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10 Tips for Shenandoah National Park that Most Travelers Don’t Realize

The Number one tip for Shenandoah National Park is to plan for hiking in some of the most beautiful forests in the United States.  From gear essentials to safety tips, we'll answer questions you don’t realize like: How to prepare, what to wear, and whether you need bear spray.  Here are 10 tips for day hiking in Shenandoah National Park.  Let’s Get Started!

To watch the video version of this blog click here or continue reading below

We’ll talk about whether it’s safe to hike in the rain in Shenandoah National Park later but while hiking Stony Man trail the first thing many people ask is 

Should you Carry Bear Spray in Shenandoah National Park?

Carrying bear spray is a step in protecting yourself during wildlife encounters but not the most important tip for hiking in Shenandoah National Park.  There are bears in Shenandoah National Park and you may encounter one during your time in the park but, bear spray is your last defense.  Keeping a safe distance from wildlife is crucial for both your safety and the well-being of the animals. Use binoculars or zoom lenses and keep your distance.  If you are concerned about bears, keep your hiking times during the middle of the day and stay off the trails during dawn and dusk.  Hike in the middle of Summer or in the Winter when bears are less active or hibernating.  The more popular trails are the best trails to hike to reduce the risk of a bear encounter.  Hike in groups and make sure you talk at a decent to loud volume to make the bears know where you are.  It is best to give bears a warning rather than surprise them with your presence.  In Yellowstone or Glacier I would recommend bear spray.  But for Shenandoah National Park carry bear spray if you prefer to have that last line of defense and know how to use it. 

While speaking of bear spray you might wonder

What to Bring when hiking in Shenandoah?

When day hiking in Shenandoah National Park remember the essentials like enough water, snacks, and a packed lunch so you and your brood stay hydrated and fueled throughout the hike.  We were surprised at the number of intersections and trails in Shenandoah National Park.  With over 500 miles of trails, hikes can get confusing.  Make sure you carry a map of each hike, a compass, or GPS device is crucial for navigation, and talk with the park rangers if you have any questions.  To carry all of these items we recommend a hydration, hiking daypack.  The water bladders are great for long hikes and hot days.  But for shorter hikes the packs are great for storing water bottles that are easier to clean.  We always carry a first aid kit when we hike.  The trails in Shenandoah National Park are improved but they still have rocks, roots, and uneven terrain.  It is easy to stumble and fall and first aid kits are great when you need a band-aid or ice pack for scrapes, bruises and more serious injuries.   But one item you may not think about is a rescue rope.  Ropes are great for helping anyone that falls over a cliff or outcropping. 

Check out these examples for more details on the gear we hiked with in Shenandoah National Park:

Teton Sports Hydration Pack Video Review:

Amazon Link: 2021 model

Camelbak Mini M.U.L.E hydration backpack Video Review for younger hikers:

Merrell Moab II Men's Hiking Shoes:

The First Aid Kit we carry:

Tactical Flashlights:

We’ll get back to gear, including maybe the most important item to take with you that most people don’t think about, in a minute but, let’s hike Rose River Falls and answer the question

Do you have to pay to drive through Shenandoah National Park?

Many National Parks and sites have entrance fees and Shenandoah National Park is one of them.  There are a handful of entrances onto Skyline Drive and they all have an entrance gate.  At the time of this post the fee per vehicle is $30, motorcycles are $25 and if you are walking or cycling through, the fee is $15 per person.  But you don’t have to pay an additional fee to hike any of the trails or pay entrance into any of the buildings or facilities in the park.  But make sure you use a little time at the entrance to get a park map.  Plus if you know where you want to go first, ask for directions to make sure your assumptions are correct.  We arrived our first day in the fog and even though we knew where we were going our first turn would have been wrong if not for the help of the park ranger taking our entrance fee.  

Do you need Hiking Boots for Shenandoah?  

The easy answer is no you don’t need hiking boots for Shenandoah but it really depends on the type of hiking you are doing.  If you are hiking in dry weather and going to the popular spots like Stony Man, or Dark Hollow Falls, good athletic shoes with a decent tread will work fine.  But, hiking shoes make these hikes more fun.  But even better if you are hiking longer trails that are less developed hiking shoes will give you better traction and make these hikes safer.  I use the Merrell Moab IIs for their traction and durability.  Our brood has a variety of hiking shoes but pick something with good tread and make sure they are breathable.  In all of our day hikes we have never used hiking boots and they aren’t necessary here either.  But if you are worried about your balance or need more stability the most important thing most people don’t consider is trekking poles.  These are great for kids as it makes them feel special but it also helps them stay focused on the trail and gives them another touch with the ground to keep their footing solid and will reduce falls.  We’ll talk about what to wear later but did you know Shenandoah National Park gets more of its rain in the Summer months?  The park receives over 3 inches of rain per month April through October. This leads to the question:

Can you Hike Shenandoah National Park in the Rain?

Yes, you can definitely hike in the rain in Shenandoah.  Actually if you visit Shenandoah National Park in the Summer for more than a day or two you are going to encounter rain.   I think it rained every day we hiked in Shenandoah.  Make sure you know the forecast for the day and be prepared for changing conditions.  We will talk a little later about what to wear but it definitely includes a waterproof jacket. Keep an eye on the sky and be aware of any signs of approaching storms. If thunderstorms are likely, consider rescheduling your hike for another day.  Lightning is one of the largest contributors to hiker injury and death.  Big rainfall can make the trails slippery and increase the risk of falls causing injury.  But, if you have to cancel due to rain you should go underground and hike through Luray Caverns.  Located in Luray, Virginia about 15 minutes from Shenandoah’s Thornton Gap, Luray Caverns is the largest cave in the Eastern United States and boasts rooms that are 10 stories high.  But what is even better is that you won’t get rained on and there is no threat of lightning underground.  But this is a tips blog article so to learn more check out our post on Luray Caverns.  But, with all this talk about rain let's continue walking through Luray Caverns and answer

Can you drink the water in Shenandoah National Park?

There is potable drinking water provided by the National Park Service throughout the park.  A list of options and locations is located on the NPS website.  But, you shouldn’t drink water from streams, waterfalls, or ponds without filtering first with an approved purification device.  Bacteria, parasites, and viruses are present in any surface water that can cause sickness including death.  For day hiking make sure you carry all the water you need for the day and use the bottle filling stations throughout the park if you need more.  

Before we get to the next tip let's change to Bearfence Rock Scramble and of course every good hiking post needs a Dad Joke:  What did the hiking boots say to the hiker with a blister? "You're rubbing me the wrong way!"

Here are dad joke books for great gifts: Dad Jokes Around the Campfire: 600 Funniest Dad Jokes: To view any product mentioned by us here, click this link: As an Amazon Associate, we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

Ok, let’s keep going and answer the question: 

What should I wear in Shenandoah National Park?

Hiking in Shenandoah can provide all types of weather.  As mentioned earlier, days with  precipitation are to be expected so plan on packing a waterproof jack and even pants.  But, the temperature changes throughout the day depending on the season and whether it’s cloudy or sunny.  To feel comfortable, dress in layers to adjust as you need to.  Some hikers like convertible pants to unzip the pant legs and remove them for shorts.  Our brood likes hoodies for cooler weather over shirts.  Make sure you bring a good hat and sunglasses for hot sunny days.  But, if it's truly a hot day wear a performance shirt that wicks away sweat to help keep you cool.  

What is the best time of day to hike Shenandoah National Park?

The best time of day to hike in Shenandoah National Park is determined by what you are looking for.  If you want that amazing sunset or sunrise plan on hiking before dawn or at dusk.  You’ll want good maps, a compass, a flashlight and batteries to make sure you can hike safely in the dark and low light parts of the day.  For wildlife lovers it is best to hike early when animals and birds are more active.  Popular hikes will be busier between 10am and 3pm but the middle of the day might be best for those that enjoy an afternoon walk and then dinner and don’t mind sharing the trail with others.  But check the weather too, and plan your time in the park for the best part of the day.  

Speaking of popular hikes you should ask 

What not to miss in Shenandoah National Park?

With over 500 miles of trails it’s hard to narrow down the hikes that are best for you.  We’ve included some hikes here and for the casual hiker Stony Man and Dark Hollow Falls are great hikes that showcase the valley views and beautiful waterfalls of Shenandoah National Park.  If you want a dog friendly trail pick Rose River Falls.  Old Rag Mountain trail is for the more adventurous but Bearfence Rock Scramble is a bit easier.  Mary’s Rock near Thornton Gap provides for another great view of Shenandoah National Park.  But the most important tip is to pick the hike difficulty and distance you are comfortable with.  So, get a good Shenandoah Trail guide to help you decide and to learn more about Shenandoah National Park read one of these posts next.

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