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Watching Wildlife in Shenandoah National Park

The Shenandoah National Park encompasses a portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the state of Virginia. The park is noted for being long and narrow with the Shenandoah River as its defining feature. The broad valley to the west of the park plus the rolling hills of Virginia to the east make this a great tourist destination for sightseeing and exploration.

First discovered by European settlers in the 1700s, the Shenandoah Valley was a popular hunting destination for settlers looking to supply food for their families. They were able to access beavers, elk, and American bison, a well as bears, turkeys, and bobcats. By 1935, the park was officially established as a national park, and construction on the Blue Ridge Parkway was funded. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt opened the park to the public in 1936.

Shenandoah National Park is home to 79,579-acres of land that has been designated as wilderness and is presently protected under the National Wilderness Preservation System. The highest peak in the park is Hawksbill Mountain, whose summit is only 4,051-feet above sea level.

An impressive 50 species of mammals live within the confines of the park, including white-tailed deer, gray squirrels, bats, skunks, black bears, bobcats, and plenty of birds. Coyotes have recently been expanding their presence in the park as well, now found on just about every acre.

The Shenandoah National Park’s Animals

  • Bobcats
  • Big brown bats
  • White-tailed deer
  • Gray squirrels
  • Spotted skunks
  • Shrews
  • Coyotes

Viewing Locations

Skyline Drive: The main road of the park, Skyline Drive, can be a good option for viewing local animals. The road runs along the ridge line of the mountains. You can expect to see black bears, squirrels, chipmunks, and white-tailed deer here – but be careful and drive slowly!
Trayfoot Mountain-Paine Run Loop Trail: Be on the lookout for bears, deer, rodents, and birds throughout this loop.
Big Meadows: Explore the meadows of the park and bring binoculars to look for birds, black bears, and white-tailed deer.

When Should You Go?

The park experiences a grueling winter, so it’s recommended to make your trip sometime between April and October. Conditions can get too cold and icy if you attempt to visit the park in the winter months. That said, if you have a car that can withstand difficult weather conditions, the park is open year round.

Home to some of the most beautiful autumn foliage in the world, Shenandoah National Park is a highly popular destination for “leaf-peepers” from the months of September to November. If you are looking for peak fall colors, book your trip some time in October.

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Hidden Gems in Shenandoah National Park

Located in Virginia, Shenandoah National Park is characterized by the lush Blue Ridge Mountains and 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail. If you’re looking to get away from the crowds and experience some off the beaten path destinations, you’re in luck; this park is full of unique vistas and hidden hikes to try!

Strickler Knob

The hike to the summit of Strickler Knob is one of the most scenic in the Eastern United States. The trek is challenging, but it’ll be worth it for spectacular panoramic views over the Shenandoah Valley once you reach the summit!

Shenandoah Caverns

A less-trafficked alternative to Grand Caverns, Shenandoah Caverns offer a less crowded, more private experience in the park with caverns that are equally as gorgeous. You can expect knowledgeable guides and stunning rock formations here, and there’s even an elevator to take you up and down.

Jones Run Falls

If you want to visit some of Shenandoah National Park’s incredible waterfalls but want to avoid the crowds, head to Jones Run Falls. The hike begins just off of Skyline Drive and brings you to these beautiful 40-foot waterfalls situated against a scenic forested backdrop.

Double Bear Rocks

If you’re up for a challenge with major payoffs, set out on the Pass Mountain Trail, one of the least-trafficked hikes in Shenandoah. The hike culminates at Double Bear Rocks and offers a breathtaking vista covering Lurray Valley, New Market Gap, Strickler Knob, Kennedy Peak, and Massanutten Range.

Veach Gap

An easy and lesser-known hike in Shenandoah, the Veach Gap Trail is about 7 miles long and is scenic the entire time. At the end of the hike, you’ll be rewarded with amazing views over the Shenandoah River.

Skyline and Seashore Road Trip

Hills and valleys by the Great Smoky Mountains

The Skyline and Seashore Road Trip spans several National Parks Service sites including Shenandoah National Park, Assateague Island National Seashore, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and others.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most protected areas in the eastern parts of the United States and there is no doubt why. This park is abundant with plant and animal life of several different kinds and the serenity of its ancient mountains will leave you dumb founded. This national park was established in 1934 and now, it receives more than 9 million visitors annually. If you find yourself in this park, do not forget to venture out into its abyss, as hiking is one of the most fun and common activities to do there all year long. The most common hiking spots include the Alum Cave Bluffs, Rainbow Falls, Charlies Bunion, Andrews Bald and Chimney Tops. However, always remember to carry the appropriate bear pepper spray with you as the park does have wild bears that have unpredictable behavioural patterns.

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most visited areas in America’s National Park System due to the stunning views of the southern Appalachian Mountains that the drive through it provides. The northernmost part of the Parkway starts where the Shenandoah National Park ends. Most of the Parkway in Virginia goes through Jefferson and George Washington National Forests. The scenes across the Virginia part of the Parkway additionally incorporate excellent rolling fields with both olden agrarian sites and of those sites that are still active. The reproduced mountain ranches toward the start of the Parkway gives a brief look at conventional early American establishments. Aside the trip down memory lane, the Parkway also boasts a range of other activities such as bicycling, eco-tourism, fishing, camping, and hiking. Also, to avoid missing out on the blossoming of the flora in the Parkway, it is best to visit the Parkway during summer or early fall.

Shenandoah National Park

If you find yourself reminiscing the rarity of the Appalachian Mountains, you have found yourself in the right place. The Shenandoah National Park lies in an irresistible part of the Blue Ridge Mountain, covered with stunning wildlife and charming flora that will never cease to amaze you at every step of the way. Just like most other National Parks in the country, this park is also known for the hiking adventures that visitors embark on. For those looking to take a relaxing swim during the magnificent sunrise, you will be pleased to know that the Shenandoah River flows through the valley to the west, eclipsed by the Massanutten Mountains.

National Mall

For more than 200 years, the National Mall has symbolized our nation and its democratic values, which have inspired the world. The National Mall – the great swath of green in the middle of our capital city and stretching from the foot of the United States Capitol to the Potomac River – is the premiere civic and symbolic space in our nation. National Mall and Memorial Parks protects the National Mall and its iconic monuments and memorials and over 1,000 acres of greenspace in Washington, D.C.. Come to visit the National Mall and stay to explore all that National Mall and Memorial Parks has to offer.

Assateague Island National Seashore

When visiting the island, there is a high probability you are going to run into a group of wild horses that have learned to live synonymously with their vast surroundings. Other than just admiring the sheer beauty of these horses, you can also ride them in the Over Sand Vehicle (OSV) Zone. This 48,000-acre island situated off the coast of Maryland and Virginia is also ideal for camping, hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, shell fishing, swimming, surfing and yes, shell collecting. Setting aside these traditional activities, you can also get a permit to ride your vehicle in the OSV Zone for a fun and adventurous road trip experience.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Like the Assateague Island National Seashore, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore offers breathtaking beach experiences for you and your family. If you are up for an adventure, you can set up camp along the beaches and enjoy the unlimited fun that the beach life provides, from going swimming and fishing to getting the perfect summer tan. Watch out for the wildlife on the island because you may just find yourself sunbathing with a seal by your side. Apart from your blubbery friends, the island is also a common visiting spot for sea turtles during the summer as the adult females look to lay their eggs in the sand, thereby make sure you keep a respectable distance and keep the beaches clean!

Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach, a city and vacation resort on South Carolina’s Atlantic coast, is the hub of the Grand Strand, a 60-mile string of beaches. It’s also known for its celebrity-designed golf courses. Along its beachfront boardwalk are arcades, souvenir stands and restaurants, as well as the old-fashioned Family Kingdom amusement park and the SkyWheel, one of the country’s tallest Ferris wheels.

Congaree National Park

Astonishing biodiversity exists in Congaree National Park, the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. Waters from the Congaree and Wateree Rivers sweep through the floodplain, carrying nutrients and sediments that nourish and rejuvenate this ecosystem and support the growth of national and state champion trees.


Now that we have glanced through what is in store for you when you seek to take part in this amazing road trip, you may be wondering about the when and how?

The best time to enjoy this road trip is during the late spring, summer, and early autumn seasons due to the fact the nature is more alive during this time as the flowers are blossoming and the wildlife is active. This time of year is also ideal for any beach related activity because lets just admit it, nobody enjoys the beach when it is cold outside. You can enjoy the trip in any way you want and therefore the amount of days it takes to complete is completely up to you. Realistically, you can enjoy the experience in a week or two, but it will surely take longer if you are really looking to explore and venture out more.

There is always something for everyone in the great outdoors and if this trip sounds like something you want to do with the ones you love, use the self-guided route at the US-Parks website to help you plan your trip.