Making the most of Virginia's national gem
As the fall months get closer my family and I try to plan our travels around the changing foliage of the season. Nothing makes me happier than the sudden crisp air combined with the beautiful colors of autumn.
Though my family and I have our favorite spots for leaf-peeping, we recently decided to head a bit further South to Virginia to explore Shenandoah National Park, which is one of the best places in the South to enjoy fall. But with 197,000 acres to explore, much of it consisting of Blue Ridge mountain views, forest trails, some of which lead to waterfalls, this destination is perfect any time of the year. We enjoyed Shenandoah for so many reasons. Here are some of them.
A hiker’s paradise
There are over 500 miles of hiking trails in the park—101 of them make up the Appalachian trail, an exciting endeavor for any hiking lover. Some trails offer easy access to those with disabilities or who don’t want to take on a strenuous experience just to enjoy the woods, and other trails help challenge you. The reward of taking on the more challenging trails, besides feeling amazing that you did so, are the views at the top.
One of the best ways to make the most of your time at Shenandoah is to stay at one of the lodges in the park. Though there are many other lodging options right outside the park, the drive in can take about 30 minutes, eating up precious exploration time. You also have the convenience of never having to leave the park and taking in all the sounds of its wildlife at night. However, you have to book early as the lodges and cabins fill up fast. We found that the Holiday Inn Express Woodstock was a good option outside the park. It’s easier on the budget, but also often easier to book than the lodges in the park, especially if you are a more spontaneous traveler.
Viewfinder Tip: Pack a lunch and plenty of snacks so that you don’t have to take the long drive out in search of food or spend a little extra to eat in one of the lodges’ restaurants.
They welcome dogs
For those who don’t want to leave their fur-baby behind, Shenandoah is a pet-friendly national park. Not all trails are open to dogs, however, so make sure to check the park map and carefully read all signs to know where you can bring your pet along. Though we had to miss out on some of the waterfalls hikes, we were able to enjoy some long trails with epic views at the end.
The park is only 75 miles from Washington, D.C., though we didn’t mind the 5-hour drive from New Jersey. During our visit, we covered only but a small section of the park. It would take several visits, or a really long stay to see it all, giving us plenty of reasons to go back soon.
Where are your favorites fall getaway spots?
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