Just 75 miles from the bustle of Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park is a
land bursting with cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, fields of
wildflowers, and quiet wooded hollows. The park is long and narrow, with
the Shenandoah River and its broad valley to the west, and the rolling hills of
the Virginia Piedmont to the east. Skyline Drive, the 105-mile main park road,
generally traverses near the ridgeline of the mountains. Along the
105-mile stretch, which climbs to 3,680 feet above sea level, you'll have the
opportunity to pull off the road at
76 scenic overlooks and take part in an
array of recreational activities - from hiking, horseback riding, and rock
climbing to culinary events and wine tasting.
Getting there ...
We continued our trip from New Haven after
Linus and Miriam's wedding.
We left New Haven at 5AM in order to drop off Iris at the Newark Airport to
catch her flight to Chicago (so she could help Henry move in his apartment). On
our way to Shenandoah, we had time to stop by Wilmington, Delaware to visit
Nemours Estate and to have a lunch with our friends who live in Wilmington area.
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- Nemours Estate, Wilmington
Nemours was created by Alfred I. du Pont in 1909–10 as a gift for his second
wife, Alicia. The estate is a 300-acre (120 ha) country estate with jardin Ó
la franšaise (French formal gardens) and a French neoclassical mansion, 105
rooms on five floors occupying nearly 47,000 sq ft (4,400 m2). Alfred
named the estate Nemours, after the French town that was affiliated with his
- Shenandoah National Park
After the lunch with our friends in
Wilmington, we started the 4-hour drive to the Shenandoah National Park.
We entered the park via Thornton Gap Entrance and stopped by a few overlooks
before we reached the Skyland Lodge, our home for the next 3 days in the park.
- Big Meadows at Night
Every Thursday during summer months (weather
permitted), there is a
Big Meadows Star Party at 9:30PM led by a park ranger for an exploration of the
night sky. It was also the night that the 2021 Perseid meteor shower was
expected to produce the most meteors (August 11-13). Although the
cloud was starting to form up in the evening, I was lucky to capture meteors
in some photos.
- Sunrise at Buck Hollow Overlook (mile post 32.8) and Hazel Mountain
Overlook (mile post 33.0)
- Big Meadows
We went to Big Meadows in the early morning and hoped to
see some wildlife (but no luck...). At least we got a nice breakfast
at the Big Meadows Lodge.
- Blackrock at Big Meadows
It was a short walk behind the Big Meadows
Lodge to a small open overlook. This should not be confused with
Blackrock Summit which we will go on the next day.
- Hawksbill Summit (mile post 46.5)
Hawksbill is Shenandoah’s highest
peak at 4,051 ft. We took the Upper Hawksbill Trail (2.1-mile round
trip) to Byrds Nest 2 Shelter and then follow the trail to the viewing
platform at the peak which offers a magnificent 360-degree panoramic view of
the Shenandoah Valley, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Virginia Piedmont.
Dark Hollow Falls (mile post 50.7)
The steep descent following a stream to this beautiful waterfall is one of
the Park’s most traveled trails. It was a nice hike in the woods and we
were lucky to encounter a deer which was so close to the trail and so easy with
our presence nearby.
- Bearfence Rock Scramble (mile post 56.4)
After a lunch break at the
Big Meadows, I checked the weather forecast and saw a thunderstorm was coming
soon. I decided to take a small risk to do a short hike at Bearfence
Mountain (less than 1 mile if we don't do the loop). This hike
includes a rock scramble to a 360 degree view (if you have a fear of
heights, it’s not for you. And if it’s wet or icy, it’s not safe!). I
did have some trouble at a few places that it was hard to find a "secure"
way to climb up. But it seemed Woanyu enjoyed the challenge very much
(or it was actually still not challenge enough for her :-)).
We did not stay at the peak for too long, and we decided
to go back down to retrace our paths for a shorter return route because we saw cloud
was forming and sky was becoming darker every minute. Ten minutes after we
were back to the trailhead and drove in the car safely, the
and it was a totally different world...
- Sunrise at Hazel Mountain Overlook (mile post 33.0)
- Stony Man (mile post 41.7)
At 4,011 feet (1,222 meters), the Stony
Man is the second-highest mountain in Shenandoah National Park.
It's a fairly easy hike (1.6-mile round-trip with 340 feet elevation gain) to
the summit of the Stony Man. This enjoyable hike brings you to an
outstanding view of the Shenandoah Valley, Massanutten Mountain, and beyond.
- Overlooks along Skyline Drive
There were some "secret" paths at some
overlooks, for example, Crescent Rock Overlook and Point Overlook. If
you could find the path and take a few more steps, you will be all alone
with even better views.
- Blackrock Summit (mile post 84.4)
A short hike to a viewpoint on top
of a rocky talus slope with incredible views of the Shenandoah Valley,
Massanutten Mountain, and beyond. The trail leads to the boulder field
(with some effort of rock scrambling again) where you can see the layers and
quartzite patterns on the rocks and a beautiful view. When we were at
the top of the rocks, we found there was a good cell phone signal that
Woanyu could actually connect to
Zoom meeting for her
- Rose River Falls (mile post 49.4)
Although the forecast still showed
unstable weather, it seemed we had a longer window before the storm came in the
afternoon. We went to the Rose River Falls Trail after lunch.
It went through a quiet forest and along the Rose River to the 67-ft
waterfall. To be honest, being spoiled by the majestic waterfalls in
Vernal Falls, etc.), it's hard to say that I was impressed by these
waterfalls we recently visited on the east coast....
- Sunset at Timber Hollow Overlook
It was a foggy and drizzling morning. We just drove and
walked around the Skyland area to enjoy the quiet and misty forest scene.
It's time to move on to our next destination
to pick up Iris and Henry. Woanyu did a GPS route without toll.
Although it was a slower route (~5 hours), it was a very pleasant and scenic
drive through the rural regions, and it made our timing perfect to arrive at
Pittsburgh Airport at 4PM.
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