Shenandoah National Park 3-, 4- and 5-Day Itinerary

May 29, 2024

Knowing what not to miss in Shenandoah National Park can help you make the most of your outdoor adventure. From magnificent lookout points to exciting hikes, you and your loved ones can have a memorable visit to one of the East Coast’s most popular parks. You can enjoy a quick weekend in Shenandoah, but staying for five or more days with a well-planned itinerary is the best way to experience the park.

What Time of Year Is Best for Shenandoah National Park?

The best time to visit Shenandoah National Park depends on your favorite season. The park bursts with spectacular colors during the fall, but it is also beautiful during spring when the trees and wildflowers bloom. Shenandoah is a fantastic summer destination if you and your family enjoy the great outdoors, and it is a beautiful winter getaway if you like to avoid crowds and enjoy the crisper temperatures.

Top Things to Do in Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park’s protected land exceeds 200,000 acres, making it a breathtaking destination full of natural beauty, wildlife and adventure. For an incredible time in Shenandoah, you can:

  • Hike beautiful trails.
  • Visit stunning waterfalls.
  • Take in the breathtaking views on Skyline Drive.
  • Have a picnic lunch with friends or family.
  • Explore the nearby Luray Caverns.
  • Stroll the charming town of Front Royal.
  • Attend educational ranger programs.

What Is the Most Beautiful Part of Shenandoah National Park?

Beauty is tucked away in every part of this incredible location, but you can make the most of your trip by checking out the best sights at Shenandoah National Park. Some of the park’s most spectacular spots are in the North District and Central District, which are spread out between the Front Royal and Swift Run Gap entrances.

How to Enter Shenandoah National Park

The best way to enter Shenandoah National Park is with a pre-purchased pass. All visitors must pay a fee before entering the park, and you can pay this online or at the gate. When you purchase a seven-day or annual pass before your visit, you can move through the line faster and have more time to explore.

How Many Days Do You Need for Shenandoah National Park?

While you can see parts of Shenandoah National Park in a few days, spending a full week in the area is the best way to fully experience the park and its surrounding activities. With so many lookout points, picnic spots, hiking trails and camping activities, you can pack each day of your vacation with unforgettable moments. Consider the following itineraries based on your length of stay, and feel free to mix and match your favorite activities.

Shenandoah National Park Itinerary for 3 Days

You can have an amazing time even if you have a limited number of days in Shenandoah. Use the following itinerary to make sure you hit the best spots:

Day One: Explore the Views Along Skyline Drive’s Central District

Skyline Drive is Shenandoah National Park’s only public road, and it winds along 105 miles of the Blue Ridge Mountains’ crest. You can enter and exit the park via Skyline Drive’s various entrances. On your first day, consider entering via the Thornton Gap entrance from Route 211. You can make your way south toward the Swift Run Gap entrance and stop at the following overlooks along the way:

  • Pinnacles
  • Stony Man
  • Hemlock Springs
  • Timber Hollow
  • Crescent Rock
  • Fishers Gap
  • Tanners Ridge
  • Naked Creek
  • The Oaks
  • South River

Each overlook is the perfect opportunity to look out over the Shenandoah Valley, take some beautiful pictures and breathe in the fresh mountain air. Take in the incredible views at each stop before exiting via the Swift Run Gap entrance.

Little Stony Man Cliffs, Shenandoah National Park. Rocky outcropping overlooking a wooded valley.

Day Two: Hike to Little Stony Man Cliffs and Bearfence

Explore Shenandoah on foot during day two of your adventure. When you enter Skyline Drive via the Thornton Gap entrance, you can make your way south like you did on day one. However, this time you will stop at the Stony Man parking lot at mile marker 41.7 and follow the white-marked Appalachian Trail.

When you reach a fork in this trail, follow the blue-marked Stony Man Trail to reach a rock outcropping with breathtaking views. If you want to try a more challenging hike after warming up on the Stony Man Trail, you can drive farther south on Skyline Drive and park at the Bearfence Mountain parking lot at mile marker 56.4. While this trail is fairly short, it features an exciting rock scramble on the way to the summit.

After your hike and scrambling adventure, you can head back to your campsite and cook a delicious dinner over the fire.

Day Three: Explore a Stunning Waterfall

Make sure you see one of Shenandoah National Park’s stunning waterfalls before ending your trip. On day three of your adventure, you can visit Lower Whiteoak Falls via the roundtrip Whiteoak Canyon Trail.

Stop at the Lower Whiteoak Canyon Falls parking area, and begin the Whiteoak Canyon Trail. Veer right to continue on the Cedar Run Trail, and follow this path to the waterfall. Enjoy the splendor of the falls and take some pictures before returning to your car. After your hike, treat yourself to some tasty ice cream in downtown Harrisonburg or at your campground.

Yellow wildflowers under a blue sky in Big Meadow, Shenandoah National Park.

Shenandoah National Park Itinerary for 4 Days

Spending four days in Shenandoah gives you a little more time to experience the park’s beauty. The following itinerary includes some longer trails and more activities to help you make the most of your trip:

Day One: Make Your Way to Big Meadows and the Byrd Visitor Center

A four-day trip gives you more time to pace yourself on Skyline Drive and take in the incredible views. Start your journey at the Thornton Gap entrance, and take your time stopping at lookout points such as:

  • Pinnacles
  • Stony Man
  • Hemlock Springs
  • Timber Hollow
  • Crescent Rock
  • Fishers Gap

Since you have more days to explore the lookout points, you have some extra time on day one to enjoy a picnic at Big Meadows. This large, peaceful meadow is home to various plants and wildlife, and you might see some deer while eating your lunch. It is also across from the Harry F. Byrd, Sr. Visitor Center, so you can check out some interactive exhibits or attend a ranger program before continuing your journey to the Swift Run Gap entrance station.

After enjoying the views, a delicious lunch and educational exhibits, you can return to your campground, make some s’mores and share stories around a crackling fire.

Sunset over the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains from Crescent Rock, in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Day Two: Hike to Marys Rock

The Marys Rock Summit Trail is a moderate roundtrip hike perfect for your second day in Shenandoah. The trailhead is in the Panorama parking lot near the Thornton Gap entrance, and the path winds up to the summit. After trekking through the mountains and over hills, you can scramble across some fun rock formations and reach the end of the trail for some amazing views of the Shenandoah Valley.

Following your hike, check out some more lookout points on your way to the Swift Run Gap entrance station. This is a great chance to stop at the following points:

  • Tanners Ridge Overlook
  • Naked Creek Overlook
  • The Oaks Overlook
  • South River Overlook

Day Three: Hike to a Historical Landmark

Shenandoah National Park is full of learning opportunities, and Rapidan Camp is one of the most interesting. President Hoover often visited Rapidan Camp, also known as Camp Hoover, during the Great Depression, and you can visit this historic landmark via the Mill Prong Trail. On this trail, you can check out three restored cabins on the retreat Hoover donated to the National Park Service.

Day Four: Explore Dark Hollow Falls and Rose River Falls

Trails leading to Rose River Falls and Dark Hollow Falls connect, making it easy to do one or both of them on the same day. The trail to Rose River Falls begins at mile marker 49.5, and you can park at the Fishers Gap parking lot. Cross the road, continue down the fire road and turn left onto the yellow-marked Big Meadows horse trail. Follow the blue-marked Rose River Loop Trail once you reach it, and marvel at the stunning 67-foot waterfall.

A bridge leads you to a steep and rocky section, and the yellow-marked fire road brings you to another bridge where you can turn right. If you want to continue your hike, you can take the connected Dark Hollow Falls path for another 0.25 miles, enjoy the bottom of the falls and then hike one mile back to return to your starting point. This hike takes approximately four and a half hours to complete.

You can skip the Rose River Falls trail and instead follow the roundtrip Dark Hollow Falls trail at mile marker 50.7 for a shorter hike. Another option is to explore the Whiteoak Canyon Trail and see the Lower Whiteoak Falls mentioned above in the three-day Shenandoah itinerary. Following your adventures, you can have a delicious dinner in downtown Harrisonburg or order some tasty food at your campground.

A waterfall tumbles over rocks in Shenandoah National Park.

Shenandoah National Park Itinerary for 5 Days

Five or more days in Shenandoah gives you and your friends or family a chance to fully experience the park’s grand views, exciting activities and surrounding attractions. Use the following list to pack as much fun as you can into a week-long visit:

Day One: Challenge Yourself on the Bear Church Rock Trail

Spend the first day of your week-long trip challenging yourself on an exciting hike. The 9.1-mile roundtrip trek to Bear Church Rock features beautiful vistas, serene rivers, a watering hole and a fun rock scramble. It is typically one of Shenandoah National Park’s less-populated trails, so you can soak in the peacefulness of the great outdoors.

To hike this trail, park at the Graves Mill parking lot on Route 622, and follow the yellow-marked Graves Mill Trail. Follow the trail markings, which will guide you to turn left at each trail junction.

If you would prefer to enjoy some milder hikes on your first day, you can traverse any of the trails mentioned above in the three-day and four-day itineraries.

Day Two: Enjoy a Waterfall and Relaxing Picnic

Hike to and relax by a waterfall on your second day in Shenandoah. You can hike to Lower Whiteoak Falls, Rose River Falls or Dark Hollow Falls mentioned in the three-day and four-day itineraries, or you can hike to Lewis Falls. Lewis Falls is an 81-foot waterfall you can reach via the Lewis Spring Falls Trail. This loop trail leads you to a beautiful waterfall and back to the parking lot featuring a large picnic area.

Following your waterfall hike and picnic, you can make your way to the Swift Run Gap entrance station and stop at The Oaks Overlook and South River Overlook for some breathtaking views.

The mountains of Shenandoah National Park under a cloudy sky with rays of sunlight peeking through.

Day Three: Take in Incredible Views on the Skyline Drive’s Central or North District

Explore lookout points and learn about the area’s fascinating history on day three of your Shenandoah adventure. You can drive between the Thornton Gap entrance station and the Swift Run Gap entrance station to see the Central District’s views, or you can explore the North District’s views between Thornton Gap and the Front Royal entrance station. As you drive North, you can take in views at the following lookout points:

  • Jeremy’s Run
  • Hogback
  • Little Hogback
  • Range View
  • Hogwallow Flats
  • Gooney Run
  • Signal Knob
  • Shenandoah Valley

Driving North to the Front Royal entrance station is a fantastic opportunity to explore the charming town of Front Royal.

Day Four: Visit Natural Bridge State Park and the Virginia Safari Park Zoo

Spending five days in Shenandoah gives you enough time to explore the surrounding area and its attractions. Natural Bridge State Park is the home of a gorgeous limestone gorge, and the park features various hiking trails, forests and meadows to explore. If you plan to stay in the Shenandoah National Park area for more than a few days, visiting Natural Bridge is a must.

Natural Bridge State Park is also a short drive away from the unique Virginia Safari Park Zoo, where you can drive your car through a free-roaming wildlife park and experience animals up close. Thrill your friends or family with a ride through this incredible park where they can feed and pet animals such as llamas, deer, bull elk and Scottish Highland cattle through your vehicle’s windows. The zoo also features walk-through sections and special encounters with animals such as:

  • Farm animals
  • Giraffes
  • Sloths
  • Penguins
  • Rhinos
  • Tiny parrots known as budgies

Day Five: Explore Luray Caverns

Luray Caverns is the eastern United States’ largest cavern. When you visit this majestic natural wonder, you can explore lighted pathways through 10-story high rooms and marvel at natural rock formations. Luray Caverns also features exciting attractions such as a garden maze, a rope adventure course, a museum and a kids’ mining station.

Stay at Kampgrounds of America to Experience Shenandoah National Park

Learning about the best things to do in Shenandoah National Park and choosing the right place to stay are essential when planning a trip to this remarkable destination. Shenandoah National Park reservations can be difficult to book, especially during peak seasons such as spring, summer and fall. Harrisonburg / Shenandoah Valley KOA Holiday offers a fun, cozy camping experience just a short drive from Shenandoah National Park and its surrounding attractions.

Whether you enjoy tent, RV or cabin camping, KOA offers a fun and comfortable stay with convenient amenities, recreational activities, food services and exciting events. Reserve a stay at KOA to begin your unforgettable Shenandoah National Park adventure.

About the Author: Kampgrounds of America

Kampgrounds of America is the largest system of open-to-the-public campgrounds in the world, with over 500 locations across the United States and Canada. Founded in Billings, MT in 1962, KOA’s family of campground brands – KOA Journey, KOA Holiday and KOA Resort – today serve more than a million camping families each year. KOA is dedicated to “connecting people to the outdoors and each other” by providing people with a variety of camping experiences and the information they need to make the most of their camping trip. Read more of their camping and travel resources by visiting

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