Shenandoah National Park can be explored with more than just a hike, and its mountain views, quaint towns, and scenic drives are proof of that.
The Shenandoah Valley is a beautiful stretch of land between Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Many people are drawn to its hiking trails, which wind through Shenandoah National Park past breathtaking waterfalls, through verdant forests, and through fields filled with wildflowers. Overall, the park is magical – and it only takes one hike to prove that nature lovers will fall in love with its scenery time and time again.
But what about those who don’t enjoy hiking as much as most of its visitors? Turns out, there’s a lot to do in Shenandoah National Park that doesn’t necessarily include jumping in puddles and traversing rocks. In fact, there are plenty of ways to explore the Shenandoah landscape without even finding a starting point.
Take advantage of the Shenandoah National Park Education Centers
Just because you don’t want to hike doesn’t mean Shenandoah National Park is off limits. In fact, there’s a lot to consider for those looking for other avenues of exploration. The first starting point for any type of activity around this national park, however, is the visitor center – there are two.
Getting to the visitor centers is just as scenic as hiking, some would say. Thanks to the scenery surrounding the drive to get there, it’s nothing but mountain views for a full half hour. It’s also fairly easy to visit both visitor centers in one trip, as they are only 25 miles apart. This is also where visitors can find informative exhibits and short films about the Shenandoah Valley.
Dickey Ridge Visitor Center
This visitor center is located in Front Royal, Virginia, at the northern end of Shenandoah National Park. For those entering the park from the north, this will be the first stop along the way. AT thousand 4.6visitors can find:
- Information about the park and the region
- A library
- Park Publications
- Maps of the park and surroundings
It’s the smaller of the two visitor centers, but it offers enough amenities for travelers to get a sense of where they’re exploring. The maps found here will also be useful for pointing out viewpoints and points of interest on the way to the second south-facing visitor center.
Harry F. Byrd, Sr. Visitor Center
Those who visit the Harry F. Byrd, Sr. Visitor Center will have ranger programs and more at their disposal. The center itself is located across from Big Meadows, which is a popular lookout point in the Shenandoah Valley – minimal hiking required! It’s also centrally located in Shenandoah National Park, so it’s a great place to hang out for lunch and take in the views. AT thousand 51visitors will find:
- An information desk
- Ranger and nature programs
- A library
- Park Publications
- First aid
Take in the scenery from the road
The Shenandoah Valley is unique in that Skyline Drive takes travelers directly through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Scenic lookout points along the way showcase the beauty of the mountain range, and it’s easy to get scenic views without even breaking out a pair of hiking boots. Believe it or not, Skyline Drive houses 75 viewpointseach of which can be reached either by stairs or a short walk – some are even as easily accessible as by simply stopping!
While most of these viewpoints offer views of the surrounding mountains, many of them also lead to waterfalls and streams that are right next to the road. Lookout elevations range from just over 1,000 feet to just under 4,000 feet, and some provide access to campgrounds and accommodations.
- Pro Tip: Plug in the GPS coordinates of the milestones you are interested in so they are easy to find; Skyline Drive is a switchback road that can be unforgiving if a destination is accidentally passed the first time around.
Admire the beauty of Shenandoah from its towns and villages
The beauty of the Shenandoah Valley is that you don’t have to drive to Skyline Drive to appreciate it. While this provides the best views, similar views can be had from the ground, especially near the entrances to Shenandoah National Park. Below are the four main entrances to Skyline Drive and the towns around them that travelers can explore or book.
Entrance to Rockfish Gap
Swift Run Gap Entrance
- Mount Crawford
Entrance Thornton Gap
- flint hill
- Front Royal
Front royal entrance
- Front Royal
No matter how one chooses to explore the vast landscape of the Shenandoah Valley, it’s sure to promise a mountain adventure like no other.
Next: Hiking the Shenandoah: Here’s What You Need to Know
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