A Look Back: Shenandoah 2017

In October, Chris and I did something we hadn’t done in seven years — took a vacation just the two of us! After running in the LLBean 4th of July 10K, we decided it would be fun to run a race in another state and make a camping trip out of it. Chris suggested the Shenandoah area and we discovered the Shenandoah Leaf Peeper 10K in Front Royal, Virginia.

We looked into camping at Shenandoah National Park, however there were no hookups and it was a further drive to Front Royal on Sunday for our race. We choose to camp at Shenandoah River State Park as it had water and electric hookups and was a fifteen minute drive to Front Royal.

We said goodbye to our boys on Friday morning. We were very lucky to have both sides of our family hang out with our kids for the weekend. Many thanks to Grandma, Grandpa, and TeeTee for making this trip possible! We arrived at Shenandoah River State Park around 3:30pm and set up the camper.

After we were all set up, we went for a bike ride. There was easy access to the trail right behind our campsite which was super convenient. We took Cullers trail to River Trail/Bluebell Trail then biked on the road to the visitor’s center (which was closed) then we continued on the road to Cullers Overlook, which had scenic views of the river, and finally back to the campsite via Campground Trail again.

Back at the campsite, we had dinner (kid free!) and ended our evening with a campfire.

On Saturday morning, we headed to Shenandoah National Park! Shenandoah was established as a national park in 1935. Shenandoah National Park extends along the Blue Ridge Mountains and has over 500 miles of hiking trails which include a section of the Appalachian Trail. A prominent feature of the park is the scenic Skyline Drive which is a 104.5 mile road that runs the length of the Shenandoah National Park. Almost all trails stem from Skyline Drive.

We entered Shenandoah National Park at the northern entrance station of Skyline Drive, Thornton Gap, in Luray. We hiked to Stony Man Summit, which starts at Mile 41.7 of Skyline Drive. The Stony Man Trail is a 1.4 mile out and back hike, but we took a different path. We parked at the Little Stony Man Parking area and went around the back of Stony Man Summit via the Passamaquoddy Trail. Neither of us can remember how long it was exactly, but we’re guessing it was around 7-8 miles roundtrip.

We both had to use the restroom after our hike, so we drove to the Byrd Visitor Center. After walking around the visitor center a bit — it was awesome, but I didn’t take any pictures — we decided to take a drive around Big Meadows Campground. It was busy and the campsites were pretty close to each other..: We were definitely happy we decided to camp at Shenandoah River State Park.

Later that afternoon, we headed into downtown Front Royal to check out The Festival of Leaves. We got there towards the end of the festival so a lot of the vendors were closing down but we still had fun walking around and exploring the town of Front Royal. Again, no pictures.

Sunday morning was race day! The 10K started at 7:30am. We got there about an hour early and waited for the race to start! It was a small race (only 52 people!) with a beautiful course featuring views of the Shenandoah Mountains and Shenandoah River along the way. Chris placed third in his age group and received a pint glass as a prize!

After the race, we drove straight to Shenandoah National Park for another hike. A shorter hike as we just ran 6.2 miles! We chose Hawksbill Summit for our second Shenandoah hike. Hawksbill Summit is Shenandoah National Park’s highest peak at 4,051 feet and offers spectacular views. It was a 2.8 mile loop hike which was a little rocky at parts on the way up and really steep going back down. We packed our lunches and ate them at the top of the mountain. The summit has a nice observation platform with a interesting compass with a mountain identifier that Chris really enjoyed.

When we got back to the campground, we drove to the Shenandoah River State Park visitor center as we wanted to check it out before it closed for the day. It had a small memorabilia section where we bought gifts for the boys and a nature area.

We left Shenandoah River State Park and headed home to our boys on Monday morning! We really enjoyed our stay at Shenandoah River State Park. It was close to Front Royal for our race and it was also a short drive to Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park. It wasn’t overly crowded, the campsites were spacious, it had a nice trail for hiking and biking. The campground also had a great nature center.

We loved it so much we are heading back down to Shenandoah River State Park to kick off our 2018 Spring Break TODAY! We’re so excited to show our boys the beauty of Shenandoah.

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