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What is so Special about Shenandoah National Park?

Updated: Jan 27

Did you know Shenandoah National Park was the first park to be improved by the Civilian Conservation corps in 1933.  Come hike with us on some of the best hiking trails in Shenandoah while we share with you 10 more facts to help you learn what is so special about Shenandoah National Park.  Let’s Get Started.  

Everyone visiting Shenandoah seems to wonder and you will too, 

How Likely is it to see a Bear in Shenandoah National Park?

Bears live in the mountains of Shenandoah National Park.  50 other mammals also call the park home including deer, bobcat, coyote, red fox, and chipmunks.  Black bear are considered crepuscular which means they are most active at dawn in the early morning and at dusk as the sun goes down.  Park visitors will see black bears more in the Spring and Fall as they come out of hibernation and get ready for their winter nap.  Knowing that bears are present in the park many have a follow up question:

Do I need Bear Spray in Shenandoah?  

We did not take bear spray on any of our hikes in Shenandoah.  We did hike early morning but we didn’t see any large mammals.  We only saw squirrel, chipmunks, birds and insects.  Bears are present and if you encounter a bear it could be deadly.  If you are hiking in the deep wilderness and tour for multiple days you may increase your odds of seeing bear and therefore want bear spray.  But if you are on the popular trails with many other people you should be safe from bear activity.  The national park service has a great page on bear encounters click here so you can learn more.  Let’s now move on to some history and answer the question


Who Founded Shenandoah National Park?

Shenandoah is located in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  At least two men, one being George F Pollack of Skyland designed a plan to create the park where it sits today.  His efforts displaced many land owners in the region as he built a story for Washington, in the early 1930s that the locals were living in poverty and unable to take care of themselves.  This allowed Politicians to take part of the land via eminent domain while other landowners transacted their land over to the government in an amicable way.  The proud story is that this is the first and only national park formed entirely by people and citizens and not government action.  Shenandoah National park was established after Virginia handed over land to the Federal government through this process.  But,  

When was Shenandoah National Park established?  

The national park was established on December 26, 1935 by President Franklin Deleanor Roosevelt as the 22nd National Park for the United States.  The State of Virginia and President Herbert Hoover before Roosevelt supported development of the park land before 1935.  President Hoover actually had a fishing camp within the boundaries of the park and funded the first section of Skyline Drive that connected his camp, Big Meadows, Skyland, and Thornton Gap.  Thornton Gap is the main connector down to the town of Luray and the Shenandoah Valley.  To understand the effort that was required for this much land we need to ask

How Big is Shenandoah National Park?

Shenandoah National Park is over 200,000 acres.  The highest elevation in the park is hawksbill mountain at 4,050 feet.  The lowest elevation is 550 feet.  Compared to other national parks Shenandoah is the 31st largest park at 311 sq miles.  For context, Yellowstone is number 8 at over 3,400 sq miles.  Skyline Drive is 100 miles long and there are over 500 miles of hiking trails to explore and discover the beauty of Shenandoah National Park.

We’re almost halfway through our list.  But stay until the end if you wan to know why it’s called Shenandoah. And   If you like this walk and talk format we share details on all of our hikes in  Shenandoah and the National Parks we visit in this format.  Subscribe now to share comments on the blog, join the conversation, and be a part of CampBrood.  All right back to the list and 

How far is Shenandoah National Park to Washington DC?

The northern edge of Shenandoah National Park is only 70 miles or an hour and 20 minutes from Washington DC and the White House.  Shenandoah was an important piece of land in the 1920s.  Many of the National Parks at the time were in the Western States.  Of the 22 national Parks when Shenandoah was established only Great Smoky Mountains, Acadia, and Everglades were East of the Mississippi River.  Great Smoky Mountains is almost 500 miles away from Washington DC.  So, to have a National Park to promote so close to the United States Capitol gave the park an additional selling feature at the time of its development.  So with all this effort going into creating the National Park,

Why Visit Shenandoah National Park?

Shenandoah National Park has over 500 miles of hiking trails to discover.  101 miles of the Appalachian trail are also located within the park.  Maybe the most popular though is Skyline drive that is 105 miles through the park with multiple hiking trails, viewpoints and stops to spend your day.  Shenandoah National Park promotes more than 10 named waterfalls with Dark Hollow Falls being the most popular.  With so much to see and do it is no wonder the 200,000 protected acres of the Blue Ridge Mountains is a popular destination for many outdoor enthusiasts. Did you know Stony Man is one of the most favorite hikes in Shenandoah? But, 

Why is Shenandoah National Park so Special?

Less than 2 hours from Washington DC Shenandoah National Park provides the best of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The park was formed entirely from land lived on,used, and owned by citizens.  Now it is protected land for all to enjoy.  But, centuries earlier Mammoth and mastodon have been found to have roamed the park and region.  People have lived in Shenandoah for over 9,000 years.  But, There are over 1,400 species of plants that call the park home.  The popular trees include tulip poplar, hickory, chestnut and red oak.  Later we’ll share one valuable plants that is especially protected in Shenandoah.  Animals call the area home including Black bears, white tailed deer, and over 50 species of reptiles and amphibians including the Federally protected Shenandoah Salamander.  But, know almost 200 birds, 50 mammals and a total of about 20 reptile and amphibian species and about 40 fish species including bass and brook trout call Shenandoah home.  Speaking of fish, 

How many Waterfalls are in Shenandoah National Park?

There are 12 named waterfalls in Shenandoah.  The most Popular is Dark Hollow Falls.  This waterfall is 70 feet tall and is a 1.4 mile round trip hike starting at Skyline drive.  The second waterfall to mention is 67 feet tall Rose River Falls.  To get to this waterfall hike the 4 mile loop trail starting at Skyline Drive.  The hike includes views through the forest, along water and the cemetery of the Cave Family.  But better yet, you can see Dark Hollow Falls from this trail, too. For our brood it was great because we were up for a longer hike and the chance to see two waterfalls.  If you want to see the tallest waterfall in Shenandoah you will need to hike to the 93 feet tall Overall Run Falls.  This hike is more difficult though at 8.8 miles.  But there are swimming holes on this hike that you don’t want to miss.  

Every good hiking video needs a dad joke.  Why did the teacher take her struggling class up a mountain?  To get higher grades. 

Here are dad joke books for great gifts: Dad Jokes Around the Campfire: 600 Funniest Dad Jokes: 

For examples of the gear we took on our day hikes in Shenandoah check out these links below for more details.

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:

To view any product mentioned by us in our videos, click this link: As an Amazon Associate, we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

Ok back to the list and 

Who Discovered the Shenandoah Valley?

A German physician John Lederer ran 3 expeditions into Shenandoah.  He once disappeared into the wilderness and didn’t return for 7 months.  During that time he identified the major topography of Virginia.  His expedition was the first European group to crest the blue ridge mountains and the first to see the Shenandoah Valley.  But before his discovery six tribes lived in the area including Iroquois, Shawnee and Cherokee.  Being in Virginia many ask 

Was the Civil War Fought in Shenandoah?

Although there may have been some military in the Mountains and fights and skirmishes at higher elevation most of the civil war battles in the region occurred in the Shenandoah Valley.  But the Valley was a critical area for the war that included many skirmishes and conflict.  The battles occurred in the 1860s only 70 years before the park was established.  

If you are watching and are familiar with the region join the conversation and let us know your favorite memory or fun fact.  

What rare plants are in Shenandoah National Park?  

Shenandoah National Park has protected animals, plants, and trees since its establishment in 1935.  One of the most valuable in the forest is American Ginseng.  It’s medicinal purposes makes it a valuable crop and is part of the agricultural industry in the Eastern States.  But, it is also harvested by scavengers and poachers and needs to be protected in a way that only National Parks can support and police.  Through all of this have you wondered,

Why is it Called Shenandoah?

Shenandoah National Park could be named in a couple of notable ways.  One theory is that the area is named after a tribal member with a similar name.  The word Shenandoah also means Daughter of the Stars which was used to describe the stars reflecting off waters in the mountains late at night as witnessed by tribes in the region.  But do you remember the rare salamander is also named Shenandoah.  This salamander is native to the region but only lives on three mountain tops in Shenandoah.   With so much to offer

How many People Visit Shenandoah National Park Each Year?

Over 1.5 million people visit each year but the park can handle it.  In Shenandoah you will find roads and trails created by the Civilian Conservation Corps and maintained and improved by the park service.  Starting in 1933 the CCC opened its first locations in Shenandoah and began improving what was to become a National Park.  Their legacy includes miles of fire trails, hiking trails, sewage systems, picnic areas, shelters, and the planting of the forests and land we enjoy today.  

To learn more about Shenandoah National Park read the other posts on our blog!

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