Monday, October 23, 2017

Backpacking Shenandoah National Park

If you saw my last post here, you saw we backpacked in the backcountry if GWNF. After we left Hone Quarry, we make our way to Shenandoah National Park to the Front Royal entrance, about an hour away.
I love Shenandoah but unfortunately I have not had a lot of opportunities to spend a lot of time camping in the park so obviously I was ecstatic to be able to squeeze an overnight into our trip. Our first stop was at the Dickey Ridge Visitors Center to stretch before continuing onward, especially since we could hear if our campsite was open/available. Even if you make a reservation online, weather/conditions may change and your reservation might be cancelled so I find it is always best to stop in and find out any new information they have (most of the main gates into the park are close to a visitors center).
Our first stop along the way, was to hit a section of the AT, a hike on Pass Mountain Loop and through the tunnel to our camping site. We camped at Loft Mountain which I honestly think is one of the biggest campgrounds in the park, and one of the best. The sites are spacious and allow for group reservations, if needed. At $15 a site, it is a steal compared to other locations (ranging in $20+). I was happy since there were two trails nearby I wanted to hit: the waterfall hike as well as a section of the AT that I had not done yet. WARNING: Just like GWNF, Shenandoah National Park has wildlife, specifically black bears, which i have seen a lot in spring and fall (and even on this trip). Keep in mind to store food properly in bear-proof lockers or in your car. Be prepared. 
Once we got our site, next to group camping, we setup our tent, and made dinner. This particular site has a fire ring, but I only bought my JetBoil for cooking so that is what I used. Another backpacking meal was in order, and this time it was mac and cheese (I crave comfort food when camping so i grabbed a few microwavable singles and just transferred them to snack bags). Matt also thought it would be a great idea to sneak a few beers on our trip when he went for firewood, which let's be honest, i did not complain about. Our neighbors nearby were kind enough to share their s'mores with us so we had dessert taken care of!
Sleep was amazing but we woke up entirely too early. We wanted to hit Humpback Mountain (something we have not had the opportunity to do before due to high volumes of people). So, we woke up, packed up camp, grabbed our granola bars, and drove out of Shenandoah National Park- and into the Blue Ridge Parkway towards the parking area. We weren't the first to arrive but we still enjoyed the hike. After two nights of clouds and rain, the clear skies were a welcomed change. It was a steep hike, and apparently we took the long way up but I do recommend it. Bring lots of water and snacks (i really like RXBars- they have sweetness and still give you tons of energy), as this is a two hour hike and can be quite steep in some areas. The views are spectacular and can provide you with so many amazing photos. While the rock face is quite large, when there are crowds, it is oftentimes difficult to find a spot to sit, so if you see the parking lot full, pass on it.
I do hope you will take the time to enjoy both SNP and BRP. Both offer so many wonderful hikes, camp sites and spectacular views that you must see! It is worth the drive. If you end up doing one of the hikes or campsites mentioned above, let me know your experience.

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