Shenandoah National Park is a hiker’s haven, with endless trails, summits, waterfalls, and hidden gems to discover. Locals and out-of-staters alike flock to this beautiful national park to see all it has to offer. This park houses over 500 miles of trails, some of that number being the legendary Appalachian Trail. The appeal to hit the trails is strong, so here are a few insider tips to hiking in Shenandoah National Park.
1. Download offline maps
Once you reach the hills on the outskirts of Shenandoah National Park, you lose service. Not only do you need to map your hiking route, there are also lots of miles of road that you need to traverse to even reach the trailhead. It’s a good idea to download offline maps ahead of time. Depending on which mapping app you are using for driving and hiking, you can research how to complete this. Taking this step can alleviate stress once you embark on your hiking journey!
2. Go the speed limit
Whether you’re driving at the base of the mountain, up to Skyline Drive, or along Skyline Drive itself, it’s important to follow the speed limit. The roads at the base are narrow and windy, and often speckled with potholes, so it’s important to lower your speed to avoid damaging your car or others. The drive up the mountain to Skyline Drive is very windy so it’s important to follow the speed limit to avoid any unnecessary lane-swerving. Skyline Drive snakes along the ridge of the mountains, and there are endless views to see from the car. Follow the speed limit as there are lots of other visitors driving the same road and they’re often pulling into or out of overlooks (or worse, stopping in the middle of the road to look at the view) so it’s safest to go slow and be prepared for anything. You’ve got to get to your trailhead safely!
3. Stop at the visitor’s center
After a good hiking trip, it’s a great idea to visit a visitor’s center! There are two in the park - Big Meadows and Dickey Ridge. Big Meadows is the main hub of the park, offering gas, dining, souvenirs, and bathrooms. It’s a good place to stop to relax, recharge, and grab a sticker or souvenir after a day of hiking.
4. Watch out for wildlife
The vast woods that make up Shenandoah National Park house many species of animals, most commonly deer and squirrels. However, bears and snakes also frequent these hills and though they generally don’t bother humans, it’s important to be aware that they do exist in their home habitat and you may have an encounter. Research how to handle such situations before embarking on your hiking adventure to prepare yourself.
Hiking in Shenandoah National Park can be a very rewarding experience due to the breathtaking views and vast trail network, but it’s also important to plan ahead and travel safely to your trailhead. These tips will help your hiking trip in Shenandoah National Park go smoothly!