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Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park encompasses part of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.  This national park is long and narrow, with the broad Shenandoah River and valley on the west side, and the rolling hills of the Virginia Piedmont on the east. 

Although likely the most prominent feature of the Park is the scenic Skyline Drive, almost 40% of the land area 79,579 acres has been designated as wilderness and is protected as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.  The highest peak is Hawksbill Mountain at 4,051 feet.

Park Superintendent
3655 US Highway 211 East
Luray, VA 22835

Information Line: (540) 999-3500
Emergency Line: (800) 732-0911

Area 199,017 acres
Established December 26, 1935
Visitors 1,076,150 (in 2006)

View Larger Map 

Picnic areas in Shenandoah are large and scenic, and offer a pleasant place for relaxing.  There are picnic tables with grills nearby; accessible sites are available.  Restrooms (open except in cold months) are accessible with assistance.

  • Dickey Ridge (mile 4.7) Skyline Drive

  • Elkwallow (mile 24.1) - Open year-round

  • Pinnacles (mile 36.7) - Open year-round

  • Big Meadows (mile 51.2)

  • Lewis Mountain (mile 57.5)

  • South River (mile 62.8) - Open year-round

  • Dundo (mile 83.7)

Shenandoah was authorized in 1926 and fully established on December 26, 1935. Prior to being a park, much of the area was farmland and there are still remnants of old farms in several places. The Commonwealth of Virginia slowly acquired the land through eminent domain and then gave it to the U.S. Federal Government provided it would be designated a National Park.

In the creation of the park [the Skyline Drive right-of-way was purchased from owners without condemnation], a number of families and entire communities were required to vacate portions of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Many residents in the 500 homes in eight affected counties of Virginia were vehemently opposed to losing their homes and communities. Most of the families removed came from Madison County, Page County, and Rappahannock County.

Nearly 90% of the inhabitants worked the land for a living. Many worked in the apple orchards in the valley and in areas near the eastern slopes. The work to create the National Park and Skyline Drive began following a terrible drought in 1930 which destroyed the crops of many families in the area who farmed in the mountainous terrain, as well as many of the apple orchards where they worked picking crops. Nevertheless, it remains a fact that they were displaced, often against their will, and even for a very few who managed to stay, their communities were lost.

A little-known fact is that, while some families were removed by force, a few others (who mostly had also become difficult to deal with) were allowed to stay after their properties were acquired, living in the park until nature took its course and they gradually died. The policy allowed the elderly and disabled who so wished to remain with life tenancy. The last to die was Annie Lee Bradley Shenk who died in 1979 at age 92. Most of the people displaced left their homes quietly. According to the Virginia Historical Society, eighty-five-year-old Hezekiah Lam explained, "I ain't so crazy about leavin' these hills but I never believed in bein' ag'in (against) the Government. I signed everythin' they asked me." The lost communities and homes were a price paid for one of the country's most beautiful National Parks and scenic roadways.

Skyline Drive
The park is best known for Skyline Drive, a 105 mile road that runs the entire length of the park along the ridge of the mountains. The drive is particularly popular in the fall when the leaves are changing colors. 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail are also in the park. In total, there are over 500 miles of trails within the park. Of the trails, one of the most popular is Old Rag Mountain, which offers a thrilling rock scramble and some of the most breathtaking views in Virginia. There is also horseback riding, camping, bicycling, and many waterfalls. The Skyline Drive is the first National Park Service road east of the Mississippi River listed as a National Historic Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also designated as a National Scenic Byway.

Front Royal: Skyline Drive & Stonewall Jackson Highway, Front Royal, VA
Thornton Gap: Skyline Drive & US Highway 211 East, Luray, VA
Swift Run: use physical address-22591 Spotswood Trail, Elkton, VA
Rockfish Gap: Skyline Drive & Blue Ridge Parkway, Afton, VA
Or the coordinates:
Front Royal: 38.905729, -78.198624
Thornton Gap: 38.660959, -78.320761
Swift Run: 38.357744, -78.545594
Rockfish Gap: 38.033777, -78.85902

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