Updated: Jul 24, 2022
Shenandoah Nat'l Park is another National Park that falls within the 4 I visited in 2020, and is also a top pick for my favorite National Park. Granted, I went at the ideal time (mid-October) and the views were phenomenal! I am excited to go back at a different time in the year to see how different it is, and explore some of the other trails. I got to spend one full day and the following morning at Shendandoah, however, I think that the trails we did throughout the weekend definitely could have also been done just in one day- we spaced it out because we wanted to see the sunrise at one of them.
Day One: We arrived at the park around 7:30am and were luckily able to get in right away because we had a National Park pass. The line was normally very long to get in, so keep that in mind if visiting Shenandoah during the fall season. We started off the day with a quick and simple hike- the Bearfence Rock Scramble. This loop trail is accessible both via rock scramble (which we opted for) or regular trail. This was an easy 1.1-mile hike that offered a spectacular 360-degree view from the first viewpoint along the trail, however, I wasn't super impressed with the view from the summit. (I forgot to even take pictures from along this trail, sorry!)
After completing our first hike, we wanted to try and see one of the waterfalls in the park, and decided to hike the 1.4-mile moderate out and back Dark Hallow Falls Trail. There are several smaller waterfalls throughout the hike and one big waterfall about halfway through. I am a sucker for waterfalls, so I was excited about this hike, and honestly thought it offered a bit of a challenge at parts.
We then headed to the visitors center to grab some souvenirs and eat our picnic style lunch in the large grassy area in front of the center. For our last hike before it started getting dark, we hopped on the Appalachian Trail to hike Hawksbill Gap Loop via the Appalachian Trail. This is a 2.6-mile moderate loop trail that offered several viewpoints along the way up, and an absolutely amazing view at the summit! This was a great hike in my opinion, and one that I would definitely recommend, although it was very crowded once we got to the top.
Day two: we decided to only do one hike due to time restraints and I absolutely recommend doing this hike the way we did it if you get the chance:
We woke up at 5:00am and got to the trail head around 5:30am. From there, we hiked the 3.4-mile out and back
Mary's Rock via Appalachian Trail in the pitch black using our head lamps. While this part was a bit unsettling, we reached the summit (1,210 ft elevation gain!) right before sunrise and I have never been so taken aback by a sunrise as I was from this summit. Mary's Rock was certainly my favorite hike of the weekend, but the sunrise views certainly added to it.
In my opinion, Shenandoah is somewhat of an underrated National Park, but I was blown away by the views here, especially during the fall when all the leaves were changing! I definitely recommend this National Park, and there are so many different trails you can hike throughout the park! Click here to see my Shenandoah Photo Gallery! Thanks for reading, and remember, there's always more to be explored :)
*all pictures are my own, please give credit if you use any of these*