Hiking, Horseback Riding and Backpacking
With more than 500 miles of trails to explore, hiking is really popular way to get to know Shenandoah. Day hikes are popular along the park’s many fire roads and foot paths, and lots of downloadable trail maps are available at the park’s website. Be sure to check hiking conditions before visiting the park, as some areas may be closed or partially restricted for overlook reconstruction or other reasons. Backcountry campers must pick up a free permit from a visitor center if they plan on staying overnight in the wilderness.
Visitors can ride horses on about 180 miles of trails within the park. Horse tours are available through the park’s concessioner, but visitors can also bring their own horses if they wish. Use horses only on designated horse trails.
Shenandoah preserves 196,000 acres of Blue Ridge Mountain wilderness, including more than 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail. The park suggests a number of different trips along the trail, highlighting scenic views and waterfalls along the way. The park even suggests that portions of the trail can be explored during winter time to alleviate crowding.
Known to some as a rite of passage, the scramble up Old Rag Mountain is one of the most popular hikes in Shenandoah National Park. But since it involves a strenuous elevation change or more than 2,000 feet, and a section of climbing over bare rocks, the eight-mile hike is not a good choice for people that lack the upper body strength and full range of movement that’s required to make the summit.
Biking is a great alternative to driving the Skyline Drive scenic byway in Shenandoah National Park, but cyclists should exercise a few precautions to ensure a safe journey. Because fog can limit visibility, bikers should have reflectors and lights mounted on their bikes. They should also be prepared for the weather and temperature differences that can accompany elevation changes from the lowland valleys to the mountains. Cyclists are also permitted to bike on paved areas of the park, but not on any unpaved trails. The one exception is a one-mile stretch on the Rapidan Fire Road.
Sport fishing is a time-honored recreational activity in Shenandoah National Park. Although they are now commonly found throughout North America, brook trout are native to the Blue Ridge Mountains, where they inhabit mountain streams. Rainbow and brown trout are also found in the waters of Shenandoah National Park. The catch limit on trout is six of any variety per person. Catch-and-release fishing is favored in the park, and all waters are open for it. Designated waters are open for harvest.