May 30, 2023

So if I say Shenandoah Valley, what do you consider? In all probability Shenandoah Nationwide Park? Perhaps the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway? You aren’t fallacious, however there’s extra to the Shenandoah Valley than simply scenic drives and mountain climbing within the Nationwide Park. Questioning in regards to the issues to do in Shenandoah Valley, Virginia? I’ve received you lined…from the small cities to go to to the most effective sights for households, preserve studying for causes to plan a visit to Shenandoah.

The place is Shenandoah Valley?

The Shenandoah Valley stretches from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia to Roanoke, Virginia. Positioned within the western a part of the state of Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley covers an space of roughly 200 miles in size and 20 miles in width, bordered by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and Allegheny Mountains to the west.

Throughout the Civil Battle, this area was nicknamed the “breadbasket of the Confederacy.” At present, this space is an outside wonderland, with bucolic farms and nation roads. There are pure wonders just like the Luray and Shenandoah Caverns, and Pure Bridge, in addition to beautiful scenic drives alongside the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Shenandoah Valley additionally consists of Shenandoah Nationwide Park and the favored Bryce Mountain and Massanutten Resorts. There are many out of doors adventures available together with biking, mountain climbing, paddle sports activities, and horseback using.

This area has been memorialized in songs like “Oh, Shenandoah!” I keep in mind my first time driving the Skyline Drive as a child and pondering…so there’s the place “oh purple mountain’s majesty” is referring to in This Land is Your Land.

Things to do in Shenandoah Valley - blue ridge mountains

The right way to Get to Shenandoah Valley

To get to the Shenandoah Valley, there are a number of choices relying in your place to begin and if you wish to journey north to south or vice versa. In case you are coming from Washington, D.C., you possibly can take Interstate 66 west for about 70 miles till you attain Entrance Royal, which is taken into account the gateway to the Shenandoah Nationwide Park. From Entrance Royal, you possibly can entry Skyline Drive, which runs 105 miles alongside the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains and thru the Shenandoah Nationwide Park.

Another choice is to take Interstate 81 south of Winchester, Virginia, which is situated roughly 75 miles west of Washington, D.C. Winchester is situated within the northern a part of the Shenandoah Valley, and is taken into account a great place to begin for exploring the area. From Winchester, you possibly can head south and discover the numerous small cities, historic websites, and scenic drives that make the Shenandoah Valley such a well-liked vacation spot.

In case you are coming from Richmond, Virginia, you possibly can take Interstate 64 west for about 100 miles till you attain Charlottesville, Virginia. From Charlottesville, you possibly can proceed west or northwest to Staunton or Harrisonburg within the Shenandoah Valley.

Love Harrisonburg Virginia sign
One of many many LOVE indicators all through Virginia, this one was present in Harrisonburg, VA

Issues to do in Shenandoah Valley

Notice: This submit could include affiliate hyperlinks. When you click on a hyperlink and make a purchase order, I could obtain a small fee. All opinions are my very own.

We spent a number of time exploring Shenandoah Valley as a part of our two-week, mother-daughter Virginia street journey. Since we traveled from south to north, that’s how I’ve laid out this stuff to do in Shenandoah Valley. Our go to was hosted by Harrisonburg and Shenandoah, Virginia. All opinions are my very own.

In case you are planning a go to to the Shenandoah Valley with children, try the Shenandoah Valley Kids Trail, designed to let children steer the household trip.

Drive the Skyline Drive & Go to Shenandoah Nationwide Park

Shenandoah National Park in Virginia

The Skyline Drive is the 105-mile scenic byway by way of the Blue Mountains of Virginia, which serves as the one street by way of Shenandoah Nationwide Park. This byway begins in Entrance Royal in Northern Virginia and ends at Rockfish Hole, the place Route 64 crosses the Blue Ridge Mountains. South of Route 64, the freeway turns into the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are 4 entrances and quite a few surrounding communities that present providers to the park at Entrance Royal, Thornton Hole, Swift Run Hole, and Rockfish Hole.

Driving the Skyline Drive is a quintessential American street journey, providing beautiful views and entry to the scenic Shenandoah Nationwide Park. The park covers 200,000 acres by way of the Blue Ridge Mountains, named for the hue created by water evaporating from the crops and bushes. Alongside the Drive, there are 75 overlooks throughout the park, in addition to an opportunity to view a few of the wildlife that makes it residence within the park similar to deer, black bear, wild turkey, and different woodland animals. 

With a pace restrict of 35 mph, it takes about three hours to drive the size of the Skyline Drive. The Skyline Drive is open three hundred and sixty five days of the 12 months however can shut for inclement climate and at night time throughout deer-hunting season, so it’s best to test with the park earlier than you head out by calling the park’s recorded data line: (540) 999-3500. Simply remember that park providers are solely open from mid-March by way of late November.

If you wish to spend extra time mountain climbing and exploring Shenandoah Nationwide Park, I might suggest dedicating at the least two days to this space to slot in just a few of the extra in style hikes and sights. Understand that there are over 500 miles of trails to discover! The Appalachian Path goes proper by way of Shenandoah for 101 miles.

When you’re in search of an incredible hike within the park, two trails that come extremely beneficial are the Outdated Rag Mountain Path and the Hawksbill Summit Path. The Outdated Rag Mountain Path is a difficult 8.8-mile hike that takes you to the summit of Outdated Rag Mountain, the best peak within the park.

The path is rated as strenuous, with steep climbs, rock scrambles, and slim passages. You ought to be ready with good mountain climbing boots and loads of water. A day-use permit is required to hike Outdated Rag Mountain from March by way of November, and parking might be restricted, so it’s beneficial to reach early or take a shuttle from the Outdated Rag parking space.

The Hawksbill Summit Path is a reasonable 2.9-mile hike that takes you to the best level within the park at Hawksbill Mountain. The path gives gorgeous views of the encircling mountains and valleys, making it an incredible selection for photographers and nature lovers. Parking is accessible on the Hawksbill parking space, however it might probably refill shortly throughout peak season, so it’s finest to reach early.

There are additionally quite a lot of hikes that are good for kids, together with Blackrock Summit, Stony Man, and Lands Run Falls. In case you are in search of waterfalls, Darkish Hole Falls is likely one of the hottest waterfalls within the park. The falls cascade 70 ft down a collection of steps, creating a surprising show of water and mist. The hike to Darkish Hole Falls is a reasonable 1.4-mile round-trip hike, and the trailhead is situated close to mile marker 50 on Skyline Drive. The path might be busy, particularly on weekends, so it’s finest to reach early to safe a parking spot.

We entered the Skyline Drive on the southernmost entrance at Rockfish Hole, on our means from Charlottesville to Harrisonburg, VA. In case you are driving with out stopping for hikes, you possibly can undoubtedly get scenic overlook fatigue in case you cease at every overlook, however you simply by no means know what you would possibly discover.

Click on on the images beneath to enlarge them:

Our most fun second within the park occurred at a scenic overlook on the northbound facet. We had been standing close to the automobile taking some photos once I heard a loud rustling noise. I regarded round and didn’t see something. However once I heard it once more, I observed a tree perhaps 100 ft down a slope from the overlook swaying wildly.

I instantly thought — that’s no fowl! I scanned the world for hazard and didn’t see something close by so we stayed close to the automobile to look at. Quickly, a black head poked out of the tree and the face of a small black bear was clearly seen. We had been very excited to see a bear within the wild — but additionally in a scenario the place we felt very secure, standing proper subsequent to our unlocked automobile.

I received out my zoom lens for a greater view and began snapping some photos. One other automobile quickly pulled up they usually had been going to only drive away once I gestured to them to level out the bear. All of us noticed quietly because the bear proceeded to interrupt off the highest branches of the tree to eat the leaves. At one level there was fairly a crash and I assumed the bear was going to fall proper out of the tree but it surely caught itself. It was undoubtedly the fun of the journey to look at this bear in its factor, however I’ve to say it made me assume twice in regards to the preparations I’d want earlier than doing a lot mountain climbing within the park.

Discover downtown Harrisonburg, Virginia

Since we drove the Skyline Drive, we needed to skip visiting Staunton, which I’ve heard is sort of a beautiful city. In case you have extra time to spend within the park and Shenandoah, I might suggest including on a day in Staunton as properly. For us, Harrisonburg was a pleasant introduction to the small cities of Shenandoah Valley.

Positioned simply minutes from Shenandoah Nationwide Park, Massanutten Resort, and the Skyline Drive, Harrisonburg can be the house to James Madison College, giving it that distinct faculty city vibe.

Begin your go to with a stroll by way of the Harrisonburg Farmers Market and a cease on the Hardesty-Higgins Home Customer Middle. From there, stroll down Predominant Road. Downtown options quite a lot of small museums, such because the Discover Extra Discovery Museum, the Valley Turnpike Museum & Civil Battle Orientation Middle, Harrisonburg Hearth Division Museum, and the Virginia Quilt Museum, and loads of college-student pleasant, locally-owned eating places.

Downtown Harrisonburg VA
Downtown Harrisonburg, flowers from the Harrisonburg farmer’s market, having fun with ice cream from Kline’s Dairy Bar, and cows on the Rockingham County Honest.

Close by, guests can take pleasure in hikes on the Edith Service Arboretum at James Madison College, Hillandale Park, and the Grand Caverns Grottoes. We had hoped to discover a bit extra however after per week on the street, we want a day of leisure. As a substitute, we stopped for ice cream at Klines Dairy Bar, which is an space establishment and must-visit when in Harrisonburg. We had been additionally fortunate sufficient to go to throughout the Rockingham County Honest and received to expertise an genuine county truthful expertise, which was an incredible introduction to our go to to the Iowa State Honest throughout our midwest street journey.

A terrific spot to remain on this space is the Massanutten Resort. The Massanutten Resort is a well-liked all-season trip vacation spot situated only a quick drive from the Shenandoah Nationwide Park. The resort boasts over 6,000 acres of land, together with two golf programs, a water park, snowboarding and snowboarding slopes, zip strains, and plenty of different actions for guests of all ages.

In the summertime, company can take pleasure in out of doors actions similar to mountain climbing, mountain biking, horseback using, fishing, and {golfing}. The resort’s water park, the Massanutten Indoor/Out of doors WaterPark, is open year-round and options an indoor wave pool, tube slides, a lazy river, and different water sights.

Within the winter, the resort transforms right into a winter wonderland, providing snowboarding and snowboarding on 14 slopes, snow tubing, ice skating, and different snow-related actions.

Discover Woodstock, Virginia

Woodstock is definitely the fourth oldest city in Virginia and is centered alongside Route 11 with a small however quaint downtown district. Since we had been to spend just a few days having fun with Shenandoah Valley from our residence base in Woodstock, we had the chance to unfold out and luxuriate in our environment in a vacation rental cabin within the woods.

One of many essential sights in Woodstock is the historic courthouse, which dates again to 1795 and now serves as a museum showcasing the historical past of the world. Different notable historic websites embrace the Woodstock Museum, housed within the former Shenandoah County Jail, and the Outdated Valley Pike Driving Tour, which takes guests on a scenic journey by way of the Shenandoah Valley.

When you go to in mid-August, you can too benefit from the well-known Route 11 Yard Crawl, which options 43 miles of antiques, yard gross sales, and native enterprise gross sales.

Eating in Woodstock Virginia
Woodstock Brewhouse, BBQ brisket pizza at Woodstock Brewhouse, enchiladas at Jalisco’s, strip steak at Joe’s Steak and inside Woodstock Brewhouse (clockwise.)

Or a small city, there was some surprisingly good meals in Woodstock, beginning with Sunday brunch at The Woodstock Cafe and Shoppes. This cute cafe in downtown Woodstock is a component nation retailer and half cafe, filled with native characters and flavors.

Our favourite cease in Woodstock although needed to be the Woodstock Brewhouse. This transformed denim manufacturing unit has a hip inside that I might anticipate to see in…properly, frankly a hipper city…like perhaps Charlottesville. They’ve a restricted meals menu as a result of the main focus is on their craft beers, however in case you occur to be on the town when they’re smoking some brisket or making BBQ then YOU MUST GO! We had leftover BBQ brisket on a flatbread pizza and it was scrumptious.

Climb the Woodstock Tower

Woodstock Tower in Virginia
The view from the highest of Woodstock Tower

Our time in Shenandoah County was all about having fun with the outside and native tradition. We climbed to the highest of the Woodstock Tower, excessive up on the mountain, overlooking just a few of the seven bends of the mighty Shenandoah River and Seven Bends State Park. The Woodstock Tower is a 93-foot tall stone commentary tower providing panoramic views of the encircling countryside.

Positioned on the mountaintop, you possibly can drive to the highest and park within the lot on the base of the tower. From there, it’s a quick uphill stroll to the tower. There are additionally picnic tables and a small playground space close to the tower. Understand that the entry street is slim and winding, so take warning when driving.

Kayak or Tube on the Shenandoah River

Kayaking on the Shenandoah River with Route 11 Outfitters
Kayaking on the Shenandoah River

The Iroquois view a blue heron as an omen of fine luck, so after we encountered a heron quickly after forking out into the Shenandoah River on our kayaks, I took it to be a optimistic signal for a great day forward. Initially we had been disenchanted that after kayaking alongside the James River earlier within the week, we weren’t capable of check out river tubing the way in which we had deliberate.

However the heron can be a logo of going with the stream, and that’s what we wanted to do. And in August, the stream alongside the Shenandoah in Virginia is fairly gradual and low. So except we wish to scrape our bottoms alongside the river rocks, kayaking was the higher selection.

Little did I do know that the heron was going to be our information down the river. But each time we received shut sufficient to try a photograph, he swept away in majestic flight to a spot additional down the river. Repeatedly, our heron information lured us down the river as we tried to grasp his silent message.

Heron on the Shenandoah River

Our day began with a brief security briefing at Route 11 Outfitters, earlier than they loaded up our rented kayaks to drop us down the river a bit. When you do wish to strive tubing, spring is unquestionably the time, when winter soften off has the river operating sturdy.

Throughout the sweltering summer time days of August, the river is low and even getting by way of with our kayaks took a bit of labor. Since I sit somewhat decrease in my kayak then Hannah, we had just a few laughs as mommy received “beached” on rocks or sandbars. Normally a little bit of scooting or pushing off with my foot exterior of the kayak  received me transferring once more, however just a few occasions I needed to climb out and provides the kayak a push.

Our journey was extra of a exercise than I anticipated, however not due to the rowing, simply due to the pushing. Nonetheless, there’s not often a time out on the water in a ship of any kind that I don’t take pleasure in and this was no exception.

Kayaking on the Shenandoah River

Our pleasant heron information wasn’t the one wildlife we encounter on our journey. We appeared to draw stunning creatures like a magnet that day. Hannah picked up a hitchhiking butterfly early in our journey and it caught round for almost an hour. After the heron left us for good, we rounded a nook simply to see some giant black shapes within the river up forward.

After our close to encounter with a black bear in Shenandoah Nationwide Park, and discussions about how bears are frequent on this space, my coronary heart skipped a few beats earlier than I spotted that the beasts up forward had been too massive to be bears — they had been cows. And earlier than we might get too shut, all of them climbed again on land.

There’s something so peaceable and rewarding about kayaking down a river. I’m not one for meditation or spirituality however the mixture of bodily exertion and appreciation of the outside creates a sure kind of zen and a reference to nature.

Go Underground on the Shenandoah Caverns

Click on on any picture within the gallery to enlarge it:

Our adventures continued underground on the Shenandoah Caverns. There are a lot of caverns on this area, together with the Luray Caverns and Skyline Caverns, however Shenandoah is near Woodstock and gives elevator entry. The caverns have been open since 1922 and welcome guests by way of a one-mile circuit on one-hour excursions.

The Caverns are a gentle 56-degree in the summertime or winter, so guests ought to deliver a sweater or sweatshirt. These weren’t too terribly completely different from different caverns now we have visited, however they did have one particular function I haven’t seen earlier than — cave bacon! They’re fascinating rock formations that look temptingly like bacon.

Our information walked us by way of different options just like the Rainbow Lake, Capital Dome, Cardross Fortress, and the Breakfast Bacon. The teenage information appeared to assume it was a advantage to repeat his spiel by rote reminiscence, with heavily-practiced intonations, driving us a bit loopy, however we tuned him out as a lot as we might whereas being shepherded by way of every space.

Subsequent door, we popped into the surprisingly fascinating American Celebration on Parade — a group of parade floats from the Rose Parade, Presidential Inaugurals, and the Thanksgiving Day Parades overlaying 40,000 sq. ft. This exhibit is open solely seasonally, together with the Gemstone Mining Sluice. The Caverns additionally supply a restaurant, present store (after all) and a kids’s playground on the property.

Go to the Route 11 Potato Chip Manufacturing facility

Route 11 chips in Woodstock Virginia
Pitstop at Route 11 Potato Chip Manufacturing facility

When you go to the Caverns, take a couple of minutes to cease on the Route 11 Potato Chips Factory close by. You will see that these chips all through the Shenandoah Valley, however with a manufacturing unit go to, you possibly can pattern extra flavors and presumably get a glimpse of the manufacturing. You’ll be able to’t take photos however you possibly can look by way of the home windows on the manufacturing line. The manufacturing unit is open to the general public Mondays by way of Saturdays, from 9 am to five pm, apart from main holidays.

Have a Thrill at Bryce Mountain Resort

Ziplining at Bryce Resort in Virginia
Ziplining at Bryce Resort

Since I had somewhat journey seeker as a journey companion, we received our thrills in on the Bryce Resort. A ski resort within the winter, in the summertime Bryce transforms into an adventureland with mountain biking, scenic raise rides, disc golf, common golf, swimming, and extra. They change their actions up so check the website for present choices.

Once we visited, we had been capable of go ziplining and grass tubing, which was a ton of enjoyable, however I’m unsure they’re nonetheless providing them. The ziplining was simple as a ski raise took us to the highest after which we proceeded down the mountain on a collection of ziplines — none of which had been too excessive or too quick.

Hannah beloved the grass tubing, which is de facto on a plastic netting they usually wipe the underside of the tube with silicone to make it go sooner. I did a few runs however then appointed myself as photographer. Since I sit somewhat decrease within the tube than she does, I didn’t like the way in which my backside bumped alongside.

Tubing at Bryce Resort
Grass Tubing at Bryce Resort

Go to with Llamas

Posey Thisisit Llama Farm
Hannah with Zapper on the Posey Thisisit Llama Farm

When you plan on heading out to the Shenandoah Wine Path, you might also wish to schedule a cease on the Posey Thisisit Llama Farm in Toms Brook, Virginia. They provide excursions and an opportunity to satisfy and feed their llamas, they usually even have handcrafted gadgets and llama wool on the market. We had been stunned to study that llamas aren’t truly nasty, as now we have been led to imagine, however that all of it depends upon how they’re handled. These llamas had been very properly beloved and it confirmed with their friendliness.

Discover Winchester, Virginia

Downtown Winchester VA
Downtown Winchester Virginia

On the northern finish of Shenandoah Valley, be sure you cease at Winchester, Virginia. This city is simply filled with historical past, largely from the Civil Battle however some relationship again to George Washington’s early days. In reality, some historians declare that this small city modified fingers as much as 72 occasions throughout the Civil Battle, going backwards and forwards between the North and the South! Simply strolling by way of the quaint downtown, you possibly can study a few of this historical past on the George Washington’s Workplace Museum or the Outdated Courtroom Home Civil Battle Museum.

Close by, you can too go to Stonewall Jackson’s Headquarters, the Cedar Creek Battlefield, and the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. Youngsters ought to love the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum. We peeked in and it regarded tremendous enjoyable, however geared primarily for youths 10 and beneath. Since we solely had a short while to spend in Winchester, we gravitated to the Historic Downtown.

Winchester has a pedestrian mall, similar to what we noticed in Charlottesville, which is lined with outlets and eating places with out of doors tables. We discovered a yummy Thai restaurant for lunch after which cooled off a bit on the neighborhood splash pad.

Winchester was the prettiest of the cities we visited within the Shenandoah Valley and I want we had extra time to discover right here, but when we head again down Interstate 81 sometime, I’ll be sure you cease in.

Visiting Virginia? Learn extra:


Planning to visit Shenandoah National Park and the Shenandoah Valley this year? Find out fun things to do in Shenandoah Valley Virginia beyond the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway scenic drives.

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