Great Outdoors Month: Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Photo courtesy of Britannica

As a native Virginian, I have always loved the diversity of parks and the outdoors that it offers. Virginia is home to Shenandoah National Park. The Park is located just 75 miles from DC and runs southwest along the Skyline Drive. Parts of it overlap with the famed Appalachian Trail that runs from Maine to Georgia. It boasts beautiful hikes with scenic views and a variety of camping sites for those that want the full experience. The great thing about Shenandoah is that no matter what skill level you are, there is a little something for everyone.

Here’s my personal bucket list for the park:

Bearfence Mountain

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Parks

Two words: rock scramble. Get ready to sweat it out. I did this hike in early November and sweated my butt off. This hike is not for the faint of heart or those improperly dressed. I would recommend sturdy boots, lots of water, and a handy dandy Buff to keep the sweat off your face. If you’re looking for a fun challenge, this is it!

Humpback Rocks, Afton

Photo courtesy of The Outback

Growing up, this was THE hike**. I’ve done this hike more times than I have fingers on my hands. The kicker: I hate it. It starts with a steep gravel incline before you make your way, nearly straight up. You can take the back way up which is easier, yet longer. Maybe it’s that I get in my own head about how much this hike is going to stink, but nevertheless I still do it. Why? The views. I have never truly admired where I grew up, until I sit at the top and watch the Shenandoah Valley below me.

**Kamila’s Advice: Grab a sandwich from Greenwood Grocery in Crozet, VA to enjoy at the top while you take in the views. Kamila’s Order: The Wessex, Honest Tea: Just Black, and Route 11 Salt and Pepper Potato Chips. Make sure you Leave No Trace and dispose of your trash appropriately.

Dark Hollow

Photo courtesy of Go Waterfalling

When you’re hiking, you’re supposed to go up right? Because mountains go up. Not Dark Hollows. You’ll wind your way down a steep incline where you will witness one of the best waterfalls the Shenandoah has to offer. If you’ve got poles, these will help the impact on your knees.

National Park Pass: Military Annual Pass, Access for Veterans and Gold Star Families

Photo courtesy of NW Thrifty Mom

You can receive your free Military Pass by presenting your current US military ID at most federal lands that charge an entrance fee. Sites that issue the Annual Pass will generally also issue the free US military version as well. Please contact the Federal Land you will be visiting in advance to ensure that they have the pass available. The pass is good for one year from purchase date.

I was lucky enough to obtain my Military Annual Pass at the Swift Run Gap Entrance. I made sure to confirm the pass was for spouses and dependents of Active Duty servicemembers and that the AD member didn’t have to be present, mine was deployed at the time. I showed my dependent ID and Virginia Driver’s License and got the pass for free.

As of November 11th, 2020 Veterans are eligible to have fees waived where entry fees are collected. They will need to present one of the following forms of identification in order for this to happen:

  • Department of Defence Identification Card (CAC Card)
  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
  • Veteran ID Card
  • Veteran’s designation on a state-issue U.S. driver’s license or identification card

For more information about this, and access for Gold Star Families, please see our dedicated article Access for Veterans and Gold Star Families.

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