A few weeks ago we were able to visit Shenandoah National Park. It was a truly beautiful experience and the kids learned so much. The park cuts a long, narrow slice through a northern section of Virginia. It took us about two hours to get there from our home in Maryland and made a great day trip/ field trip.
The entire park is situated along the 105 mile long Skyline Drive. The road stretches along the Blue Ridge Mountains like a ribbon. Popping in and out of tunnels, you have some incredible views of the valley below and the rocky face of the mountain. There are a multitude of places to pull over and enjoy the view.
There are several entrance stations, but we went through Thornton Gap. After paying our entrance fee, we stopped in at the visitors center. They have clean bathrooms and there were park rangers who could answer questions and recommend trails. With over 500 miles of trail, we had no idea where to start. But the ranger told us about a good spot for families that had a paved trail just over a mile and half.
We took Limberlost Trail in the Skyland section of the park. I’ll be honest, the mile and a half was just a little too long for us, but we made it just fine. There were several benches to stop and rest and eat. We also had a little fun posing our toys.
This trail got its name from all the Hemlock trees that had been lost due to an invasive insect species. Many fallen trees lined the trail as a result of natural events like a hurricane. There was educational information posted and even a small kids’ guide with activities to do while hiking. We had a lot of fun trying to identify trees, spotting fungi and moss, and searching for creatures.
This trail got its name from all the Hemlock trees that had been lost due to an invasive insect species. Many fallen trees lined the trail as a result of natural events like a hurricane. There was educational information posted and even a small kids’ guide with activities to do while hiking. We had a lot of fun trying to identify trees, spotting fungi and moss, and searching for creatures. Baby M was particularly interested in the caterpillars.
Shenandoah National Park also has numerous campsites and even lodges. We considered staying, but the cost was about $300/night because it was peak foliage season. We only paid a $25 entrance fee plus the cost of gas. It was definitely an affordable family getaway! But the current administration is considering a big change to the fee schedule at this and 16 other parks. The proposed vehicle fee would be $70 from June through October. The National Parks Service says it needs to make improvements, but advocates worry that too many people will not be able to afford a visit their publicly-owned, national parks. To make a public comment on this rate change, go here. (DEADLINE Nov. 23) You can also follow #nationaltakeahikeday or #parksforall on Twitter.
Our visit gave us many fantastic memories and provided so much learning for the children. I got our gorgeous photos printed (like the real, hold-in-your-hand photos) and we are going to make a book with some of what we saw. I’ll update on Instagram once it’s done.
Have you been to any national parks? Have you been to Shenandoah? I really want to go back and try one of the waterfall hikes. Hopefully we will be able to!