Shenandoah National Park: Scenic Views, Waterfalls & a Special Surprise

In honor of the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, celebrated just a few days ago on Aug. 25, 2016.

I’m starting to fall in love with our National Parks. We’ve only been to a handful — Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Zion, Arches — but I don’t think I could ever get tired of them. So much to see! So little time. This past Memorial Day weekend, we added one more to our list: Shenandoah National Park, which spans 300 square miles of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the southern Appalachians.

We entered the park on the southern side through Skyline Drive, a scenic road that runs the entire length of the park. I had heard it’s a popular drive among motorcyclists — the road twists and turns for 105 miles, and there is no shortage of places to stop, rest, and soak in the magnificent views. In fact, there are 75 total overlooks!

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An hour or so later, we started our hike at the Dark Hollow Falls trailhead. (Note: We parked at the Byrd Visitor Center, which has a small convenience store, a restaurant, bathrooms, water fountains, gift shop and more.) There are many trails at Shenandoah, as you can imagine. But we were only there for the day, and Dark Hollow Falls trail is a very doable 1.4 miles roundtrip.

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The trail follows a stream the entire way, if I remember correctly. As you can see, it’s very lush and offers some nice views of large boulders, natural pools and vegetation.

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The tiered waterfall, rising 70 feet, was more impressive than I expected. There were quite a few people there when we went, but it wasn’t too crowded. You can keep hiking from that point, but we chose to turn around there.

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The climb back up wasn’t too arduous. It’s a well maintained trail.

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I would’ve been a happy camper if our visit to Shenandoah had ended with that hike. (Plus, the views from the Byrd Visitor Center were a treat in and of themselves. They looked like more like a painting than real life.)

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However, to our surprise, as we drove away from the visitor center, we noticed a couple of cars had stopped in the middle of the road…the drivers were looking at something through the trees…and then we saw it. A black bear. So cool!

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I couldn’t believe we finally saw a bear. I had been disappointed when we didn’t see one during our visit to Yosemite, so this was a pleasant surprise. Though, let’s just say I’m glad we saw it from a distance, and from the safety of our car.

I’ll leave you with some more pics of the beautiful scenery. If you’re on the East Coast, I highly recommend visiting Shenandoah National Park. We definitely plan on going back and checking out some more trails! You can see more pics on my Flickr.

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