My sister and I had a couple coinciding days off last week and made the impromptu decision to head to Shenandoah National Park for some fall hiking. Shenandoah is a 4.5-hour drive from New Jersey and one of the closest national parks within driving distance I could think of.
We hit the road, arriving in Luray, Virginia, around 4 p.m. (we had a later start than planned, oops) but were able to get on to the trails in no time. We entered at Thornton Gap Entrance, the closest to the town where we were staying, and chose the South trail exit once inside the park. We parked at the first parking lot we found, eager to get on the trails, and got really lucky with the location of Panorama parking grounds.
The steep, winding and beautiful trail was a gateway to Mary’s Rock and several other trail options for those with more time before sunset, like Skyland, another seven-mile trek beyond the four we had already covered.
We stopped at Mary’s Rock for some incredible views just as the sun was lowering in the sky and made our way back down before the rain started and darkness set in.
The hike back to the car was all downhill and much faster than we anticipated, so we caught the gorgeous full sunset at the car and on the road to the hotel. We utilized the map we were given at the park entrance (a real paper map, who knew) and made plans for a full day of hiking the next day, with trails lined up between sunrise and sunset.
The quick two-day trip was a much-needed celebration of the changing season and a great excuse to spend a little extra time outside before the bitter cold sets in on the East Coast. We’re looking forward to a few more weekend trips wherever possible this season.
— Angelique Platas, associate editor
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