One of the first stops on our journey was to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. One of the most impressive parts of our drive across this beautiful country was the stretch along Shenandoah's Skyline Drive. Running north/south along the Blue Ridge Mountains, this 105 mile roadway is one of the most amazing sights in the country. There are 75 overlooks that offer views of the Shenandoah valley, and it seems like you can see for miles! Along the way you will drive through mountain tunnels (long stretches through mountains that will remind you of your days watching Looney Toons!); the wildlife is aplenty along this road too.
We made our trip in early summer and saw large black bears, cubs in tow, walking along the road, as well as hundreds of deer and other wildlife. We had a great camping experience at Big Meadows Camp Ground, which is both tent and camper friendly. If you aren't much for sleeping under canvas, don't worry, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the park. For those who aren't so rustic that they want to sleep on the ground, but would like to be a little more outdoor-sy than a hotel room, can opt for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, which has several primitive cabins in the park. Each cabin comes equipped with mattresses, blankets, and cookware... a pit toilet and spring water are nearby.
You can make lodging reservations online at www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/lodging.htm. Entrance to the park is not very expensive, ranging from $10-$20 per non-commercial vehicle, depending on the season, which is valid for 7 consecutive days. As you make your way along Skyline Drive, make sure you have time to stop at one of the many caverns. We recommend Luray Caverns (although we didn't get there this time around). The Luray Caverns are among the most impressive underground caverns in the country, and definitely worth your time.
Although we visited the park in summer, temperatures still got a little cold at night. I would recommend bringing extra layers and blankets, particularly if you are planning to sleep outside. If there is one thing that is consistent from campsite to campsite, it's the bugs. Stock up on your bug spray and citronella candles, you won't be sorry! The biggest piece of advice that I can offer is this: for goodness sake, go to the bathroom before you start on Skyline Drive! The restrooms are few and far between, and you could be squatting next to a deer before you know it!
For this park, the best way to travel is definitely by car. The speed limit is 35 mph, which is for your safety as well as the safety of the resident wildlife. Don't be surprised to come around a bend and see a bear in the middle of the road, unsure of which way he was intending to go. For his sake and yours (hey, nobody wants the imprint of a large mountain animal in their bumper), please drive carefully!