The Shenandoah Valley is a beautiful stretch of land between Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. Many people are drawn to its hiking trails, which wind through Shenandoah National Park past breathtaking waterfalls, through lush green woodlands, and out into wildflower-filled fields. As a whole, the park is magical - and it only takes one hike to prove that lovers of nature will happily fall in love with its landscape time and time again.

What about those who don't enjoy hiking as much as many of its visitors, though? As it turns out, there's plenty to do in Shenandoah National Park that doesn't necessarily include puddle-jumping and traversing rock scrambles. In fact, there are many ways to explore Shenandoah's landscape without even finding a trailhead.


Take Advantage Of Shenandoah National Park's Educational Centers

Just because one doesn't want to commit to a hike doesn't mean that Shenandoah National Park is off-limits. In fact, there's quite a lot to consider for those seeking other avenues of exploration. The first starting place for any type of activity around this national park, though, is the visitor center - of which, there are two.

Getting to the visitor centers is just as scenic as taking a hike, some might argue. Thanks to the scenery that surrounds the route to get there, it's nothing but mountain views for a full half-hour. It's also easy enough to visit both visitor centers in one trip, as they sit only 25 miles away from one another. This is also where visitors can find informative exhibits and short films about the Shenandoah Valley.

Dickey Ridge Visitor Center

This visitor center is located in Front Royal, Virginia, at the northern end of Shenandoah National Park. For those who are entering the park from the north, this will be the first stop along the way. At mile 4.6, visitors can find:

  • Restrooms
  • Park and area information
  • A bookstore
  • Park publications
  • Maps of the park and surrounding area

It is the smaller of the two visitor centers but provides enough amenities for travelers to get an idea of where they're exploring. The maps one can find here will also be helpful to point out overlooks and points of interest on the way to the second, south-facing visitor center.

Harry F. Byrd, Sr. Visitor Center

Those visiting the Harry F. Byrd, Sr. Visitor Center will have ranger programs and more at their disposal. The center itself is located across from Big Meadows, which is a popular scenic overlook in Shenandoah Valley - minimal hiking required! It's also centrally located in Shenandoah National Park, so it's a great place to hang out for lunch and take in the views. At mile 51, visitors will find:

  • Restrooms
  • An information desk
  • Ranger and nature programs
  • A bookstore
  • Park publications
  • Maps
  • First-aid

Related: Luray Caverns Vs. Skyline Caverns: Which Shenandoah Valley Cave System Is Worth Visiting First?

Take In The Scenery From The Road

The Shenandoah Valley is unique in the sense that Skyline Drive takes travelers straight through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Scenic overlooks along the way showcase the beauty of the mountain range, and it's easy to get panoramic views without ever even breaking out a pair of hiking boots. Believe it or not, Skyline Drive is home to 75 overlooks, each of which can be reached either by a set of stairs or a brief walk - some are even as easily accessible as to be reached by simply pulling over!

While most of these overlooks showcase views of the surrounding mountains, many of them also lead to waterfalls and streams that are just off the road. Elevations of the overlooks range from just over 1,000 feet to just under 4,000 feet, and some offer access to campgrounds and lodging.

  • Pro Tip: Plug in the GPS coordinates of the mile markers of interest so that they're easy to find; Skyline Drive is a switchback road that can be unforgiving if a destination is accidentally passed the first time.

Take In The Beauty Of Shenandoah From Its Towns & Cities

The beauty of the Shenandoah Valley is that one doesn't need to drive up to Skyline Drive in order to appreciate it. While this does offer the best views, similar views can be had from down on the ground, especially near the entrances to Shenandoah National Park. Below are the four main entrances to Skyline Drive, and the towns surrounding them for travelers to explore or book.

Rockfish Gap Entrance

  • Waynesboro
  • Charlottesville
  • Staunton
  • Crozet
  • Afton

Swift Run Gap Entrance

  • Harrisonburg
  • Stanardsville
  • Mount Crawford
  • Madison

Thornton Gap Entrance

  • Flint Hill
  • Huntly
  • Front Royal
  • Washington
  • Stanley
  • Woodstock
  • Luray

Front Royal Entrance

  • Middleburg
  • Front Royal
  • Linden
  • Middletown

No matter how one chooses to explore the vast landscape of the Shenandoah Valley, it's sure to promise an adventure to the mountains unlike any other.

Next: Hiking The Shenandoah: Here's What To Know