Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Way back in the fall of 2017 I had the chance to visit Shenandoah National Park with my then-boyfriend (now husband). He was attending school at the Naval Academy, so the park was only a few hours’ drive. Off we went.
Storm clouds loomed overhead for our entire drive out to the park, and upon arriving they had not broken up. Instead, a blanket of thick fog accompanied the misty, gloomy weather. This meant we could not really see much while driving along the famous Skyline Drive (the main road that weaves through the entire park). We chose to do a 4.6 mile out-and-back hike to White Oak Canyon. We were covered in a damp, heavy mist for the entire hike but the weather actually contributed to the beauty. Most of it wandered on a fairly flat trail through wooded forest, with parts of it next to a sidling river. We went out to the canyon, where we saw a waterfall crashing down into the canyon floor below, all enshrouded in fog and clouds. Although we were wet and cold by the finish of the hike, I did get to try out my new rain jacket and we did not see another soul on on trail.
Our next day, and our only full day, yielded to us glorious warm sunshine. And along with that lots of other park patrons as well. We set out on our drive intending to hike Old Rag, but we accidentally drove the wrong direction on Skyline Drive so we ended up doing a smattering of smaller hikes instead. With the day being so clear, all the vantage points in the park were actually visible while driving and hiking.
Our first little jaunt was to Chimney Rock, a neat little outcropping of boulders on the side of a mountain face. Majority of this hike (and all the other ones we did) were through wooded forest without much of a panoramic view, but nonetheless were nice little walks. The Chimney Rocks sit right beside Calvary Rocks and give a wonderfully sweeping view of the mountains.
Our second hike, Doyle’s Falls, took us to two waterfalls. First a 23 footer and then a 63 footer. This trail was much flatter and less rocky than the Chimney Rock trail, so naturally it attracted more crowds.
Our final little hike, at just one mile, held the most elevation gain per foot while also being the shortest hike of the day. It also revealed to us some of the best views of the day. Loft Mountain is a one-mile loop that climbs steeply up to a gorgeous vantage point, then just as quickly takes you back down. The top of Loft Mountain is bare stone, allowing hikers lots of space to wander and marvel at the scenery.
That night we stopped at a pulloff on Skyline Drive to catch a sunset and wow was it gorgeous. Such vibrant colors settling over the silhouettes of the mountains.
For the final portion of the day before I flew back home, we hiked Pass Mountain and Stony Man Mountain. Stony Man Mountain gave a scenic view..Pass Mountain was a nice walk but not much of a view. We did see a bear cub crawling across the road too, which I mistook for a deer because he was so lanky.
Shenandoah National Park was a great experience and I would love to go back someday!
https://www.nps.gov/shen/index.htm à NPS Website
https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/upload/WhiteoakCanyon_RoadTrail.pdf à White Oak Canyon
https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/virginia/calvary-and-chimney-rocks-trail à Chimney Rock Trail
https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/virginia/doyles-river-falls-trail à Doyle’s Falls Hike
https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/virginia/pass-mountain-loop à Pass Mountain Loop