In October of 2010 the Busy Bryants went on the Great October Adventure to the Shenandoah National Park. The trip was planned for this time of year in order to catch the leaves changing into their beautiful autumn colors. But like most females Mother Nature is a little unpredictable. The trip was still pretty amazing even without the autumn blaze. We were accompanied by my parents, my sister and her hubby and all three kids in tow. We made the plans about three weeks in advance and gave ourself two days and one night to get up there and back.
|Small town in Culpepper|
Part of the fun of this trip was getting up to the northern entrance in Front Royal, VA. We took mostly scenic routes and went through some small towns in order to get there. I loved the places we passed through and made a note to come back and visit those places some day. What I did not love were the curves (me+curves=barf). But a couple of dramamine and some fresh air did the trick and we were on the road soon again.
Before going into the park we did make a pit stop at Glen Meadow Winery. Located in Front Royal near the entrance to the park this winery had a nice place to sit and sip the wine while taking in all the beautiful views. You can sit here and actually see the cars up on the Shenandoah Parkway.
Once we had our wine we finally headed for the park. The Shenandoah National Park is in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and is 105 miles from the start in Front Royal to the end in Wanyesburo. The fee to enter the park varies depending on time of year and if you plan to be there for more than one day. But it cost somewhere around $15 per carload for two days. They provided us with a park map that highlighted the important stops. For the most part we found the park easy to navigate and the picnic areas marked for visitors. We had plans to stop along the Skyline Drive and hike at a few of the stops. I had found the park website was useful in describing which ones had waterfalls or points of interest. There are also a couple visitor centers that sale books that have the same information, some with better detail. The visitor centers also have park rangers that can answer questions and will do informational talks to guest about various park subjects. There is so much history to the park so there was a lot to take in. And with all the scenic stops there are a lot of sites to see.
Lunch was a mixture of picnic foods that everyone in the family brought for the trip and was at one of the picnic areas provided by the park. Plenty of tables with charcoal grills placed through the area. These areas also have bathrooms for visitors. I only recall one place to get food within the park. And I did not see that until day two. So you would need to exit the park for food unless you bring it in with you. That was also the same with gasoline.
Before night could set in we exited the park at the Luray entrance/exit and stayed in a motel in the town of Luray. There is camping in the park but because we were only going to stay overnight we opted for the motel. Camping in the park is outlined on their website and a few visitors we talked to were happy with the accomodations they offered. The park also has two hotels/resorts. From what I could tell on the website you had to exit the park to get to them so I figured any hotel would be just as easy to get in and out of and then back to the park. There were not as many options with dining in Luray as we had hoped but managed to find a pizzaria with plenty of choices on the menu.
In the a.m. we headed back for the park to finish off the tour. Our second day we used the guide books from the visitor center and planned a hike on one of the many trails. Because the park is part of the Appelacian Trail you could seriously hike for days and maybe even then still not reach the end of the park.
|The end of this hiking trail ended with a gorgeous waterfall. |
I think we hiked 1.5 to get down. Up seemed to feel like 10 miles.
|A shot of the hike back up! Not as easy.|
After the hike and a quick picnic we finished the drive along the Skyline Drive. The end for us was at the Rock Fish Gap exit near Wanyesburo. This is also where you can enter the Blue Ridge Parkway if you are interested in that trip. It puts you out on I-64, west of Charlottsville.
We really enjoyed this trip and plan to continue down to the Blue Ridge Parkway this year. I do think we will allow more time for this trip because we really wanted to get out and do more hiking and not rush to finish the parkway. There were so many scenic overlooks in the park it was hard to decide which one to stop at and which drive by. The park guides and books did help with that by describing what you might find at each one.
If your interested in visiting in-box me and let me know. There is so much more I could share about this great Virginia park!