Virginia! Let me say it again Virginia! We had so much fun when we were there – Yes we only stopped for a day and spent the night in a Walmart parking lot but it was one of the most enjoyable days we have had hiking as a whole family.
We started by driving into Shendenadoah National Park. Ok the getting there was interesting you drive through a couple steep grade hills – with which a car is pretty and kind of fun. BUT have you ever noticed those truck run off areas on the side of a road with a steep grade?? Yes those are for us – in case we can’t stop!!! It is definitely nerve racking.
We made it to the National Park and the entrance is 13ft 8in high in the middle. And the roof is a triangle . . . luckily we made it through ok – we are about 13ft 6in. tall. When you go into Shenandoah state park there is one road that runs through the middle of the park. We wanted to be able to drive the RV all the way through BUT there is a tunnel at the end of the road that is under 13 feet. So we were able to go half way up – which was an interesting drive. You are literally driving around the mountain as you ascend to the top. Then there are the bicyclers who are on the road and there is really now shoulder. So you have to hope when you go around 20 bikers that a car doesn’t come flying around the blind corner in front of you! I almost just went into the back of the RV so I didn’t have to watch. I am glad I stayed up front because there were a lot of great lookout areas – where you can stop or just catch a glimpse as you drive by.
We made it to the Harry F Byrd Visitor Center and parked (they have RV Parking – but you would need to disconnect your car – the spots are not big enough for a trailer/RV and car/truck). We then headed out on our first hike to the Dark Hollow Falls Trail – we started on the Story of the Forest Trail which begins right across the street from where the RV Parking is and then followed that across the road to get on the Dark Hollow Falls Trail.
The whole hike was basically following a running stream down a hill and into a waterfall! We wanted to complete this hike and try the rock scramble so unfortunately we weren’t able to stop and just play in the water. We could have spent hours just playing in the stream and climbing on the rocks and trees. But our time was limited so we continued down. We are glad we did!
The waterfall was AMAZING!! We were able to hike down to the bottom of the waterfall and then play in the water and climb the rocks up the waterfall. We all loved it!
After that came the hike back UP . . . on the way down we had realized that the people looked pretty tired and weren’t smiling to much. I was just thinking why aren’t they enjoying themselves?! Now I know it is because they were exhausted from hiking straight up hill to get back to the visitor center. It was an interesting hike with the kids and Craig and I took turns carry them. I also had some “power pellets” I had brought since I knew the hikes were going to be a little long. I soon as I gave the kids their pellets (aka rainbow Tic Tacs!) they were good to go for a stretch. It really helped to get us back up to the top.
Next we jumped in the car at the visitor center and headed to the BearFence Rock Scramble area – Right across the street from the BearFence Mountain Parking. We got to the parking area and looked at the trail and it was stairs heading straight up the edge of the mountain. For a second we considered not doing it but we knew we only had the day we were there so we went for it. We are glad we did! The trail starts pretty normal except it isn’t a flat trail instead you are walking over rocks and trees. Then the fun really begins and you start scrambling up and over rocks. The park did an amazing job of marking the trail with Blue marks so you knew exactly where you were suppose to climb. If it wasn’t for the blue marks you really would not have thought you should go that way but once you climbed up the rock you saw the next blue mark and you knew you were on course. We made it about half way through when we hit a point that we really didn’t think we smart to do with 6 kids under 8! So we turned around and headed back – which was just as fun as on the way there! We are hooked we love Rock Scrambling and will be looking for other places to do it!
After that we headed back to the Visitor Center to pick up the RV for the trip back down and out . . .I drove the car behind Craig just to make it easier on the RV. The RV is a diesel so it has a jake break/engine break so it handled the mountain really well. But it is stressful!
When we were at the visitor center we did head over to the campground to check it out. It looked nice and now that we know that we can make it up there with the RV we have added it to the list of things we want to come back and do!
Things to know:
- You need to pay to enter the park. If you are going to be visiting more National Parks (that you have to pay to get into – some of them you don’t) then you may want to plan on buying the yearly National park pass. It cost us $80. Senior Citizens can get it for $10! You can buy it right at the entrance when you pull up to pay to get in. It was really easy.
- If you don’t want to drive your rig into the park there are a couple of parking areas by the entrance where you can pull over and park your rig on the side of the road. (Our friends at Free2Breathe.com did this with their 5th wheel and then drove their truck through the park). I think there is a parking lot right past the entrance to the park off of the highway so you may want to look into that too.
- You will not be able to drive through the whole park with your rig since there is a bridge at the north end that is under 13 feet high.
- We entered at the Swift Gap Run Entrance – and took the Skyline Drive right to the Byrd Visitor Center. We then had to back track the same way we came in to get out. Since the tunnel to get to the next entrance/exit is 12 feet 8 inches high.
Recommend: We would highly recommend this park! We had a lot of fun and the hikes we did were perfect for the kids. We wish we had more time to explore the park and plan on going again in the future!
If you are in the area you may also want to head over and check out all the great things to do in Washington DC!
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