Shenandoah National Park Things to Do

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Best Rated Things to Do in Shenandoah National Park

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    Signal Knob Overlook

    by travelfrosch Written Nov 12, 2006

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    The Signal Knob Overlook is at an elevation of 2,085 feet. It's at just about Milepost 6 on Skyline Drive. You can get an excellent view of the valley and the mountains beyond. It's definitely worth a stop.

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    Big Meadows

    by chewy3326 Written Dec 5, 2005

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    Big Meadows

    This giant meadow, the largest in the park, is home to the Byrd Visitor Center as well as a handful of other visitor facilities. It's possible to walk into the meadow, though we didn't. In September of each year, the Rappahannock Astronomy Club holds star-gazing programs here; check www.rac.com for details. Besides that, the meadow is the starting point of many good hikes around the park. Also, it's a good area for birdwatching.

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    Chestnut and red oak forests

    by matcrazy1 Updated Sep 21, 2006

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    RED OAK FOREST, SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK
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    Shenandoah National Park is first of all mountainous park covered by forests. It is greater than 95% forested thus it's often visited in fall when leaves turn colours. But that foggy October day there were almost no visitors. Over half of the land is dominated by either chestnut or red oak forests situated on the ridge tops and upper slopes, that is along Skyline Drive, so I could easily find them.

    We don't have red oaks in Europe, they grow exclusively in both Americas. That one common in Shenandoah is Northern Red Oak and is state tree of New Jersey as well as the Provincial tree of Prince Edward Island in Canada.

    Common in Poland and southeastern Europe Sweet Chestnut looks quite different than American Chestnut which has smaller fruits and is a very important tree for wildlife in the park, providing much of the fall mast for species such as Virginia deer and wild turkey.

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    Hogback Overlook

    by travelfrosch Written Nov 12, 2006

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    An endless series of ridges
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    This is the highest and most scenic overlook in the northern portion of the park. Hogback Overlook is at an elevation of 3,385 feet. It affords a magnificent panorama to the west, where you can see a seemingly endless series of ridges. The number of ridges you can see depends on the visibility that day. Today, it's a bit hazy, but you can still see quite far.

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    Rattlesnake Point Overlook

    by travelfrosch Written Nov 12, 2006

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    Rattlesnake Point Overlook provides a tremendous view to the south with an array of mountains spread in front of you. You can drive here, or you can take a brief detour on the Sugar Loaf hike I described earlier.

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    Mysterious, shining trees

    by matcrazy1 Updated Sep 21, 2006

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    URSZULA (matcrazy0) AND SHINING TREE TRUNK
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    There are trees with trunks covered with silverish-green shining moss (or liverworts?) in Shenandoah National Park. In dark, foggy day they looked very mysterious and beautiful livening up dark and grey fall landscape. I have never seen anything like that. Species of moss covering often shady surface of tree trunks in Poland are mostly dark green and never shine so beautifully.

    I had a nice chat on these trees with a park worker in Byrd Visitor Center. Haha, I didn't know that English word "moss" that time, so it was funny. The lady trying to understand what I was asking for showed me pictures of trees with no moss on their trunks. Shortly I got to know something on Northern Red Oak and American Chestnut but nothing about the shiny moss on tree trunks. Well, I should show her my pictures of the trees, silly me. Later on, I read that Shenandoah National Park supports approximately 208 species of moss and 58 species of liverwort.

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    Greenish-white lichens

    by matcrazy1 Updated Sep 21, 2006

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    LICHENS ON A ROCK, SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK
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    There are numerous rock formations along Skyline Drive, in upper parts of Blue Ridge Mountains. I've seen a few but they were not very interesting by size and shape. Well, nothing compare to rock formations of northern Arizona and Utah I was lucky to see a year before.

    Most of the rocks in Shenandoah National Park are covered by beautiful greenish-white or white plants, probably lichens which are the first colonists on exposed rocks. Later on I've got to know that 69 species of lichen are known from Shenandoah National Park. Two of these species, map lichen (Rhizocarpon geographicum), and black crust (Melinelia stigia) are extremely rare in Virginia and found only on rock outcrops in the central district of the park. Are they on my pictures?

    Lichens are a specific group of fungi unique because of their symbiotic relationship with green algae. The algae provide carbohydrates from photosynthesis to the fungus, while the fungus provides nutrients from decomposition to the algae.

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    Millers Head Trail

    by Shihar Written Sep 20, 2005

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    Millers Head Trail

    Please use caution when on this trail especially in the morning!

    We saw a BEAR!!!!

    It was very scary, and he took off running when he saw us. The trail has lots of huge boulders that the bears can hide behind. The hiking guide said the view at this observation point was stellar. Unfortunately, we did not make it there!

    Earlier in the morning we saw a deer rubbing on a tree at the trail head as shown by the picture.

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    Lewis Falls Trail

    by Shihar Updated Sep 21, 2005

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    Lewis Mt. Trail waterfall
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    This was our last (and longest) trail we hiked. There is a waterfall with a small observation area for photos.

    The return route is the Appalachian trail which is well maintained in National Parks.

    Moderately strenous with steep and rocky areas 3.3 mile roundtrip from Big Meadows amphitheater.

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    Dark Hollow Falls

    by PinkFloydActuary Written May 23, 2006

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    Dark Hollow Falls

    About the middle of the drive, you'll come upon the Big Meadows area. Just north of that is the trailhead for Dark Hollow Falls. This is about 1.5 miles roundtrip, but you'd better believe it feels like .1 to get there and 1.4 coming back. There are some steep sections! Just when you think you're there, there is a last, very steep section to get to the bottom.

    It is worth it. the waterfall is about 70 feet tall, and it cascades over several levels. Take your time to admire it so that you can rest up for the trek back to the parking area...

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    Go for a hike, look for black bears :-)

    by matcrazy1 Written Sep 21, 2006

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    AMPHITEATER. BIG FLAT MOUNTAIN, SHENANDOAH NP
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    The Shenandoah National Park with over 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail is a paradise for hiking fans of all ages, abilities and interests. The maps of hiking trails of the Northern, Central and Southern district of the park (each at a price of some $6.00) are available in visitor centers and also displayed along the Skyline Drive as many trails are accessed from the drive. You may also download them from here. There are short trails leading to a waterfall or viewpoint as well as longer and more difficult trails penetrating deep into the forest and wilderness. Well, I'd love to find a black bear living in the wilderness.

    I wanted to go for 2-3 hours hike but foggy and partly rainy weather changed my plans. Well, I took an easy, fairly level hike circling Big Flat Mountain and the Loft Mountain Campground (1.6 miles, 1 3/4 hour). In the beginning I saw the mysterious amphitheatre in my picture. Referring to park information the trail leads to excellent views, but not that foggy day. So, after some 20 min. I returned to my parking lot.

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    Forest defoliated by gypsy moth

    by matcrazy1 Updated Sep 21, 2006

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    DEFOLIATED FOREST, SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK
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    Apart from thick chestnut and red oak forests in fall colours I saw quite many damaged trees in the Shenandoah National Park, especially close to Loft Mountain Campground (Skyline Drive mile 79-80). They had dry trunks, few branches and no leaves. The visible vegetation in these area was limited to thick bushes on the ground with some unknown to me red in colour berries on them (picture 5).

    At first I thought the trees were damamged by fire. Later on, I got to know that the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) killed large numbers of oak trees in the early to mid-1990’s. These large pale bark-less trees continue to be visible from many places along Skyline Drive.

    Gypsy moth, originally ranging from Europe to Asia, was introduced to North America in 1868 by a French scientist Leopold Trouvelot and has been expanding its range ever since. It was not the best gift from France as this moth defoliated over 12,900,000 acres (52,200 km²) of forests in record 1981 year.

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    Skyline Drive

    by PinkFloydActuary Written May 23, 2006

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    Watch for deer along the drive!

    This is the 105 mile scenic road that takes you the entire length of the park. There is a $10 fee to drive it unless you have the Parks pass. Along the route are probably 75 overlooks. Eventually, the scenery all starts to look the same, so don't feel bad if you miss a few. Note the speed limit is 35 MPH, and that's because there are many blind corners near the overlooks, as well as many deer along the roadway. Take your time, and enjoy the beautiful wooded area. You may also want to take time to try a trail or two and get out of the car.

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    BEARFENCE MOUNTAIN

    by mtncorg Written Oct 28, 2006

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    Outdroppings atop Bearfence
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    Weather and time constraints left me with a mere half an afternoon to taste the delights of Shenandoah National Park. I chose the highest section of the Skyline Drive, the middle third piece from Swift Run in the south to Thornton Gap in the north, to visit. Asking at the entrance station for a recommendation for the best short hike to take, the reply was Bearfence Mountain. The hike is only about a mile loop from the parking lot at the 56.4 mile point of the Skyline Drive - roughly, the midpoint of the Park. You cross over the road and ascend through the woods to the Appalachian Trail, crossing this and gaining the crest of the Blue Ridge. From here, the trail becomes more of a lower class rock scramble, not very difficult if you are used to that sort of thing, but certainly challenging if your idea of a trail is something that you can walk two abreast along. The payback is in the wonderful views from atop in all directions - that, along with the fun of the scramble, itself. You will want to be very careful if the rocks are wet atop. If it is raining, then it doesn't make any sense to be out hiking, if you have a choice - unless you are evaluating out your rain gear.

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    Mary's Rock Summit

    by chewy3326 Updated Dec 9, 2011

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    View south from Mary's Rock
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    From the viewpoint at Mary's Rock, an easy scramble up a couple of rocks puts you at the summit of Mary's Rock, which, at 3,514 feet, is the eighth highest peak in the park. The view from the summit is a full 360 degrees, and includes Pass Mt, the Peak, Mt Marshall, Hogback Mt, Neighbor Mt, Stony Man, Old Rag, the Three Sisters, Thornton Gap, and the town of Luray in Shenandoah Valley. This is one of the most spectacular views in the park; be sure not to miss it.

    You can follow the rocky spine of Mary's Rock to its end; some fun rock scrambling past the summit will put you back on the Appalachian Trail, which you can follow north for a tenth of a mile back to the viewpoint. I certainly recommend doing this if you're physically capable of doing it- the scrambling here is easily as good as that at Bearfence and provides views that are just as good, too. You can also find a tiny rock cave and all sorts of other fun things. Be careful, though, as there are steep dropoffs to the west.

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Shenandoah National Park Things to Do

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