12 Great Things To Do In Shenandoah National Park That Aren’t Hiking

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I figured I might as well do my other Shenandoah post now, too, so today we’re looking at all the things to do in Shenandoah besides hiking! There isn’t as much as some of my other lists, a lot less short and easy walks, but there’s still plenty to keep you busy.

There are surprisingly few hikes under one mile but I included the few that there are. Usually, they are less than one mile round-trip and considered easy by National Park Service but this time since there are so few under one mile, I included one that is over, but still under 1.5 miles.

This is the post for you if you don’t like hiking, can’t hike, don’t want to hike, or just don’t have enough time for it. So here they are, all the awesome things to do in Shenandoah besides hiking!

Shenandoah national park

National Park Pass + Other National Park Deals

Shenandoah national park

Drive Skyline Drive

First up is Skyline Drive. This is the main scenic drive, really the only one, in the park and runs 105 miles from north to south on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You can drive the whole thing in one day and if you are just driving, it should take about three hours.

There are overlooks all along the road and you’ll have plenty of places to enjoy the views of the Shenandoah Valley. This is a great place to start (or end) a Blue Ridge Parkway trip and it’s even better in the fall thanks to the changing leaves.

There are four entrances to Skyline Drive: Front Royal Entrance at mile 0, Thornton Gap Entrance at mile 31.5, Swift Run Gap Entrance at mile 65.5, and Rockfish Gap Entrance at mile 104.6 (the same as the Blue Ridge Parkway.)

Most points of interest along Skyline Drive are noted by their milepost number (the same as the Blue Ridge Parkway) and you’ll see the markers on the right side of the road heading south, left heading north.

Shenandoah national park

Hike the Fort Windham Rocks Trail

This is a nice short trail at just 0.8 miles round-trip with 130 feet of elevation gain. This is along part of the Appalachian Trail and takes you to a cool geologic feature of split boulders rising 50 feet from the ground.

Shenandoah national park

Walk part of the Appalachian Trail

This can be as long or as short as you’d like. All you have to do is find a parking area the trail goes to and start walking. There were quite a few of these throughout the park and we walked a bit on at least two sections.

Difficulty will just depend on where you are, but you can always turn around if it gets too tough or you’re just done hiking. If you would rather just feel like you’ve hiked some of the Appalachian Trail, or all of it, check out some of these books about hiking long distances!

Shenandoah national park

Go horseback riding

In the spring, summer, and fall, you can go horseback riding in Shenandoah! There is only one park concessionaire you can go with, Go Shenandoah, and the trail rides leave from Skyland.

If you live in the area, you can also bring your own horse to enjoy some of the 180 miles of trails open to horse use. Conditions of the paths vary but if you’re bringing your own horse, you can ride year-round. Find out more about horseback riding in Shenandoah here.

Shenandoah national park

Hike to Blackrock Summit

This is an easy 1-mile hike with 175 feet of elevation gain to a rocky viewpoint of the Shenandoah Valley, Massanutten Mountain, and more below. This trail is also along part of the Appalachian Trail.

Shenandoah national park

Bike Skyline Drive

If you like biking and are comfortable biking on busy/hilly roads, then you could bike Skyline Drive instead of drive it! Or you could bike some of it if 105 miles is a little too much.

Bicyclists need to ride single file at all times and follow Virginia laws pertaining to bike lights and brakes. If you are biking, be very cautious of wildlife and traffic, especially in the fall when it’s so busy. If you’re driving, keep an eye out for bikers, especially on curves and hills.

Shenandoah national park in fog

Do some fishing

There are more than 90 mountain streams and tributaries in Shenandoah and over 70 of them contain fish, and most of those 70 are home to native brook trout. If you like fishing, Shenandoah is a great place to do some of that just be sure to check here for licensing and any regulation first.

Shenandoah national park

Channel your inner bird nerd

Shenandoah is a great park for birdwatching being home to more than 190 species! About half of those breed in the park and about 30 species live there year-round. Big Meadows is a place to see birds that can’t be found anywhere else in the park.

Here are some great trails for birdwatching if you do want to hike and here are some of the birds you can see:

  • Tufted titmouse
  • Red-tailed hawk
  • Carolina chickadees
  • Wild turkeys
  • Barred owls
  • Belted kingfisher
  • Merlin
  • American kestrel
  • Purple finch
  • Cooper’s hawk
  • Golden eagle
  • Osprey
  • Wood duck
  • Chimney swift
  • Whip-poor-will
  • Caspian tern
  • Rock dove
  • And so much more!
Shenandoah national park

Hike the Limberlost Trail

This is a fully accessible trail through the woods and the longest on the list at 1.3 miles. It has 130 feet of elevation gain and is great for seeing mountain laurel in the spring. This is a loop trail and part of it is a boardwalk!

Shenandoah national park

Go EarthCaching

An EarthCache is a type of Geocache but these don’t have physical containers, so it’s a little different. EarthCaches are virtual caches so you go find the spot which is usually a natural or geologic feature. There are usually questions you have to answer about the site to log these.

You may not be able to get little trinkets at these, but they’re a fun way to learn about the human and natural history of areas, especially in national parks. Physical geocaches aren’t allowed in most (Everglades and Biscayne in Florida both have physical ones though!?

To find these, you can just download the Geocaching app and load it when you get there (or before just in case service is bad) and you’ll be able to see where they all are!

Shenandoah national park

Look for wildlife

Wildlife in Shenandoah isn’t quite as exciting as say, Yellowstone or the Everglades, but I think any wildlife is exciting and look for anything everywhere.

The most exciting thing to see here is definitely a black bear. There are 5,000-6,000 living in Shenandoah National Park. Just be sure that if you do see any to stay at least 150 feet away. Some other wildlife you can see includes:

  • Deer
  • Bobcats
  • Chipmunks
  • Groundhogs
  • Big brown bats
  • Copperheads
  • Timber rattlesnakes
  • Eastern rat snakes
  • Eastern fence lizard
  • Eastern box turtle
  • Shenandoah salamander
  • Eastern red-backed salamander
  • Green frog
  • Eastern American toad
  • American eel
  • And so much more!

The best places to look for wildlife that don’t involve much hiking include Big Meadows (birds, bears, deer) and Skyline Drive (bears, squirrels, chipmunks, deer). If you’re hiking, Bearfence Mountain, Doyles River-Jones Run Loop, and Trayfoot Mountain-Paine Run Loop are good places to look.

Shenandoah national park

Go rock climbing

This isn’t an activity for the average visitor, unless you’re already into rock climbing and have your own gear/know what you’re doing. I actually didn’t know Shenandoah was popular for rock climbing, but I guess it is! There are routes for all skill levels.

Have you been to Shenandoah? What is your favorite thing to do in Shenandoah? Do you want to go?

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