Driving through Shenandoah National Park

Published: 01/5/16 10:00 AM in National, North America, Travel.
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Virginia is a beautiful state. Although this is a fact recognized throughout the country, the state itself manages to keep a low profile without trying to out-compete other states and their natural beauties (here’s looking at you California). Whenever you mention taking a trip to or through Virginia, the response is always something akin to “You’re going to love it, it is a beautiful place.” And that is no matter where in the whole state you are actually going to visit.

For Kevin and I, we remained unbiased in our opinion since we had never actually been there. However during a weekend trip to Virginia for a very good friend’s wedding, we decided to fly into Washington D.C. and take the scenic route down to the location of the ceremony. So we drove through what is probably the most beautiful part of the state, Shenandoah National Park.

The park encompasses part of the Blue Ridge Mountains and contains Skyline Drive, a National Historic Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. The entire park is long and narrow, stretching 105 miles along the northwest edge of the state of Virginia. Although the drive through the park took us an additional 2 hours out of our way, it was worth it to get even a small taste of this beautiful National Park.

A scenic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park off of Skyline Drive.

Kevin Banogon and Meredith Lambert Banogon pose in front of Shenandoah Valley while visiting Shenandoah National Park.

The view of Shenandoah Valley from inside Shenandoah National Park.

Kevin Banogon stands on part of the Appalachian Trail within Shenandoah National Park.


Following Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park

The Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park is a scenic drive that takes you through the entire length of the park along the ridge of the mountains. It is a particularly popular drive during the autumn months, as the leaves are changing colors. This was precisely the reason Kevin and I knew the 2-hour detour would be worth it even with the influx of visitors with the same idea.

Traveling along Skyline Drive during the fall was an incredible experience. The colors were astounding and were in perfect contrast to the large, jagged stones that jutted out from the mountainous terrain. The pull-offs along the drive offered scenic overlooks of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley below. There were definitely a lot of people visiting the park during this time of year so it was hard to come across any true solitude, but if you are only really driving through to get a feel for what fall is intended to look like, you will not be disappointed.


A view of Big Meadows at Shenandoah National Park during the fall.

The picturesque beauty of the autumn colors of Big Meadows in Shenandoah National Park.

Kevin Banogon and Meredith Lambert Banogon stand among the fall colors of Big Meadows in Shenandoah National Park.

The red leaves of the brush in Big Meadows are a beautiful part of fall in Shenandoah.

The painted fields of Big Meadows contain beautiful fall colors throughout the vegetation.

A wide view of Big Meadows during fall in Shenandoah National Park.


The Beauty of Fall Colors in Shenandoah’s Big Meadows

One of the most astounding stops we made during our brief trip to Shenandoah National Park was at Big Meadows. We also stopped here to visit the Harry F. Byrd Visitor Center which was the only visitor center we passed during our route through the park. Although this visitor center was an excellent stop, the beauty of Big Meadows in the fall outshone it completely.

There are wandering paths cut through the low-lying vegetation of Big Meadows making it easy to traverse the expansive plain. Since the brush is very thick and about waist high, these paths are really the only way to access the meadow and explore the area. Since we visited in the fall, the colors were unbelievably beautiful. The entire field was painted red with pops of green and yellow here and there. It is the most picturesque example of fall that I have seen to date and we were both in awe of the beauty.

With such a short trip to Shenandoah National Park, we weren’t able to do much more than drive through with a few stops and definitely did not have time for any hiking. So one day we will have to return to these mountains to explore the beauty to be seen off of Skyline Drive. However, even this brief trip was completely worth the extra drive time to get our first look at a true fall.


Kevin Banogon stands in Big Meadows of Shenandoah National Park in the fall.

Meredith Lambert Banogon and Kevin Banogon enjoy their trip Shenandoah National Park as they visit Big Meadows.

The Blue Ridge Mountains that make up one side of Shenandoah National Park.

The yellow trees pop with their autumn glow through Shenandoah National Park.

The beauty of autumn in Shenandoah National Park along Skyline Drive.

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