When is the park open?
Shenandoah National Park is always open. However, portions of the 105-mile-long Skyline Drive, the only public road through the park, are periodically closed during inclement weather. Visitors can still enter the park on foot to hike even when the Drive is closed. Most park facilities, including lodges, visitor centers, and campgrounds, are generally open from late March through November. All park facilities, with the exception of a few picnic grounds and restrooms, are closed during the winter. Check out our operating hours to learn more.
Are permits required to hike or camp?
Permits are not required for hiking. A free permit is required for backcountry (wilderness, not in a campground) camping. These permits can be acquired at any visitor center or entrance station. However, you must pay an entrance fee when you enter the park by foot or in a vehicle. More info on entrance fees below.
Are there campgrounds in the park?
There are several developed campgrounds in the park. The open seasons of the campgrounds vary, so you will want to consider making a reservation if you are looking to camp during a holiday, weekend, or the busy fall season. Please note that we do not have electric or water hookups for RVs. We do have dump stations at most campgrounds. For information about each campground, go here: Camping!
What are the campgrounds' hours?
You may enter and exit campgrounds at any time during the seasons they are open. Campground offices are staffed during normal business hours in shoulder seasons, as well as earlier and later in the day during the busy season. You can check into or out of campgrounds even if there is not a ranger on duty to assist you. Directions for self-registration/self-paying are posted on the exteriors of campground offices. You may pay for your campsite with cash, credit/debit card, money order, or personal check.
There are no sites left on the reservations site. What time do I need to get there to get a walk-up (first-come, first-served) site?
We have no way of predicting when campgrounds will fill. It is dependent on weather, holidays, time of year, and so many other factors. You must be present; there is no way to reserve a walk-up site. Entrance stations have the most recent campground status, but we do not have a means to communicate real-time status more widely at this point.
How long does it take to get through the park?
The maximum speed limit throughout the park is 35 miles per hour. Speed limits are reduced in developed areas such as campgrounds and picnic grounds. With over 75 scenic overlooks along the way, most people need at least 3-4 hours to simply drive through the park. If you'd like to hike, stop at a visitor center, attend a ranger program, picnic, or truly experience what Shenandoah has to offer, you'll need to allow more time. Learn more about driving Skyline Drive.
What are the park entrance fees?
Shenandoah National Park is one of about 150 park service units that charge an entry fee. 80% of the fees collected at Shenandoah are returned to the park for specific projects. Check out our fees.
How do I obtain a 7-day entrance pass?
The 7-day permit is the minimum permit and must be purchased at one of the entrance stations. There is no process for obtaining these in advance. If the entrance station is closed, you may pay on your way out.
How do I obtain an annual Shenandoah pass?
The annual Shenandoah pass is good for unlimited entries for a year from the date of purchase. The Shenandoah pass must be purchased at one of the entrance stations. There is no process for obtaining these in advance. You may pay for all passes with cash, credit/debit card, money order, or personal check.
How do I obtain an annual or lifetime pass good at all federal lands?
All America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Passes can be obtained at any staffed entrance station. You may pay for all passes with cash, credit/debit card, money order, or personal check. You may also obtain these passes by mail. See how on our pages about fees.
What activities can I do in the park?
Hiking, camping, picnicking, horseback riding, fishing, photography, bird watching, backpacking, wildlife observation, and ranger programs--just to name a few! The many overlooks along Skyline Drive reveal wide valley views to the west and the Piedmont area to the east. You'll pass banks of wildflowers and wildlife along the roadside. Our many trails can lead you up a mountain or down a canyon, past waterfalls and wildlife and ancient rocks. You may pass old walls and homesites, too; families lived here not long ago. Rangers can help you experience the past through visits to Herbert Hoover's Rapidan Camp (a National Historic Landmark) and Massanutten Lodge (identified as part of the Skyline Drive National Historic Landmark). Or you can just sit somewhere--at an overlook, on a trailside rock, near a picnic table--and absorb the beauty and feeling of the silence settling around you. Learn more about things to do.
Where can I hike?
Shenandoah offers over 500 miles of hiking trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Trails range from short, easy walks to long, rugged rock scrambles. Get ready to hike!
Can I catch a shuttle in Shenandoah?
There are no authorized shuttle providers in Shenandoah National Park. You will need to make your own arrangements for transportation to, from, and within the Park.
How can I find out about fall color?
Fall color usually peaks in mid to late October here in the park, making October weekends our busiest time. To view information about fall color, click here!
Please note that campgrounds fill up early, and we receive a high volume of calls during this time of the year, so reserve your site online in advance. There are some first-come, first-served sites, but those fill quickly and usually by Thursday evening. We will try to communicate campground status via social media on Thursdays and Fridays on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, so please check our social media sites before calling.
Where can I fish?
All park streams are open to catch-and-release fishing; additionally, some designated streams are open to harvest. Special regulations are in place and a Virginia state fishing license is required. Some hiking is required to reach fishing streams. For detailed regulations, click here (Gone fishin')!
Where can I go horseback riding?
Skyland Resort at mile 41.7 offers guided horseback rides in the spring, summer, and fall. If you'd like to bring your own horse, Shenandoah offers over 180 miles of horse trails. Special regulations are in place for your safety and to help protect park resources. Get back in the saddle and go horseback riding!
Where can I ride my bike?
Cycling is permitted along Skyline Drive and on paved areas in the park. Cycling (road and mountain bikes) is not permitted on trails, unpaved roads, or in grassy areas. Be very careful if you decide to bike on Skyline Drive. Drivers of cars, RVs, and motorcycles are often paying more attention to the scenery than to the roadway. Dense fog is possible any day of the year at any time of the day. Cyclists must have headlights and taillights during foggy conditions. Be prepared for steep uphill climbs and unforgiving road shoulders lined by rock walls. Learn more about cycling Skyline Drive.
Where can I see a waterfall?
There are a number of waterfalls in the park. None are visible from Skyline Drive. The shortest hike to a waterfall is 1.4 miles round-trip to Dark Hollow Falls near milepost 51. It is a very popular hike that is steep and rocky in places. Hogcamp Branch, the source of the waterfall in Dark Hollow, parallels the trail the entire way. The waterfall itself is a series of frothing cascades, glistening in the sunlight, which filters beautifully through the trees. It is well worth the trek, as long as you can take the return uphill climb. Learn more about waterfalls.
Where can I kayak, raft, canoe, tube, or water ski?
The park has no navigable waters. Many people spend part of their trip outside of the park on the Shenandoah River to get their water fix. There are a number of private outfitters that rent equipment and operate guided trips along the river. The Shenandoah Valley Travel Association can help you locate outfitters and guides. Check out nearby attractions.
Where can I go swimming?
Swimming is allowed in all park streams, but most of them are shallow and rocky. Remember that these mountaintop streams can be extremely cold, even during the summer. Hiking is required for most streams that are deep enough for wading or swimming. There are no swimming pools or lakes in Shenandoah National Park.
Can a large motor home, RV, or tour bus drive on Skyline Drive?
Motor homes, RVs, camping trailers, and horse trailers are welcome, but be prepared to shift into low gear. If you plan on driving the entire 105 miles of the Skyline Drive, be sure you will clear Marys Rock Tunnel at mile 32.2 (just south of Thornton Gap entrance from Route 211) at 12'8". You can visit Shenandoah without traveling through the tunnel by visiting the northern or southern sections of the park.
Are there any gas stations in the park?
Gas is available at Big Meadows Wayside (mile 51), but it is always a good idea to enter the park with a full tank.
What is a wayside?
"Wayside" is a local term for a rest-stop with facilities. The waysides in the park are operated by DNC Parks & Resorts at Shenandoah, Inc., the park concessioner. Most offer groceries, a small restaurant or lunch counter, gifts, and camping supplies.
Is the park accessible for wheelchairs, strollers, and persons with disabilities?
Most facilities and services in the park are accessible or accessible with assistance. Many Ranger programs are accessible. Limberlost Trail, at milepost 43, is ADA accessible, with a crushed greenstone walkway on a gentle grade. This circuit hike of 1.3 miles is for people of all ages. Closed caption films are shown upon request at the visitor centers. Braille copies of the Park brochure are available for loan at the Byrd Visitor Center (mile 51), Dickey Ridge Visitor Center (mile 4.7), and at entrance stations.
Most trails are not suitable for stroller use. The Limberlost Trail is the best trail choice with a stroller. "Jogging-style" strollers, with larger, rugged wheels, may be used on some fire roads throughout the park. A short bike path at Big Meadows (mile 51), is also navigable with a stroller. Learn more about accessibility.
Are there visitor centers in the park?
There are two visitor centers in the park. Dickey Ridge Visitor Center is at mile 4.7 and Harry F. Byrd, Sr. Visitor Center is at mile 51. At the visitor centers you will find Rangers to help with your trip planning, exhibits, restrooms, and more. Rangers also deploy an award-winning Mobile Visitor Center to locations in the south district (Loft Mountain Wayside at mile 81 or Beagle Gap at mile 100.5) five days a week (weather dependent). Learn more about visitor centers.
Where can I have a picnic?
There are a number of developed picnic grounds in the park with picnic tables, water, restrooms, fire pits with grills, and bear-proof trash/recycling containers. You may also picnic at overlooks along Skyline Drive, in Big Meadows, or along hiking trails; however, there are no picnic tables or trash cans located in these areas. Please be considerate of other people in the area, and to clean up all food and trash when you are finished eating. Food may not be left unattended, as feeding bears and other wildlife (even unintentionally) is illegal. Go on a picnic!
Are there lodges or cabins in the park?
Lodges and cabins in the park are operated by the park concessionaire. DNC Parks & Resorts at Shenandoah, Inc. offers three lodging options: Skyland Resort (mile 41.7), Big Meadows Lodge (mile 51.2), and Lewis Mountain Cabins (mile 57.5). The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club maintains six primitive cabins in the park for long-distance AT hikers. Learn more about lodging and the PATC cabins.
Do you have guided hikes in the park?
Free ranger-led programs, including walks and hikes in Big Meadows, on the Appalachian Trail, and up Stony Man mountain, are available in spring, summer, and fall. DNC Parks & Resorts at Shenandoah, Inc., the park concessioner, offers paid guided hikes and other outdoor experiences. Attend a Ranger program or visit GoShenandoah.com to check out other activities.