When I was 10 years old my parents decided they wanted to move all the way from our traffic-filled Chicago suburb, to the rolling green (or blue) mountains of Virginia. To say I was furious would be, well, a total lie. I was actually ecstatic and excited at the idea of living in a new place with green trees instead of flat, endless cornfields. I even remember stepping out of the car when we pulled up to our new house and thinking that the air itself smelled prettier.
I’ve now lived here for 10+ years, and I’ve never gotten tired of the state’s beautiful landscape. Even on my drive to work I can look out my driver’s side window and see the Blue Ridge just a few miles away, which to be honest, sometimes tempts me to turn left and head to the mountains for the day, but alas, duty calls. But on my days off my favorite way to enjoy the Virginia scenery is to go hiking in Shenandoah National Park.
The park boasts 196,000 acres of natural landscape and has over 500 miles of hiking trails. These trails range from easy, flat, stroller-friendly paths, to strenuous, rocky paths, with everything in between. Personally, my favorite path to hike is Whiteoak Canyon Trail. It’s a moderate hike that has a stream running along the entire path allowing for great views of waterfalls. There are also a lot of nice places to sit and enjoy the water while getting a breather or enjoying a picnic.
Not only is the park great for hiking, but the drive itself is gorgeous. Don’t stare at the overlooks too long though as the road can get a little curvy. Also, don’t be surprised to have some wildlife sightings while you’re up there. So far I’ve seen a black bear, wild turkey, and countless deer.
All in all, it’s a relaxing place to go on the weekend, a fun way to enjoy the natural side of Virginia, and a great way to give back to the National Park Service. And if it’s giving back that you’re interested in, your can now purchase a new license plate sponsored by the Shenandoah National Park Trust at your local Virginia DMV. All proceeds from the sale of this license plate go to the Trust to fund projects and programs in the park.
Also, if you’re not from Virginia, then stop by a national park or monument in your home state. The National Park System has units in 49 states, so let’s just hope you’re not from Delaware!
by Katie D., marketing assistant