Shenandoah National Park is celebrating its 75th birthday this summer and to mark this special occasion they’ve launched a contest called “75 Reasons to Visit Shenandoah National Park and the Surrounding Communities.” Check out the contest here. Now I’m not quite as ambitious (maybe that’s a polite way of saying I’m lazy!) as they were in coming up with reasons to visit Shenandoah, but I did come up my own top five after a lovely stay at the park in early June.
1. Relax and Unwind
Rest and relaxation, getting away from it all, time out, getting grounded, tuning out. We have so many ways of saying it, but can we really do it? Is it realistic in today’s modern times to think one can actually get away from it all?
My answer is yes, you can. In fact, there are some very special places in the United States where you can disconnect from all things that make life hectic; these places are called National Parks.
I recently spent a few quiet, stress free days at Shenandoah where I unplugged my computer and turned off my cell phone. What a wonderful feeling it was to be quiet and still, to enjoy the cool mountain mornings without my daily pre-breakfast fix of emails, taking a walk instead of taking a call. Shenandoah National Park has its priorities straight, there are no phones or internet access in cabins or lodge rooms but if you absolutely have to take a peek at your email there is free WIFI in the lobby of both main lodges.
So, if you long for some time away from your chaotic life for a few days, a week, a month, head over to Shenandoah Park and reconnect with what is truly important in life, your place in nature, on your own or with family and friends.
2. Lodges, Cabins, and Campsites
Shenandoah offers tons of lodging choices with two properties on the National Register of Historic Places, Big Meadows Lodge and Skyland Resort, as well as rustic cabin rentals and campgrounds throughout the Park. Both lodges offer glorious views overlooking the Shenandoah Valley.
The smaller of the two properties, Big Meadows features 25 rooms in the main lodge and 72 additional cabins, suites and traditional rooms located close to the lodge. Skyland has 179 rooms and is located at the highest point on Skyline Drive (Mile 41.7).
Before my visit to Shenandoah, I went online to the Park’s website to check out the lodges I would be staying in during my visit and I came across this statement:
“If you are looking for 4 diamond, luxury accommodations with all the amenities, Skyland is not the place for you. The absence of in-room phones and WIFI only enhances the quietness of the surroundings. Skyland lets you leave the hi-tech world behind so you can immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature.”
I was sold.
Tip: Be sure to request a room with a view when booking a lodge room at the Park.
3. Hiking for the Adventurous and the Not So Adventurous
There are a whopping 500 miles of hiking trails in Shenandoah, and they range from easy (which is my speed) to a 101 mile segment of the Appalachian Trail that runs the length of the park. My favorite hike, around the corner from my cabin, was a five-minute ramble up to a quiet, secluded spot overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. As you can see in the photo on the left, it was a nice place to sit for a spell.
4. Food, Glorious Food
The food served at both Lodge restaurants in Shenandoah is not what you would call typical camp food. Executive chef Peter Bizon at Skyland Resort is passionate about the food prepared at the Resort and he has developed a menu with a focus on fresh, locally sourced food, and to be honest, any menu that includes a dessert called Mile High Blackberry Ice Cream Pie is tops on my list.
Tip: In celebration of the Park’s anniversary year Shenandoah will be offering an exclusive 75th Anniversary wine package at all of the Seasonings Culinary workshops this summer. The package includes 1 bottle of Barboursville 2008 Merlot Reserve with 2 etched 75th Anniversary wine glasses for $75. The Seasonings Culinary Workshops showcases Skyland’s Executive Chef Peter Bizon as he prepares a delectable four-course menu accompanied by Virginia wines.
Priced at $349 for two, $229 for one, both dinner packages include Friday night lodging, dinner with wine, and Saturday morning breakfast.
5. Nature Up Close and Personal
We did a lot of wildlife spotting during my four days at Shenandoah National Park. There were plenty of close encounters with deer, we got to fawn over pretty little fawns trying out their brand new wobbly legs, and, this stag was right outside my cabin proudly showing off his velvet covered antlers. We even had a, not so close, (thank goodness) sighting of one black bear during a drive through the Park. He was a gleaming black mass of muscle, waiting patiently for us to be on our way so that he could resume his berry picking in peace. Tiring of our company after a few short minutes, he turned his back on us, and quietly disappeared into the woods.
To be honest, there’s no shortage of reasons to visit Shenandoah, and best of all, whether you’re camping, hiking or staying at one of the lodges you’ll be communing with nature far away from the stresses of daily life.
A special thank you to the Virginia Tourism Bureau for inviting me to experience tranquility in Shenandoah National Park and its communities!