Shenandoah National Park

After a long week in the concrete jungle swamp known as Washington, D.C., I was so excited to finally make a return trip to Shenandoah National Park!  I visited Shenandoah in elementary school with my parents, and we drove down part of Skyline Drive.  Now with a 10 pound Pomeranian Poodle in tow, we decided to meet up in the park for a weekend trip.

While I drive, I don’t have a car in the city.  I took Amtrak from Union Station to Culpeper, VA, which is about an hour away from Shenandoah.  There are no rental car places so I did need to be picked up, but the actual park is only 75 miles from D.C.  If you are coming from D.C., Sperryville just outside of the park has some limited food options, and we found a GREAT cafe called Before & After to stop at for lunch.

After lunch, we started up to the park to check in.  We stayed in a pet-friendly room at Skyland, and the view was spectacular.  We had a view right over the mountain and overlooking Luray.  It was great to be centrally located in the park, and I immensely enjoyed leaving technology behind for the weekend. You can stay in rustic rooms, cabins, or camp within the property.  Eating can be a challenge, as the rooms do not have any way to cook, but we managed to make it work for the weekend.

After getting settled into the room, we began our first hike at the Hawksbill Gap Loop.  This trail takes you to the highest point in the park at 4,051 feet, and it’s an easy to moderate 2.9 mile hike.  The views are phenomenal, and we were happy to be the only people at the top.

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Hudson and I posing at the Hawksbill summit.  Little dogs can do big things!

Can you believe those little dog legs made it all of the way to the top?  Hudson was such a trooper on our trip!  You can see behind me that there is a compass in the wall at the peak.  The compass labels and points the direction towards the other peaks in the park.  It was very fun to know exactly what we were looking at.  The Hawksbill loop was my favorite hike we did this weekend thanks to the great views from the top.

The next day, we set out to hike the Rose River Trail.  This trail was a little different, as the final viewing points were two waterfalls, not a peak.  This 3.7 mile hike only has an elevation change of 908 feet, but with slippery rocks and some mud, it remained a little more than easy.  We really enjoyed this hike because you are allowed to enter the water, and Hudson enjoyed wandering near the little waterfalls.  The first large waterfall you pass is the Rose River Falls

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Rose River Falls

There were also a few butterflies by the Rose River Falls, which made me very happy.  These falls are about 1/3 of the way through the loop hike.  At the near end of the hike, you come to Dark Hollow Falls.  While the Dark Hollow Falls are taller, since they are accessible via a fire road, they are more crowded.

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Dark Hollow Falls

While I was ready to keep hiking, my parents were done with the wilderness after this hike.  We spent some time at the Big Meadows Wayside, which was a store and casual restaurant, and we enjoyed some ice cream as a treat after this hike.  We later walked the 2 mile round trip path from the store to the campground so I could check out campsites I would like to try in the future.  (I have never camped so we will see if I manage to pull this off this summer!)  In doing this, we found out that this is one of the big places to stop and watch the sunset!  We didn’t get any pictures that do the sunset justice, but it was beautiful.

In the morning, I decided to finish off my trip with a solo hike on the Stony Man Loop, which went a little awry when I got mixed up and ended up on the Little Stony Man trail somehow instead.  The trail head for the Stony Man Loop starts in Skyland, making it a great quick hike for a first or last day.

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View from the Stony Man Loop Trail

By some miracle, I did have enough cell reception to call and get picked up at the other trail head.  I wouldn’t recommend packing a hike in when you are trying to catch a train, but it all worked out in the end!  The views were worth it!

While it was sad to head back down the mountain to the Amtrak station, my parents, Hudson, and I had a great weekend trip to Shenandoah.  With a $25 entrance fee, my National Parks pass proved it’s worth again.  After spending $20 to enter Assateague Island last month and $25 here, I am at $45/$80 spent for my National Parks pass.

Even a little dog like Hudson can have fun hiking and swimming in the Shenandoah National Park.  While I wish the trip could have been longer, we will have to return soon.

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