A veteran fly fishing at Rapidan Camp

Alternative Adventures at Shenandoah National Park

Photo: Neal Lewis/NPS

Go beyond the hikes to take advantage of other unique ways to experience this popular national park.

There are so many different ways to get to know Shenandoah National Park when you visit. And at just 90 minutes from Washington, D.C., it couldn’t be more conveniently located relative to a number of metro areas. You probably know that it’s a hiking and backpacking paradise, with over 500 miles of trails (including 100 on the Appalachian Trail). But hiking only scratches the surface of activities that highlight the best of the popular, sizable park that extends along Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Expand your possible outdoor-adventure opportunities with the following handful of other suggestions for fun at the iconic park, from biking to climbing to ranger-led tours. 


Rock Climbing 

Granite lovers will enjoy ticking off some of Virginia’s classic climbs at Old Rag, one of the most popular climbing areas in the park. Getting to Old Rag requires a bit of an effort (about an hour-and-a-half hike uphill), but climbers will be rewarded with sweeping views of the park. Most of the climbs there are single-pitch trad routes, but there’s top-rope routes and bouldering as well. The area is known for its classic splitter cracks and corners, and for its solid rock. Try Pure Fun, a 5.7 trad/top-rope route or Strawberry Fields, a 5.9+ trad route.  

Shenandoah National Park's Night Sky Festival Photo: Mary O'Neill/NPS


While Shenandoah National Park doesn’t have the pitch-dark skies like some remote parks in the West do, it’s a wonderful place on the East Coast to watch the stars move across the sky. Credit that requisite darkness with its higher elevation and distance from light pollution of any nearby urban areas. One of the best places in the park to stargaze is Big Meadows. Remember to avoid looking at your phone and turn your headlamp off in order to let your eyes adjust to the dark (it takes about 20 minutes!).   



Anglers will find brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout in the 90-plus streams and tributaries that flow inside the park. Most of those streams are fishy, and home to native brook trout. None of the bodies of water in the park are stocked, so all of the fish you encounter are wild and all fishing is catch and release. Be sure to get a proper state fishing license and check for any updated rules and regulations.  



Driving the iconic 105-mile Skyline Drive is an incredibly classic way to see some of the park’s best sites, and for endless views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. What’s better than that? Biking it. Mountain bikes, road bikes, and e-bikes are all permitted on Skyline Drive and offer a slower, more leisurely way to soak up the views (and get some exercise). A handful of commercial companies provide guided bike tours in the park.  


Ranger Tours

Dig deeper into park history, geology, and ecology by going on a ranger-led tour of Rapidan Camp. Rapidan Camp was the summer vacation home of President Herbert and First Lady Lou Henry Hoover. The camp was established between 1929 and 1933, while President Hoover was in office. The compound has since been restored to its original state, and visitors can tour various buildings and wander the grounds and gardens of this historic property. Book tours at Recreation.gov

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.