Friday, April 24, 2015

Visit Shenandoah River State Park

Virginia is for lovers, and with good reason: we have an enormously diverse landscape of people and places, and there's never a lack of adventure around the bend. Without getting too risque, I'll just say that there's nothing more enervating than spending a beautiful weekend in one of our fabulous parks, with those you love. 
Along the River Trail
in Shenandoah State Park.

Most of us Virginians are familiar with Shenandoah National Park; after all, it covers just under 200,000 acres and receives over 1.2 million visitors each year. I could wax poetic about Shenandoah, Oh Shenandoah, I hear you calling.... but today I'm all about the Andy R. Guest Shenandoah River State Park. Perhaps you've passed it on the way to Skyline Drive - it's just off rt. 340, between Luray and Front Royal. Situated on the south fork of the Shenandoah River, the pristine park is host to dry, rocky biomes, as well as vernal pools. These seasonal bogs appear in early spring, when there's abundant rainfall, allowing sensitive species of frogs and salamanders to begin and complete their life cycles. Higher up on the winding trails, shale barrens are host to unusual species of native wildflowers not found in many other areas of the state. 
The Bluebell Trail in full bloom.

The interconnected trail system makes it easy to adjust hiking times, according to energy and ability. The Bluebell Trail and River Trail were the highlight of our weekend. Our timing was just right to catch the flowing swath of pink, purple, and blue hugging the riverbank. A sunset hike along the river gave voice to a chorus of frogs we'd apparently overlooked in the course of staring at all that beauty during daylight hours. And the stars, have you seen them lately? Because stars just aren't the same in the suburbs...

A nest box welcomes a couple of tree swallows.
The campground is the cleanest, most accessible I've ever seen. Eleven tent sites are situated along the southeast side of the park, many of which have views of the river. The level, gravel, well-defined spaces were a welcome site for a out tent. The parking lot is separated from the tent sites, and large wagons are provided for hauling equipment. There are also a few rustic cabins and an RV site. 
Can't beat camp food - S'More's!

We didn't take advantage of any of the ranger programs, nor did we fish or kayak, but I have a feeling there will be many more trips to Shenandoah River State Park in my family's future. I hope to see you there! 

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