Shenandoah National Park cannot hope to match the coastal beauty of Maine’s Acadia. Nor does Shenandoah National Park have features that can compete with the geyser display of Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park. Even the mountains found in Shenandoah National Park do not approach the grandeur of the glacier topped mountains of Grand Tetons National Park.But year after year vacationers along the East coast of the United States shun their city habitats and seek refreshment, release and renewal at Shenandoah National Park, and few are disappointed.
Shenandoah National Park was established during the administration of Franklin Roosevelt in 1935. The park is cut out of a quietly magnificent portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains. From the ridge line of Shenandoah National Park you will be able to view the Shenandoah River when you look to the west and the Piedmont with its neatly tended farms off to the east.
An easy way to get a view of both is to travel slowly by car along the roadway appropriately called Skyline Drive. This scenic mountain crest road extends for the entire length of the park or approximately 105 miles. For the safety of all vacationers, park regulations hold driving speed to a maximum of 35 miles per hour. Many vacationers find that even at this reduced speed they do not have sufficient opportunity to drink in the beauty that spreads out below the mountain ridge. For more prolonged viewing, many vacationers in Shenandoah National Park make use of the 75 overlooks park engineers have created to accommodate their needs. Instead of risking collisions while they indulge their taste for scenic wonder, motorists can simply pull off the road at any of the well marked overlooks, get out of the car if they wish and wander to a convenient spot from which to view the valley, the river and the ever present panorama of simple, timeless beauty that is the Shenandoah Valley.
To make sure you don’t miss anything along the way when you vacation at Shenandoah National Park you are encouraged to visit one of the three information centers found at both entrances to the park as well as at its midpoint. At each of these centers park rangers are available to provide assistance and explanations that can make your stay safe and enjoyable. Rangers are happy and really proud to share information about the park, its activities and its inhabitants. They always have plenty to tell.
Even though touring the park by car from along Skyline Drive is a joy in itself, most vacationers look forward to time spent out of the car getting a view of the natural beauty and diversity of Shenandoah National Park up close. Hikers, young and old, veteran or beginner can choose their own piece of the park to investigate from over 500 miiles of walkable trails in Shenandoah National Park. some 100 miles of trail are also a part of the well known Appalachian Trail. Some trails will lead to scenic waterfalls, others will lead you into deep, dark, dense woods or out into bright, open meadows. All will take you out of your own daily routine to a place you will long remember.
Another way to experience the environs of Shenandoah National Park is from the back of a horse. There are more than 150 miles of ridable trails from which to choose. Vacationers are welcomed to bring their own mounts or rent available horses on site. Shenandoah National Park provides guided trail rides guaranteed to introduce you to the special features and lore of Shenandoah.
Whether you uses your vacation days to tramp about the park on foot, trot along on horseback or retire to the ease and comfort of your car, you will be amazed by the variety of wildlife, birds and plant life that abound. Even the most untrained eye is likely to be quickly rewarded by the frequent viewing of deer in the open ( not one but usually several together ) browsing in meadow lands or grassy spots along the edges of Skyline Drive. The park is also know to provide a home for black bear, raccoons, bobcats and wild turkeys. Because it is a national park, Shenandoah stands as a refuge which protects the lives and environment of more than 200 species of birds that are either full time inhabitants or birds that are on a migratory flight pattern. Along with the birds and beasts you will be treated to hundreds of species of wild flowers that add color and majesty to Shenandoah in the midst of summer. Finally at Shenandoah National Park you are likely to discover remnants of times gone by when park land was privately owned. Here and there are stone foundations of farmers’ homes and long since abandoned cemetery headstones which remind visitors of another time in American history.
While Shenandoah National Park has enough natural beauty within its boundaries to satisfy summer vacationers for weeks at a time, there is more to the Shenandoah experience. If location truly is everything, as many realtors would have you believe, then Shenandoah National Park has everything! Just outside the southern entrance of the park visitors can access Monticello the preserved home and plantation of Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States. At the northern entrance to Shenandoah travelers can easily find their way to the historic town of Harper’s Ferry, a pivotal village immediately before and during the Civil War. To the east of Shenandoah you can make your way for a day trip to Washington, D. C. And a similar day’s trip in the opposite direction will take you to Luray’s Cavern where you can spend time touring underground cave formations.
No Shenandoah National Park certainly isn’t the largest national park, the one with the big name attractions, or the one with the largest wildlife population. But unlike many other national parks, Shenandoah offers not only its own sparkling beauty but also easy access to the wonder of historic and natural attractions close at hand.