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Shenandoah National Park is the perfect place for epic scenery and outdoor adventure. Nestled within the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains you’ll have no shortage of picturesque vistas, challenging hiking trails, and plenty of adventure!

This Shenandoah National Park itinerary will give you a taste of what the park has to offer, but there is so much to see that I know you’ll be planning your next trip before you leave! In this guide, I will give you all of the highlights so you can make the most of 2 days in Shenandoah National Park.

And when you’re done with this post, check out how to plan a weekend trip on a budget.

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Why Shenandoah is a Must-Visit Destination

What sets Shenandoah National Park apart from other popular national parks is its unique blend of breathtaking scenery, abundant wildlife, and a sense of serenity. Unlike some of the more well-known parks, Shenandoah offers an opportunity to immerse yourself in nature with fewer crowds, providing a rare chance to experience the wilderness in a more intimate and personal way.

1 Day in Shenandoah National Park

If you’ve only got 1 day to experience Shenandoah National Park then it’s important to decide on the type of experience you’re looking for. There’s so much to do in Shenandoah National Park that it’s hard to get it done in one day, but it’s doable if you have a plan. Check out these pro tips for visiting National Parks.

Here’s my recommendation: Depending on which direction you’re coming from, you may want to start around the middle and enter through Swift Run Gap heading North on Skyline Drive, and then exit at Thornton Gap. This will give you a wonderfully scenic drive with plenty of overlooks and trailheads for hiking to stop at.

You’ll pass through Big Meadows where you can stop for a snack, and grab some gas (although we recommend filling up before entering the park). There’s also a souvenir shop, a small cafe, and a canteen where you can grab some camping supplies. Next door is Byrd Visitor Center where you can learn about the history of the park.

As you keep driving you’ll see Skyland Resort where you can stop for lunch, a coffee, and souvenirs. We brought our own lunch and enjoyed it at the picnic tables which have an amazing view. However, the restaurant view was also spectacular.

A smiling couple in casual attire taking a selfie with a scenic mountainous backdrop under a cloudy sky at an overlook.

2 Day Itinerary Shenandoah National Park

2 days in Shenandoah National Park is plenty of time to experience the beauty and wonder of the park. Now, there are only 4 Shenandoah Park entrances so where you’re staying in proximity to the park will likely determine which entrance you want to enter first. With that being said, this is what we would recommend for a 2 day Shenandoah National Park itinerary.

Day 1: Exploring the Northern District

On the first day of your visit to Shenandoah National Park, you may like to start at the Northern entrance which is Front Royal. A lot of people like to start at the top and make their way down Skyline Drive and exit towards the center of the park at Thornton Gap or Swift Run Gap.

Here’s a sample itinerary for your first day in Shenandoah National Park:

  • Enter the park at the Front Royal entrance (recommend starting quite early).
  • Enjoy a scenic drive heading South along Skyline Drive, stopping at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center to gather information and get oriented with the park’s trails and activities.
  • Go on a morning/midday hike on one of the trails.
  • Lunch picnic at Big Meadows.
  • Continue south along Skyline Drive, making stops at popular overlooks.
  • Exit the park at Swift Run Gap.
Roadside directional sign for "SKYLINE DRIVE" and "SKYLAND" with pointers for food, lodging, cottages, saddle horses, and a nature trail among trees.

Day 2: Adventure in the Southern District

On the 2nd day of your visit to Shenandoah National Park, you may want to enter the Swift Run Gap Park entrance and head South to explore the Southern District. You will exit through Rockfish Gap.

The Southern District is great for hiking and overlooks there are not any larger rest stops like Skyland or Big Meadows so I’d recommend packing plenty of food, drinks, and snacks. Make sure that you’re fuel tank is full as there will not be a gas station available until you exit the park.

Here’s a sample itinerary for your second day in Shenandoah National Park:

  • Start your day early and enter Shenandoah National Park through the Swift Run Gap Entrance.
  • Hike Discovery Trail (Mile 79.5) or one of the other many hiking trails.
  • Lunch at Dundo Picnic Area – Mile 83.7
  • Head south on Skyline Drive, stopping at one of the popular overlooks.
  • Consider another hike, but try to pick a trail with a lot of shade cover as it may be hotter in the afternoon
  • Exit the park at Rockfish Gap and stop by one of the many breweries, wineries, or coffee shops in the area!
Directional sign at a fork in the road showing "SKYLINE DRIVE" with arrows pointing left to "NORTH Front Royal" and right to "SOUTH Waynesboro" surrounded by lush greenery.

Popular Hiking Trails in Shenandoah National Park

Please note that these mile markers mentioned are approximate and may vary slightly. The direction you’ll be facing while hiking varies depending on the specific trail. Remember to check the trail conditions and difficulty level prior to starting any hike, and always practice Leave No Trace.

North District:

  • Little Stony Man Loop – Mile 39.1 (Facing West)
  • Marys Rock Summit – Mile 32.4 (Facing West)
  • Stony Man Summit – Mile 41.7 (Facing East)
  • Hawksbill Summit – Mile 45.5 (Facing North)
  • Dark Hollow Falls – Mile 50.7 (Facing East)
  • Rose River Falls – Mile 49.4 (Facing North)
  • Upper Hawksbill Trail – Mile 46.7 (Facing South)

Central District:

  • Hawksbill Gap Loop – Mile 45.6 (Facing East)
  • Limberlost Trail – Mile 43.0 (Facing West)
  • Whiteoak Canyon – Mile 42.6 (Facing South)
  • Cedar Run Trail – Mile 45.6 (Facing South)

South District:

  • Blackrock Summit – Mile 85.5 (Facing Various Directions)
  • Bearfence Mountain Loop – Mile 56.4 (Facing East)
  • Lewis Falls – Mile 51.2 (Facing South)
  • South River Falls – Mile 62.8 (Facing North)
  • Turk Mountain – Mile 94.1 (Facing South)
  • Blackrock – Mile 84.8 (Facing East)
  • Doyles River – Mile 81.1 (Facing North)

Both North and Central Districts:

  • Old Rag Mountain – Mile 45.6 (Facing Various Directions)
  • Overall Run Falls – Mile 21.1 (Facing North)
A hiker with a backpack standing on a rocky forest trail next to a large boulder, surrounded by tall trees.
Hiking Frazier Discovery Trail

Popular Overlooks in Shenandoah National Park

I would recommend that you also reference the official park map which has the most up-to-date information. I’ve just outlined these below to give you an idea of where to start. The direction each overlook is facing provides valuable information about the views you can expect to see from each location.

North District:

  • Hogback Overlook – Mile 21.0 (Facing North)
  • Gooney Manor Overlook – Mile 23.0 (Facing South)
  • Mathews Arm Overlook – Mile 22.2 (Facing West)
  • Dickey Ridge Overlook – Mile 4.6 (Facing West)
  • Compton Gap Overlook – Mile 10.4 (Facing West)
  • Marys Rock Tunnel – Mile 32.2 (Facing West)
  • Pinnacles Overlook – Mile 35.1 (Facing East)
  • Stony Man Overlook – Mile 41.7 (Facing East)
  • Skyland – Mile 41.7 (Facing Various Directions) – Lodging and dining area with beautiful views.

Central District:

  • Thorofare Mountain Overlook – Mile 41.7 (Facing South)
  • Crescent Rock Overlook – Mile 44.4 (Facing South)
  • Little Stony Man Overlook – Mile 45.6 (Facing East)
  • Pinnacles Picnic Grounds – Mile 36.7 (Facing East) – Picnic area with views of the Pinnacles.

South District:

  • Lewis Mountain Overlook – Mile 57.5 (Facing North)
  • Fisher’s Gap Overlook – Mile 48.1 (Facing South)
  • Beagle Gap Overlook – Mile 99.5 (Facing South)
  • Turk Gap Overlook – Mile 94.1 (Facing South)
  • Blackrock Summit – Mile 85.5 (Facing Various Directions) – Short hike to an overlook.
  • Riprap Parking Overlook – Mile 90.0 (Facing West)
  • Rockfish Gap Overlook – Mile 105.0 (Facing East)
Roadside sign indicating "BIG MEADOWS" area on Skyline Drive with directions to visitor center, food, gas, lodging, picnic, and ranger station under a cloud-filled sky.

Where to stay in Shenandoah National Park

If you’re looking to completely immerse yourself in the surroundings there are many accommodation options in Shenandoah National Park. From camping to staying in a rustic cabin, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the park’s natural beauty.

Campgrounds: The park’s campgrounds provide an excellent opportunity to connect with nature. Shenandoah offers several campgrounds each surrounded by scenic landscapes. Campsites usually have basic facilities such as picnic tables, fire pits, and restrooms.

Lodges and Cabins: But don’t worry, if you prefer a bit more comfort Shenandoah offers lodges and cabins. Skyland Resort and Big Meadows Lodge are the two main lodges within the park.

Backcountry Camping: If you’re seeking a more rugged experience, backcountry camping is available.

Nearby Accommodations: Staying within Shenandoah National Park is not totally necessary if you’d like to be in a more populated area with plenty of shopping, grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, etc. There are a ton of accommodation options in the nearby towns such as Luray, Front Royal, and Charlottesville with a wide range of hotels, motels, and vacation rentals. Staying in these towns can also provide convenient access to other attractions in the region, such as Luray Caverns or Monticello.

Interior of a spacious mountain-view restaurant with large windows, wooden tables, and patrons dining, offering a panoramic view of the landscape beyond.
Pollock Dining Room at Skyland Resort

Dining options in Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park has a few dining options that you can enjoy during your visit. Whether you’re looking for a quick bite, a hearty meal, or a scenic picnic you’ll find a great spot in the park.

Skyland Resort Dining Room: Pollock Dining Room is located at Skyland Resort, the dining room has breathtaking views of the Shenandoah Valley.

Big Meadows Lodge Restaurant: Nestled within the heart of the park at Big Meadows, Spottswood Dining Room offers a cozy setting with handcrafted furnishings and a menu with locally sourced ingredients and traditional Appalachian flavors.

Grab-and-Go Options: For quick and convenient options both Skyland Resort and Big Meadows Lodge offer grab-and-go options. You can also find other food stops along Skyline Drive.

Bring Your Own Food: Shenandoah National Park also allows visitors to bring their own food and beverages. There are plenty of picnic areas throughout the park.

Remember that dining options within the park may vary depending on the season, so it’s a good idea to check the availability and hours of operation in advance.

Close-up of a hand holding a glass of white wine with a vineyard's logo, with a serene vineyard landscape and cloudy sky in the background.
Crosskey Vineyards

Nearby Activities and Attractions

Beyond the breathtaking beauty of Shenandoah National Park, the surrounding areas have many activities that you should check out while you visit the Shenandoah Valley. From historical sites to charming towns, here are some fun options:

Luray Caverns: Just a short drive from Shenandoah, the Luray Caverns are an amazing natural wonder and the largest and most popular in Eastern America.

Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail: If you’re a wine lover like me the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail is the perfect way to spend a day in the Shenandoah Valley when not venturing through the park. The trail offers numerous wineries and vineyards, offering tastings of award-winning wines against the backdrop of rolling hills and vine-covered landscapes.

Historic Downtowns: The charming towns surrounding Shenandoah National Park provide a blend of history, culture, and local charm. Front Royal, known as the “Gateway to Shenandoah,” offers quaint shops, art galleries, and dining options that showcase the region’s hospitality. Further south, the town of Charlottesville is home to Monticello, the former home of President Thomas Jefferson, and the University of Virginia.

I’ve got more tips for activities in my Shenandoah Valley blog post.

Informational display titled "Wild Freedom" featuring an image of a hiker in a green forest and text about the wilderness experience in Shenandoah National Park.

What do I need to know before going to Shenandoah National Park?

Park Operating Hours: Shenandoah’s operating hours vary by season, with longer hours during peak months. The Skyline Drive is open year-round, but portions of it may close during winter due to snow and ice. Be sure to check the park’s official website for the most up-to-date information on operating hours and seasonal closures.

Wildlife Safety: Shenandoah is home to various wildlife, including black bears. Maintain a safe distance and never approach or feed wild animals. Store food and scented items securely to prevent attracting wildlife to your campsite or picnic area.

Leave No Trace: As with any national park, practice Leave No Trace to help preserve Shenandoah’s natural beauty. This means packing out all your trash, staying on designated trails, and avoiding disturbing wildlife and vegetation.

Hiking and Trail Safety: Shenandoah offers a network of hiking trails for all skill levels. Before setting out on a hike, check trail conditions and difficulty levels to choose a route that suits your abilities. Carry plenty of water, snacks, and a map, and let someone know your hiking plans, especially for longer or more challenging hikes.

Cell Phone and Internet Service: The park’s remote location means that cell phone service and internet connectivity may be limited or unavailable in certain areas. Do not rely solely on your GPS. It’s a good idea to download maps and any essential information before arriving at the park.

Camping Reservations: If you plan to camp in Shenandoah, consider making reservations in advance, especially during peak season. The park’s campgrounds can fill up quickly, and having a reservation ensures a spot.

A silver Jeep parked on the side of Skyline Drive, with a stone barrier on the right and lush green trees lining the road.

How do I get to Shenandoah National Park?

By Car: The most common way to reach Shenandoah National Park is by car. The park is easily accessible via the scenic Skyline Drive, which runs the length of the park from north to south. There are four major entrances to the park: Front Royal Entrance (North District), Thornton Gap Entrance (Central District), Swift Run Gap Entrance (Central District), and Rockfish Gap Entrance (South District).

By Air: The closest major airports to Shenandoah National Park are Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Charlottesville Albemarle Airport (CHO). You can also fly into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). From these airports, you can rent a car and drive to the park. Before planning your trip check out my post on 5 big mistakes to avoid when booking flights.

By Train: Amtrak offers train services to Charlottesville, Virginia. From there, you can rent a car or use a shuttle service to reach the park.

By Bus or Shuttle: Some private tour companies and shuttle services offer guided tours or transportation to Shenandoah National Park from nearby cities and towns.

By Bicycle or Motorcycle: If you enjoy cycling or motorcycling, you can access Shenandoah National Park via Skyline Drive, which offers a scenic and enjoyable ride through the park. And yes, you’ll still have to pay the park entrance fee.

By Foot: For adventurous hikers, the Appalachian Trail runs through Shenandoah National Park, and there are access points along the trail to enter the park on foot.

Before your trip, it’s a good idea to check the park’s official website for the latest information on road conditions, closures, and any special regulations or requirements.

Are there any fees to enter the park?

Shenandoah National Park has several entrance points, and each requires an entrance fee, which grants you access for seven consecutive days. I would recommend purchasing your entrance pass in advance online to make entering quick and smooth.

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What is the best town to stay in to explore Shenandoah National Park?

The town of Luray is often considered one of the best towns to stay in when exploring Shenandoah National Park since it’s just a short drive from the park’s Thornton Gap Entrance. But it really depends on what you’re planning to do while you’re in the Shenandoah Valley area because there’s honestly so much.

Nearby towns to Shenandoah National Park:

  • Luray, Virginia: Approximately 10 miles east of Shenandoah National Park’s Thornton Gap Entrance.
  • Front Royal, Virginia: Located about 1 mile north of Shenandoah National Park’s North Entrance (Front Royal Entrance).
  • Stanley, Virginia: Situated around 5 miles east of Shenandoah National Park’s Thornton Gap Entrance.
  • Madison, Virginia: Approximately 8 miles south of Shenandoah National Park’s Swift Run Gap Entrance.
  • Waynesboro, Virginia: Positioned about 3 miles south of Shenandoah National Park’s Rockfish Gap Entrance.
  • Elkton, Virginia: Situated approximately 10 miles north of Shenandoah National Park’s Swift Run Gap Entrance.
  • Charlottesville, Virginia: Located around 25 miles south of Shenandoah National Park’s Rockfish Gap Entrance.
A vehicle's perspective waiting in line at the entrance toll booth of Shenandoah National Park, with an American flag on the right.
Entering through Swift Run Gap

Is Shenandoah National Park crowded?

Shenandoah National Park can get crowded on the weekends during any time of year, but especially during the summer months when it’s warm. Like many popular national parks, Shenandoah can experience higher visitor numbers during peak seasons and holidays, especially during the summer and fall foliage months.

If you prefer a quieter experience, consider visiting on weekdays or during the shoulder seasons (spring and fall) when the park is generally less crowded, and the weather is still quite pleasant. To avoid crowds, consider exploring lesser-known trails or less-visited areas within the park.

A warning sign beside a forested road reads "BEAR COUNTRY - PROTECT YOUR PROPERTY AND FOOD - PROPER FOOD STORAGE IS REQUIRED," against a backdrop of dense green foliage.

Can I bring my pet to Shenandoah National Park?

Yes, you can bring your pet to Shenandoah National Park, but be aware of the park’s guidelines and restrictions. Pets must be on a leash at all times, with a maximum leash length of six feet. They are allowed in developed areas of the park, such as campgrounds, picnic areas, and along paved roads, including Skyline Drive. However, pets are generally not permitted on most hiking trails, including those leading to waterfalls or popular viewpoints. It’s important to plan ahead and research pet-friendly hiking options if you wish to hike with your pet.

Breathtaking view of the valley and rolling hills seen from Skyline Drive, with lush greenery in the foreground and a dynamic sky above.

What should I pack for my trip to Shenandoah National Park?

Bring comfortable hiking shoes, moisture-wicking socks, and lightweight clothing that you can easily layer. Be sure to also bring a waterproof jacket or poncho, an extra change of clothes, a hat, and sunglasses. For hikes, you’ll want to carry a daypack with water bottles or a hydration reservoir, a trail map, a portable charger (mine is solar with a compass), and portable snacks.

Safety items like a first aid kit, insect repellent, and sunscreen. Other good things to bring include a camera or smartphone, binoculars, a portable fan, a water spray bottle plus plenty of food, drinks, and snacks. Lastly, bring trash bags to practice Leave No Trace.

If you’re camping, make sure to follow all guidelines.

Clothing:

  • Comfortable hiking or walking shoes with good traction
  • Moisture-wicking socks to keep your feet dry
  • Lightweight, breathable clothing (t-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, and a light jacket)
  • Rain jacket or poncho in case of sudden showers
  • Hat or cap to protect yourself from the sun
  • Sunglasses
  • Extra change of clothes

Hiking Gear:

  • Daypack to carry water, snacks, and essentials during hikes
  • Water bottles or hydration reservoirs to stay hydrated on the trails
  • Trail map or GPS device for navigation (don’t fully rely on GPS in the park)
  • Compass and/or map for backup navigation
  • Trail mix, energy bars, or other portable snacks for on-the-go

Safety Items:

  • First aid kit with basic supplies
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen with a high SPF
  • Bear bell or bear spray for wildlife safety (if you plan to hike in bear country)

Camping Gear (if applicable):

  • Tent, stakes, and guylines for camping
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad or air mattress
  • Camping stove and cookware for preparing meals
  • Headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries for night time activities

Personal Items:

  • Identification and any necessary permits or passes
  • Camera or smartphone for capturing the stunning scenery
  • Binoculars for wildlife and birdwatching
  • Cash and/or credit cards for park fees, souvenirs, and additional purchases

Miscellaneous:

  • Trash bags for carrying out your garbage (Remember to practice Leave No Trace)
  • Portable phone charger or power bank
  • Drybag
  • Cooling Towel
  • Portable camping chair or blanket for picnics and relaxing

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