Prior to this trip, when I thought of Shenandoah, the only thing that would come to mind is the American folk song I had to sing in fifth grade choir (here’s one rendition if you’re not familiar). To be honest, I didn’t even know it was a national park until the day we booked our Airbnb. I just thought it was the name of a river. We were going crazy being stuck in quarantine for three months and needed a change of scenery where we could still practice social distancing. Shenandoah was a short drive away from us and the park had partially reopened, so we decided to spend a few days in the area. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a more relaxing getaway and anyone based on the east coast that is looking to spend time doing some outdoor activities.
Arrive in the Shenandoah Valley in the late afternoon or early evening. Drive along the southern half of Skyline Drive, stopping along at the various observation points for views of the mountain range and valley. Watch sunset at Blackrock Summit. It is a fairly easy hike and only takes 10-15 minutes to reach the summit from where you can enjoy the sunset.
Drive north on Skyline Drive to Old Rag Mountain. The hike to the summit is the park’s most popular hike. It is strenuous as it involves some scrambling and steep switchbacks. It takes most people 5-6 hours to hike the entire circuit, so be sure to start early. Pack a lunch as well as enough water and snacks. Reward yourself with ice cream from local mom and pop ice cream parlors such as Karen’s Frozen Favorites in Shenandoah. Head back to your Airbnb for some grilling and stargaze over the campfire and s’mores.
Go rafting or kayaking on the Shenandoah River in the morning. Afterwards, explore the northern part of Skyline Drive — stopping by some of the lookout points. If you are in the mood for one more hike to round off your trip, Hawksbill Gap is a quick hike for spectacular views of the valley. The difficulty of the hike to the summit is moderate to strenuous, depending on which route you take. In the late afternoon or early evening, head out of Shenandoah and towards home.
Instead of staying in a hotel, consider renting a house or going camping to minimize interactions with other people. The area surrounding Shenandoah National Park has several farm houses available for rent on websites such as Airbnb that you can reserve. Spend the weekend relaxing and enjoying the outdoors. If you have the flexibility to work remotely, I recommend extending your stay during the week and enjoying the farm life!
Camping or staying in a house (versus a hotel) also allows you and your group to avoid crowded places like restaurants and cafés as you can just make one grocery store trip and stock up on food. If staying in a house, you can even check out Amazon Prime and Instacart to see if they can deliver groceries — be sure to tip them! Be sure to wear a mask and maintain at least 6 feet of distance if you come near other people, and be sure to use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if you don’t have access to soap and water. I highly recommend reviewing the CDC guidelines for information on how you can protect yourself and others.
As for activities, there are plenty of outdoor activities in the area you can fill up your weekend with all while maintaining social distancing. Drive along Skyline Drive, go on a few hikes, try river rafting, or bring a bike and explore the valley. For information on more activities to do in Shenandoah, including a comprehensive list of hiking trails, visit the the park’s National Park Service’s website.