to at least 7 more.   The National Parks are spread all over the country so while some of our trips have been based around the Parks, others have been because we have been in the area.   Work trip to New Hampshire, then drive up to Acadia in Maine.   Weekend getaway to Seattle, lets squeeze in Mt Ranier etc.

The United States National Park system represents all that is great about America.   To quote writer and historian, Wallace Stegner, national parks are “the best idea we ever had.  Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”   The National Park system preserves the most beautiful, special, and culturally important places in our country.   To visit them widens your view of the world and fills you with awe to the beauty created by God.


Parks visited so far this year by our family include Acadia NP, Congaree NP, Cuyahoga NP, Zion NP, Canyonlands NP, Arches NP, Capitol Reef NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Grand Canyon NP, Saguaro NP, Mt Ranier NP, Olympic NP, Shenandoah NP, and the Great Smoky Mountains NP.    Scheduled trips over the next six months include Joshua Tree NP, Yellowstone NP, Grand Tetons NP, Badlands NP, Big Bend NP, Guadalupe NP, and Carlsbad Caverns NP.   I’m sure we will sneak in a few more as well!


Anticipating Travel

     I am currently sitting outside of my work, sipping on some Guatemalan coffee between my second shift of the day. It is a cool 73 degrees outside and starting to feel like fall here in  Georgia. This weather is getting me increasingly excited for my two upcoming road trips! The first of which I leave for in less than two days now (Today is Thursday and we leave early Saturday morning). On that early Saturday morning my two traveling buddies (my sister and my girlfriend) and myself will depart for Columbus, Ohio to visit my Aunt and Uncle, after spending time in Columbus we will head for Cuyahoga Valley National Park to hike and enjoy learning the history of the park, our next stop is Toronto, Ontario (With a quick stop at Niagara Falls on the way of course), After spending two days in Toronto we will head into the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York to hike and relax in the woods (and hopefully see some moose), after the Adirondacks we have a short 8 hour drive to Shenandoah National Park to camp and hike, then we go home. I am stoked to spend so much time in the city to drink coffee, visit markets, and explore Columbus and Toronto. I am equally if not more stoked to camp in the woods and hike myself silly. The anticipation of an upcoming trip is one of my favorite feelings. Trying to decide what to pack and what not to pack, buying lots of peanut butter and ramen noodles, and just the knowledge that I will be in new places soon, experiencing things that I may not experience the rest of my life. I am excited to leave for our trip and I cannot wait to take pictures, write things down, and most of all just experience the joy that comes from traveling!

     I’m not sure what the point in writing this was other than to just get my excitement out in some sort of outlet but I hope my anticipation has encouraged whoever might read this to get out and get stoked to travel!