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.