Established in 1935, Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park is an iconic Blue Ridge jewel. The national park covers almost 200,000 acres of wilderness in the Blue Ridge Mountains, featuring blue-tinged peaks, wildflower meadows, mountain streams, and vast swaths of forest. With more than 500 miles of trails, the national park is a popular destination.
But the adventure doesn’t have to end when you’re done at the park. Shenandoah County, located just to the west between Great North Mountain and Massanutten Mountain, is also loaded with recreational opportunities and après-adventure perks. Here are just a few of the ways to tack a couple extra Shenandoah County adventures onto your next visit to Virginia.
1. Take to the Sky
It’s well-known that hikes in the Shenandoah National Park showcase some pretty sweet Blue Ridge scenery. But even the park’s most eye-popping vistas can’t compete with an aerial view of the Shenandoah Valley. Take to the sky in Shenandoah County with Skydive Shenandoah in New Market or Valley Ballooning in Edinburg. Both companies offer their services year round.
2. Carve some Powder
Under a blanket of snow, Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive and Big Meadows are transformed into hotspots for cross-country skiers, but inside the national park, downhill options don’t exist. If you’re in pursuit of skiable powder, head to Shenandoah County’s Bryce Resort. One of just four ski resorts in the state, Bryce’s 1,750-foot mountain offers eight downhill runs of varying levels, and a terrain park.
3. Tackle a Titanic Trail
The Appalachian Trail is certainly the most coveted notch on the belt for backpackers in the East, and 101 miles of the long-distance trail snake through Shenandoah National Park. But it’s not the only long-haul hike in the neighborhood. The 252-mile Tuscarora Trail is an AT bypass route that meanders through parts of Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, joining up with the Appalachian Trail near the Mathews Arm Campground in the Shenandoah National Park. Not quite ready to bag that much mileage? Turn your hike into an out-and-back day trip, or check out the 71-mile Massanutten Trail, which follows along the high ridges of Massanutten Mountain around the rustic Fort Valley.
4. Rough Rides
The 105-mile Skyline Drive is Shenandoah National Park’s only motorway, and also the only thoroughfare open to cyclists. But just west of the park, Shenandoah County is one of the state’s premier mountain biking destinations. Nearly a quarter of the county is covered by the mammoth George Washington National Forest—and the place is loaded with stellar singletrack, including access to the monumental Virginia Mountain Bike Trail, a 480-mile route through the wilderness. If you prefer a smoother ride, take your road bike to Fort Valley Road, Back Road, and Route 42.
5. Palate-Pleasing Tours
After an arduous hike in the national park, treat your taste buds to a trip along one of Shenandoah County’s food- and drink-inspired trails. Virginia has made a name for itself in the world of wine, and the Shenandoah Valley is home to some of the best vineyards in the state. Savor the flavors of Shenandoah County’s eight award-winning wineries along the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail, or if beer is more your thing, sample some tasty regional brews on the Shenandoah Spirits Trail.
6. Get a History Lesson
The Shenandoah Valley isn’t just a stunning natural landmark—it’s also one of the most historic places in Virginia, and a mecca for Civil War buffs. Delve into the region’s rich history in Shenandoah County, which is scattered with Civil War battlefields, historic buildings, and engaging museums. Explore battle sites like New Market and Tom’s Brook or take one of the area’s Civil War driving tours. Pop by the Virginia Museum of the Civil War in New Market, the Strasburg Museum (open from May-October), or the historic Edinburg Mill—one of the few structures in the valley that wasn’t burned to the ground when Union troops swept through.
7. Float Trips
Shenandoah National Park is renowned for its spectacular waterfalls and secret swimming holes, but paddlers are out of luck. Fortunately, just outside the park, the stunning Shenandoah River traces the contours of the Blue Ridge, providing plenty of recreational opportunities. And one of the most striking stretches of the river—the North Fork—happens to run along the eastern edge of Shenandoah County, twisting in a string of curves nicknamed the ‘Seven Bends’. There are plenty of river access points for anglers, paddlers, or floaters scattered throughout Shenandoah County.
8. Explore the Fields of Gold
For an adventure that you can’t find anywhere else, check out Shenandoah County’s Fields of Gold Farm Trail. In the heart of the valley along Interstate 81, you’ll find local farm stands, farmers’ markets, vineyards and breweries, an apiary, and more. You could spend a whole day touring the working farms and exploring the shops, but if nothing else, grab a homemade, homegrown meal at one of the nearly 30 restaurants along the route. With options ranging from salads to wood-fired pizza to local trout and beef, there is something for everyone in your crew—and you can guarantee it will be fresh and delicious!
There you have it. Some of the best ways to extend your trip after visiting Shenandoah National Park. After you take in all the views, or decide you want to try something that the park doesn’t offer, head up to Shenandoah County—they’ve got it all.
Originally written by RootsRated for Shenandoah County, VA.
Featured image provided by Mrs. Gemstone