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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

-Josh

 

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