Shenandoah National Park Guide

From spectacular views of pastoral valleys, green ridges to craggy granite peaks, waterfalls, and plentiful wildlife sightings, Shenandoah National Park has so much to offer. 

This park protects and preserves cultural and natural resources, wilderness, and scenic beauty, making it popular among tourists.

According to, at least 40% of the park’s land, that is, 79,579 acres (124.3 sq mi; 322.0 km2), has been designated as wilderness areas and is protected under National Wilderness Preservation System.

So in today’s article, we’ll be talking about some best things to see and do in Shenandoah National Park, best time to visit, palces to stay, etc. before visiting the park. 


NameShenandoah National Park
Things to doSkyline Drive, Camping, and many more
Hotels near Shenandoah National ParkSkyland, Big Meadows Lodge, and many more
Entry Fee$15-$30
Validity7 Days
Camping LocationMultiple Locations

Where Is Shenandoah National Park?

Shenandoah National Park covers an area of 2000,000 acres and is located in the Appalachian Mountain range, and encompasses a part of the Blue Ridge Mountains of western Virginia.

You can reach the nearest airport, including Washington Dulles International, Shenandoah Valley Regional, etc., and drive 105 miles north or south across the blue ridge mountain to reach Shenandoah National Park.

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About Shenandoah National Park

Whether you like to go on advance hikes or just want to drive along the skyline drive and enjoy the marvelous views without leaving your car, Shenandoah National Park offers a whole spectrum of activities for all interests and ages. 

Shenandoah National Park is one of the most user-friendly parks where you can enjoy far-flung views of the Blue Ridge and surrounding Shenandoah Valley.

More than 40% of the park is protected as wilderness and contains a wide array of flora and fauna.

Around 1 million visitors visit the park each year, which means it is not that heavily trafficked, making it a perfect place for adventurers, travelers, and leisurely tourists looking for a quiet retreat. 1

 Useful Tips for First Time Visitors

History Of Shenandoah National Park

Inspired by the Yellowstone and other National parks, the legislation to create a national park was initiated by freshman Virginia Congressman Henry D. Flood in 1901.

But despite the support from the president, when the campaign was halted, local Virginian people took the responsibility to convert the area into a national park.

In 1923, Stephen Mather, the first NPS director, solicited a proposal when he felt the need for a national park in the southern states.

In 1925, Congress authorized the NPS to acquire land to create this Park, and finally, on December 26, 1935, the park was established and was formally opened on July 3, 1936

Things To Do In Shenandoah National Park

Skyline Drive

Stretching 105 miles long, skyline drive runs the lengths of the park, and some of the best views and hiking trails are located along this forested roadway.

The Skyline Drive is a starting point to over 70 mountainous overlooks, trailheads, and picnic areas.

The route length is about 3-hours in one direction, but it’s even better if you set aside a whole day to explore the full beauty of the road. 

Hawksbill Summit

Hawksbill Summit is the tallest peak in this Park, standing 4050 feet tall.

It provides a great picnic spot for visitors where you can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the park’s blue ridge mountains and forested valleys.

There are two different trails to reach the summit, including the upper Hawksbill trail that begins from the trailhead of skyline drive, an easy 2-mile course, and a lower Hawksbill trail, which is incredibly rocky and steep perfect for climbers and weekend warriors.

Rapidan Camp

If you want to travel back in time, then Rapidan Camp is where you must visit. It is a captivating time capsule that conserves its historical integrity.

It was initially President Herbert Hoover’s summer retreat grounds built in 1929 to give him and his guests a much-needed respite from the turbulent times of his presidency and embrace the simplicity of nature.

In Rapidan camp, thirteen cabin-like buildings are linked by wood and stone passageways, each cabin serving as sleeping quarters, play spaces, eating houses, and communal eating halls.

The whole camp has a sort of a summer camp-like feel with cabins engulfed in the greenery with a rushing river and several cascades running behind and between the cabins. 

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Rose River Falls

Rose River falls are a set of stunning cascades within the Park. It is an excellent place for visitors looking for a little more solitude as they are way less crowded than dark hollow falls.

On the 40-mile scenic hike, you’ll encounter gorgeous views of mini falls and cascades.

This trail is perfect for walking, hiking, running, and bird watching. The difficulty level is moderate but gets your heart pumping. 

Old Rag Mountain 

This mountain is not meant for the faint of heart and requires a long, arduous, and tiring nine-mile round trip.

If you’re an avid hiker or climber, then you’ll be going to love this challenging trek with access to numerous granite rock faces for expert climbers to scale with equipment.

For non-hikers, the hike itself offers a sampling of all the best natural perks the mountain has to offer, including waterfall streams, rock scrambles, forests, and amazing gorgeous views. 2

Best Time To Visit Shenandoah National Park

The ideal time to visit the Park is in the Spring, from April to May. The snow is completely melted, and the campgrounds are open.

If you want to visit in Summer, the best time is June through September. Though it’s warm, there’s less rain, and you can comfortably enjoy most outdoor activities.

If you’re interested in camping, June through October are the most popular months. 3

Map Of Shenandoah National Park

Make sure to download the park’s visitor map in advance to make the most out of your visit and have a fun and safe adventure in this Park.

You can also download the PDF map of the park from the official NPS website and print it before arriving at the park, or you can NPS App, which offers a complete map of hiking trails, overlooks, services, and other main attractions of the park. 

Camping At Shenandoah National Park

This Park has three campgrounds available from early Spring until late Fall.

Campgrounds are located in different locales of the park to suit the requirements of other campers.

Campgrounds can be reserved six months before on a first-come-first-served basis. To make reservations visit

Weather Of Shenandoah National Park

This Park has a humid continental climate with warm summers and no dry seasons, making it relatively easy to predict the weather and plan your vacation accordingly.

Most of the year, temperatures are cold due to humidity with a meager chance of rain and snow.

The hottest months are June, July, and August, with the temperature around 90 5°F. If you like dry weather, January, February, and March are the ideal months to visit.

It is most likely to rain and snow in early to mid-September, so make sure to come prepared. 

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Any tips for Shenandoah National Park?
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Best Hotels Near Shenandoah National Park

Here are some best hotels located in or near this Park:

  • Skyland 
  • Graves Mountain Farm & Lodges
  • Big Meadows Lodge
  • Lewis Mountain Cabins
  • Quality In Shenandoah Valley

Entry Fee & Reservations

The entrance fee of this Park is $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, and $15 per person on foot or bicycle. All these fees are valid for 7-days.

You can also purchase the Annual Pass valid for one year costing $55.

The Park entry is free for the holders of America the Beautiful, National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Passes, and the National Park Service’s Golden Pass. 

You can find detailed information on the park’s entrance fee here

Traveler’s Checklist 

Here are some must-have items you should pack with you while visiting the Shenandoah National Park: 

  • Large backpack
  • Light clothing
  • Rain Cover 
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sunscreen & Sunglasses
  • Water and food 
  • Binoculars
  • Hiking shoes
  • Lighter
  • Flashlight
  • Cooking utensils
  • Ready to Eat Foods
  • First-aid kit 
  • Map


How much does it cost to camp in Shenandoah National Park for free?

All RV and tent campsites in the park are $15 per night. For group camping with more than 25 people, the cost is $50 per night. 

How many days would I need to Explore Shenandoah National Park?

To get the whole Shenandoah experience, plan to spend a minimum of two days and two nights in the park, so you’ll have ample time to do several hikes, camp under stars, and splash in waterfalls. 4

Which are the busiest and least-crowded months in Shenandoah National Park?

The busiest month to visit the park in July, followed by July and August, while the least visited month is October.

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