Shenandoah National Park is arguably one of the most famous parks in the Eastern United States. Admittedly, we visited mountains of Virginia solely because we were drawn to the park ourselves. These 200,000 acres of protected land are full of beautiful hikes and waterfalls, so – as I’m sure you can imagine – there are an abundance of things to do in Shenandoah National Park. Read on to discover my favorite spots, and one of my all-time favorite hikes!
Things to do in Shenandoah National Park
All photos in this article taken by David M Gallo Photography. This page contains affiliate links, meaning that The Five Foot Traveler may receive a small commission when you purchase any flights, rental cars, or accommodations using the links in this article at no extra cost to you. I appreciate your continued support!
Where is Shenandoah National Park?
Shenandoah National Park is located in the mountains of Virginia, about an hour and a half from Washington DC and Richmond, and two hours from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Talk about a beautiful location!
There are four airports that serve Shenandoah National Park:
- Washington Dulles International Airport
- Reagan National Airport
- Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport
- Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport
From there, be sure to rent a car, as I recommend road tripping to Shenandoah from any of the above locations to best maximize your time in the mountains of Virginia. You will then, of course, want to road trip Skyline Drive! Get the best rates for your rental car here.
Shenandoah Skyline Drive
Skyline Drive Entrances
There are four Skyline Drive entrances to Shenandoah National Park from which to choose: Front Royal (North Entrance), Thornton Gap, Swift Run Gap, and Rockfish Gap (South Entrance), so I recommend planning your itinerary for Shenandoah National Park prior to your arrival.
Whether you’re planning on tackling Old Rag Mountain or checking out the Stony Man Trail, there are ample things to do in Shenandoah National Park. Here are a few of my favorites…
1. Old Rag
Looking for a good ‘ol rock scramble? Look no further than Virginia’s Old Rag Mountain. I can say with absolute certainty that you will love this hike. While it’s 9 miles with a 2,500 foot gain, I promise that it’s so fun you won’t even notice. My brother and I completed the entire hike in just under four hours, at an extremely fast pace. The average person probably takes closer to 5-6 hours to complete the hike. If you do just one hike in the mountains of Virginia, let it be the Old Rag hike. The mile-long rock scramble will leave your heart pumping, and the views aren’t too shabby either!
Old Rag Mountain – Things to do in Shenandoah National Park
2. Luray Caverns
I’ve seen many, many caves during my travels, and so I actually skipped out on Luray Caverns to catch up on some writing and sent David on his own. When he returned and showed me his photos, I realized that I had passed up one of the prettiest caves in the world. Just look at this photo! Can you believe that this is a reflection?!
Luray Caverns – Things to do in Shenandoah
3. Skyline Drive
The Skyline Drive is 105 miles long, running North to South along the Blue Ridge Mountains within the park. If you’re looking to drive the entire route, it will take you about four hours, excluding stops. It’s along the Skyline Drive that you’ll access much of the Shenandoah National Park hiking trails, as well as all of the Skyline Drive hikes. There are many pullover spots along the drive offering you sweeping vistas. Pretty beautiful if you ask me!
Shenandoah Skyline Drive
4. Stony Man Trail
The Stony Man trail is extremely easy and accessible for everyone. It’s only 1.6 miles there and back, with only a 340 foot elevation gain. At a leisurely pace, it will take you a grand total of an hour, but will provide you with stunning views of the mountains.
Stony Man Trail – National Parks in Virginia
5. Bearfence Rock Scramble
My favorite aspect of the Bearfence Trail is that it’s a rock scramble. Again, it only takes an hour and has an elevation gain of 311 feet, but the scramble makes it a little more difficult. There’s something thrilling about pulling yourself up and over the boulders in order to reach the beautiful viewpoints from the Bearfence Rock Scramble.
Bearfence Rock Scramble – Things to do in Shenandoah National Park
If you’re journeying farther south in Virginia, be sure to check out…
Crab Tree Falls
I like easy hikes that offer fabulous views, don’t you? If you’re having a lazy morning, check out Crab Tree Falls. Within just 0.5 miles, you will see three super pretty waterfalls.
Crab Tree Falls – Shenandoah Hiking
I really hope you have time for two hikes in Virginia because Dragon’s Tooth is also a lot of fun. It’s a four-mile hike rated for the average trail-goer; it’s a bit steep and there’s some mild (fun!) rock scrambling leading to a sweet rock formation with great views.
Dragon's Tooth – Things to do in Shenandoah Valley
Heavenly Acres is located in Stanardsville, and owned by Gary and his wife. They are the absolute sweetest and will do everything in their power to make you as comfortable as possible. It's a great spot to stay when exploring Shenandoah National Park.
What separates Heavenly Acres from many campsites was their sense of community — the owners were so accessible and really wanted to get to know all of their guests, and for the each guest to get to know one another. To do so, they had nightly activities to bring everyone together. We joined them for a fabulous ice cream sundae party, and then Gary took a few of the kids out on a Hay Ride since it was Halloween Weekend.They definitely make Heavenly Acres homey, and if you don’t have an RV and don’t feel like camping, be sure to check out staying in one of their cabooses!
Map of Shenandoah National Park
You can find my suggested things to do in Shenandoah National Park pinned on the map below, as well as the Skyline Drive entrances and my favorite Shenandoah cabins. As always, feel free to leave any questions below!
Washington Dulles International Airport
Reagan National Airport
Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport
Front Royal (North Entrance)
Swift Run Gap
Rockfish Gap (South Entrance)
Stony Man Trail
Bearfence Rock Scramble
Crab Tree Falls
Know Before You Go!
Packing for Trip to Shenandoah National Park
Now that you have a map of Shenandoah National Park on hand and have read about my favorite Skyline Drive hikes, make sure you’re prepared! If you’re camping, ensure you have a reliable tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, camping pillow, and a warm coat at absolute minimum, especially if you stay at a Shenandoah campground. All of the gear I linked to, I own and recommend personally. Of course, there are many more things that I recommend packing for your trip though, and I highly recommend that you check out my “137 Travel Essentials” to pack for your trip to Shenandoah Valley.
The Best Travel Card
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Purchase Travel Insurance for your Trip to Shenandoah National Park
I hope you don’t embark without travel insurance! If you do, you better think again. Travel insurance is arguably the most important thing to have on hand (after your passports and visas) for a trip like this. I’ve had to use my travel insurance multiple times on the road, even though I’m healthy. You never know when something might happen; take comfort in knowing that whether your flight gets cancelled or you wind up sick and in the hospital, you will be covered. I recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance for each and every one of you travelers. You can get a free quote here.