Shenandoah National Park shields part of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and is located in the north central area of Virginia. The park itself totals more than 199,000 acres overall and approximately 40 percent of it is considered wilderness and is therefore protected. One well-known aspect of the park that attracts people from all over is Skyline Drive, which is an amazing scenic route that runs through its entire length. Skyline Drive mostly runs close to the ridge-line, offering visitors to the park a number of stellar views of the rich and fertile valley. Almost two million people enjoy Skyline Drive each year, and is particularly popular in the fall when the brilliant color of the leaves start turning. In 2005, the road was declared a National Scenic Byway.

The park boasts a 500 mile trail system, including 100 miles plus as part of the Appalachian Trail that beautifully outlines the ridge-line of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It typically follows a similar route to Skyline Drive and crosses it many times throughout the park.

This amazing national park is legendary due to its abundant wildlife, which includes black bears, in addition to numerous waterfalls scattered all over the park, some of which tower 75 feet and higher.

Here are some of the park’s best featured hiking trails that I personally enjoy:

Riprap Trail
Two west-facing, especially nice views atop Chimney Rock and Calvary Rocks, the moderately difficult trail makes a round trip of about 3.5 miles. For a more demanding and longer hike, keep heading south on Riprap Trail over to Wildcat Ridge Train and then turn east to the Appalachian Trail and then head north. The longer hike totals about 9.7 miles in all.

Compton Peak
This hike loops around and has an 835 ft. change in elevation with a gorgeous view of the park along the way. This stunning trail starts out on the west side of Skyline Drive. Two of the hiking miles is actually on Appalachian Trail and branches off to the trail’s peak. It’s a good trail for families to traverse since it’s relatively easy.

Doyles River Falls
Want to see two of the most attractive waterfalls in the park? Visit Doyles River Falls to experience nature at its best. One fall is 28 ft. in height and the other is an incredible 63 ft. to feast your eyes upon; a true splendor for nature lovers everywhere. The fairly easy trail is about 2.6 miles round trip.

Sugarloaf/Hogback Mountain
This picturesque trek offers spectacular views and is even more beautiful when the rhododendrons are in full bloom. There some spots along the 4.9 mile trail that will actually take your breath away due to the amazing views and unique geology you’ll see. Although the trail itself is somewhat strenuous, it’s well worth it in terms of the views.

Hawksbill Trail
This moderate hike takes you to the highest peak found anywhere in the park with views that words can’t describe. It’s about 3 miles long and is ideal to explore on a beautiful, sunny day. When doing this hike bring a camera. When I went out I saw a small herd of deer and a black bear!

If you’re planning a family trip to one of our nation’s most beautiful and breathtaking parks, remember that the park itself stretches more than 200 miles across. Therefore, if time is a factor, keep in mind that it may take as long as 90 minutes to reach some of the most popular sites and attractions. Shenandoah really is one of my all time favorite parks. This is just the tip of the iceberg of all the activities in Shenandoah. What is your favorite hike?

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