A Family Outing: Camping at Shenandoah National Park

The View
A view from one of the many lookouts in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Can you believe it’s 2016 already? I feel like this year has flown by. I probably say that every year, but I think the weirdly warm weather we’re having on the East Coast this year makes it feel even less like it’s winter. If you read my last post about camping with kids, then you know we started camping this year. We’ve gone three times- once with just our little family (me, Hubby and Little J) and twice with my SIL, her husband and kids. One of those two times was to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. We went during Labor Day weekend, and unless you have reservations (which go fast, months earlier), I wouldn’t recommend just showing up. That’s what we did, but it was risky. I took Thursday afternoon off from work, and we arrived at the Big Meadows Campground around dusk. We were able to get one of the last 5 spots. The other 4 were gone within 45 mins or so. People get arriving all day Friday and were turned away, because they didn’t have a reservation and there weren’t any first come, first served spots available. So we were lucky.

Tent Stuff
There’s always fun stuff to do around the camp site or nearby. We keep toys and games in the tent too in case of rain!

There are other campgrounds at Shenandoah, and some of them are exclusively first come, first served. Ours was the mostfamily-friendly campground. I say that because it had hot showers, laundry facilities and a camp store down the road with gear and food. Roughing it? Not exactly, but if you have three small kids with and-thistime- two dogs…having some luxuries available seemed like a good idea. We did end up going back and forth to that store at least once a day. We also made a trip down the mountain toWalmart once. That was about a 45 minute or longer drive one way, so I wouldn’t recommend doing that often if you camp at Big Meadows.

The sites themselves seemed nice. They have the typical paved spots with a bit of grass that work for either tents or campers. They also have tent-only sites, and we ended up in one of those spots. Each of the tent-only sites had a metal bear box to put your food inside and out of the reach of animals. To reach the tent-only sites, you have to park your car in a little lot and walk up a short trail to your site. It’s really not far at all -maybe 50 feet- but that makes it inconvenient to keep your cooler and food in your car, hence the bear box.

Outdoorsy Stuff
We had a chance to hike several trails including the famous Appalachian Trail. Bike riding on the path through Big Meadows was a blast too. And, yes, I might be wearing a fanny pack in one of those photos…

We didn’t see any black bears while we were there, but the park rangers and other campers told us about sightings. A park ranger at the visitor center down the road gave a talk about black bears. He said that if you see a black bear, don’t run! That’s the worst thing you can do. Just stand still, and if they get close, then make lots of noise, and it will scare them away. The kids were hopeful the entire weekend that they’d see bears but no such luck. We did see bear scat when we were walking on the Appalachian Trail, and it was interesting to see the berries inside the scat. Apparently the bear had been foraging on plants, which bears like to eat.

We went hiking on quite a few trails and rode our bikes on the paved paths. There was a playground at the nearby lodge that the kids played on a couple of times. There was a restaurant at the lodge at which we ate. I know…definitely not back woods camping. 🙂

There were deer everywhere. They’d even walk by our tents in the middle of the night! We also saw your smaller animals like squirrels, rabbits and lots of birds.

One thing worth noting…Hubby and I have AT&T as a phone carrier, and most places in the park we did NOT get a signal. We did get a signal at the lodge, and there’s also free wi-fi there.

Conclusion- the views at Shenandoah Park were beautiful; we had a great time; and we will definitely be going back!

Note: This is not a sponsored post, and the opinions expressed are my own.

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