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Home >> Alan's Picnic Guides >> VA Picnic Guide >> Shenandoah NP

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Picnic Menu Ideas & Planning

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Shenandoah National Park

Few remnants of the families that once inhabited the area that became the park have survived; this cemetery is located near Hawksbill Mountain, and is easily visible from Skyline DriveAttractions

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 designated as a National Scenic Byway.

Backcountry camping
Shenandoah National Park offers 196,000 acres of backcountry and wilderness camping. While in the backcountry, campers must use a "Leave No Trace" policy that includes burying excrement and not building campfires. Backcountry campers must also be careful of wildlife such as poisonous snakes and bears. Campers must suspend their food from trees while not in use in "bear bags" or park-approved bear canisters to prevent unintentionally feeding the bears, who then become habituated to humans and their food and therefore dangerous. All animals are protected by federal law.

Campgrounds and cabins
Most of the campgrounds are open from April to October–November. There are five major campgrounds:

  • Mathews Arm Campground

  • Big Meadows Campground

  • Lewis Mountain Campground

  • Loft Mountain Campground

  • Dundo Group Campground

There are three lodges/cabins:

Lodges are located at Skyland and Big Meadows. The Park's Harry F. Byrd Visitor Center is also located at Big Meadows. Another visitor center is located at Dickey Ridge. Campgrounds are located at Mathews Arm, Big Meadows, Lewis Mountain, and Loft Mountain.

Rapidan Camp, the restored presidential fishing retreat Herbert Hoover built on the Rapidan River in 1929, is accessed by a 4.1-mile (6.6 km) round-trip hike on Mill Prong Trail, which begins on the Skyline Drive at Milam Gap (Mile 52.8). The NPS also offers guided van trips that leave from the Byrd Center at Big Meadows.

Shenandoah National Park is one of the most dog-friendly in the national park system. The campgrounds all allow dogs, and dogs are allowed on almost all of the trails including the Appalachian Trail, if kept on leash (6 feet or shorter).

Streams and rivers in the park are very popular with fly fisherman for native brook trout.

Many waterfalls are located within the park boundaries. Below is a list of significant falls.

Hiking trails
It is located near the Byrd Visitor Center. The trail is at the edge of a stream which enhances the enjoyment. During the hike, birds, butterflies, deer and occasionally black bear and timber rattlesnake can be seen, but these have not been known to harm any visitors.

Visitors who hike down to see the waterfall call it a worthwhile experience. The trail is a steep hike down about ¾ mile, with no restrooms or emergency shelter. Those who make this hike should be prepared, preferably carrying a bottle of water, and avoiding the hike altogether if there is any prediction of rain. The return trip up to the parking lot is very steep, and may be exhausting for some, especially older persons and those not accustomed to physical activity.

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