Fall is the best time of year in the DMV. Winter is wet and gross, spring is the attack of pollen, and summer gets so hot and humid it’s nearly unlivable. Just when you’re at your wits end the temperature finally drops and the humidity breaks and you’re suddenly reminded why you live here in the first place. We’ve had plenty of fun on the farm this year, but Sean and I have been impatiently waiting for fall colors to make an appearance, and finally last weekend it was time. One of our favorite places to visit when the trees put on their annual show is Shenandoah National Park.
Shenandoah National Park is just 75 miles from the hustle and bustle of Washington, DC. The park is full of cascading waterfalls, spectacular views, wildflower fields, and quiet wooded hollows. Shenandoah covers an area of over 200,000 acres that are a haven to deer, songbirds, wild turkeys, and black bears. There are numerous campgrounds and hundreds of hiking trails. Additionally, the Appalachian Trail cuts through the park, so it’s not unusual to encounter a few hardcore cross-country trekkers during your visit.
The easiest way to see as much of Shenandoah as possible – without even leaving your car – is a trip down Skyline Drive. Skyline Drive is a 105-mile road that runs the entire length of the park and is situated along the ridge of the mountains. There are nearly 70 overlooks along the route which offer spectacular panoramic views.
On a clear day with good weather conditions, it will take about three hours to complete the entire drive. On this visit, we didn’t make it as far as we would have liked. It happened to be a cloudy day and between dense fog and a cranky toddler we bailed out pretty quickly. I’m hoping we can return sometime next year for more
Tips and Tricks:
- Visit Early. Especially in the fall, Skyline drive can get very busy. The park is generally open 24/7 so we always try to get in as early as possible. It’s about a two-hour drive from Annapolis.
- Bring Plenty of Water and Snacks. Skyline drive only has a few visitors centers. Depending upon traffic conditions it can take a long time to reach your destination. Additionally, be sure to enter the park with a full tank of gas.
- Watch for Peak. This year we ended up delaying our trip week after week to try to catch as much fall color as possible. There are tons of leaf peak predictors but we relied on the Shenandoah Park YouTube channel for the most accurate information. Generally, you’ll need to wait for warm days and cool nights to bring out the most brilliant colors.