Inspired by the National Park Services’ Centennial, I decided to plan a pet-friendly overnight trip to Shenandoah National Park, located in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. I had driven to and from Florida many times, and never once took the Blue Ridge Parkway, so it was about time that I see the Blue Ridge Mountains!
Only a 5.5 hour drive from Fairfield County, CT, I knew it would be totally do-able as an overnight.
I’d plotted out our route and knew that we were going to enter the park at the northernmost entrance, the Front Royal Entrance, and drive south on Skyline Drive until we reached the Thornton Gap Entrance, where we’d exit the park and head to Harrisonburg, where we’d spend the night.
So with pups in tow, we loaded into Charles’ car and off we went!
<- Say cheese, Wellington! ->
<- Did you know the George Washington Bridge, built in 1927, was the country’s longest suspension bridge until the Golden Gate Bridge was built in 1933? ->
<- Are we there yet? ->
Our first stop was the Visitor’s Center, where we received advice from one of the Park Rangers about the best trails for small pups. (The Visitor’s Center – below – also offers gorgeous views, so I suggest stopping!)
Only a few trails do not allow dogs, mostly for the dogs’ safety. (They’re the most challenging, steep trails.) Since not all trails are marked, we had to pay close attention to the mile markers. “Some trails are easy to miss,” the Ranger said.
After missing the Mount Marshall Trailhead once (as expected…) we parked the car, strapped on the pups’ flea & tick collars and headed into the Shenandoah Valley wilderness!
The greenery in Shenandoah National Park is out of this world. I’m sure it was especially lush when we visited in May, as spring had just sprung, but still – the amount of trees and plants is amazing. You could tell it had come alive after a cold, dark winter.
Charles and I had anticipated that Wellington wouldn’t be able to do the whole hike, as he’s gotten a bit slower in his old age, so I went prepared with a doggie backpack. It’s hilarious; it’s literally like a Baby Bjorn for dogs.
He hung in there for about twenty minutes before going into the backpack – in his defense, the first twenty minutes were uphill. 😉
About thirty minutes into our hike on the Mount Marshall Trail, we came upon an incredible scenic lookout. We could see for miles and miles across the Shenandoah Valley.
I know Wellie looks ridiculous in that backpack, but trust me that he was totally comfortable, and most importantly, it allowed him to still enjoy the adventure!
Throughout the hike, everywhere we turned was trees, trees, trees, like the heavens above had laid a green blanket over the land…
After a few more miles of trails, and a brief thunderstorm, we decided to call it a day. Charles graciously pulled double duty for a bit toward the end of the hike, as carrying both Wellie and my camera, uphill, got the best of me. #BestDogDad
We continued to motor through the park, stopping every so often to admire the views. Spectacular vistas were present from both sides of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
A hilly and windy journey, it was a memorable drive! If you take a look in this photo, you can see the windy road in the distance.
As our Shenandoah National Park adventure was coming to an end, I found myself thinking about how blessed we were to be able to do an overnight trip to such a magnificent part of the U.S. Our National Parks Service is something to be treasured!
<- Happy & exhausted pups! ->
If you are doing an overnight, Harrisburg, which is about a half hour’s drive from the Thornton Gap entrance/exit, offers a number of lodging and dining options. The closest town to James Madison University, it basically has every major chain you could think of.
We dined at Jalisco Mexican Restaurant, which offered delicious food and very friendly service. Don’t go to sleep without having ice cream from Bruster’s Real Ice Cream, though, it was to-die-for and just yards from our hotel!
Don’t forget water! Dogs get thirsty just like us, so make sure you have a portable container and bottled water handy during all road trips – especially ones that involve hikes!
Find more information about Shenandoah National Park here. Have you visited Shenandoah National Park? If so, I’d love to hear about your time there!