The Best Time to Visit Shenandoah National Park

Best Time to Visit Shenandoah National Park

The best time to visit Shenandoah National Park is in the spring, April and May. If you decide to go during the months of June through October, focus on the weekdays since the weekends will be extremely overcrowded.

During the months of April and May, the snow should be almost entirely melted, and most of the park and the campgrounds are open. Everything is open during the summer months, but the park has many visitors, and the weekends can be extremely busy.

Best time for good weather

The best time for good weather in Shenandoah National Park is during the months of June through September.

It is the warmest time of the year and tends to have less rain than during the wet spring season.

During the fall, it can get quite cool at night but be very warm during the day. If you visit during the months of October or November, then make sure to pack layers of hiking clothes. 

Especially during November, the chill in the air can feel more intense, and it may even start to snow. These months are very popular nonetheless, due to the brilliant colors of the leaves on the trees.

Best time for camping

Camping in Shenandoah

The best time for camping in Shenandoah National Park is in the months of June through October. 

These are the most popular months in general in the park. Part of this is due to the great weather that the park experiences during this time of the year. The days can get quite hot, but generally not dangerously so. The nighttime is cool without being cold.

These are the months in which hammock tenting is optimal since you do not have to bring as much of a setup with you to keep you warm.

Best time for hiking

Hiking in Shenandoah

The best time for hiking in Shenandoah National Park is in the months of April and May.

Even though the weather is cool during the mornings when you will be getting started, you will find that physical exertion overcomes the cooler temperatures. 

If you have kids with you, they might need extra layers. If they are young enough, consider taking them in a hiking baby carrier.

The primary aspect that makes these months stand out is because they are less popular. Even with 500 miles of hiking trails, these trails still become packed with people during the busiest months of June through October.

Avoid these by heading out earlier in the year and get the chance to explore the mountainsides with some privacy.

Best time to avoid crowds

The best time to avoid crowds in Shenandoah National Park is during the off-season or November through March.

Even April and May can help you stay away from the hoards of people who visit the park every year. Make sure to bring your rain jacket, since the park can see quite a few thunderstorms during the spring.

If you want to camp, it is best to come in April or May since the campgrounds will not be open. Otherwise, the early winter or early spring months let you view the park without having to wait in lines of traffic as you drive through or search for a parking space.

Best time for stargazing

Stargazing in Shenandoah

The best time for stargazing in Shenandoah National Park is during the winter months of November through February.

During these months, the air is less humid. When it is drier, it is much clearer.

The best time during the month to stargaze is when there is no moon, so try to avoid the full moon and the light that it projects. When the moon sets early or rises late in the night, the darkness brings out the stars’ light. Try downloading a stargazing app to get the most of each night and understand what you are looking at.

Best time for wildlife watching

Wildlife Watching​ in Shenandoah

The best time to watch for wildlife is during the springtime months since fewer people, and the park has been quieter during the winter months.

Try to hike farther away from the roadways and be quiet if you notice something in the forests.

One of the animals to watch out for is black and brown bears. It is actually better to make more noise while you are on your hikes since this alerts the bears earlier to your presence. They will want to move out of your way instead of crossing your path, which keeps you safer.

Best time for scenic drives

Scenic Drives Shenandoah

The best time for scenic drives is during the month of October.

This is when the forests have begun to change colors and change to orange, yellow, and red shades. The mountainsides are brilliant with these warm shades.

Earlier in the fall, you might only just begin to witness the change of the season during September. Depending on the earliness of the winter, November might be too late to see most of the effects of the fall.

Travel along the Skyline Drive during these months to get the most out of the undulating valleys beneath you. There are more than 100 miles to drive to soak up the beauty of the Fall.

Best time for biking

Mountain Biking in Shenandoah

The best time for biking in Shenandoah National Park is during the earlier months of April and May.

These months are late enough in the spring that the roads should have cleared entirely of ice.

The earliness of the season is to avoid as much of the traffic as possible. It is easier to stay safe when there are fewer people on the road. You can cycle along Skyline Drive to soak up the mountain scenes. There are plenty of segments to tackle since there are many miles of the Drive that run through this National Park. Bikes pay $8 to enter if you come in on your bicycle.

Best time for photography

Photography in Shenandoah

The best time for photography in Shenandoah National Park is during the spring and the fall.

Both of these seasons offer a lush array of colors to soak up through the lens of your camera.

During the spring, waterfalls are at their peak from the snowmelt. The cascades over the mossy rocks make for a picturesque scene no matter what camera you are using. The spring also receives more rain, which makes the forest floor grow lush and green once again.

During the Fall, pack your camera in your hiking bag, and off you go to capture an array of warm-tone colors.

Shenandoah National Park Seasons

Summer

Shenandoah National Park - Summer

The summer is the most popular time of the year, from about June through August. It is typically when the bulk of the tourists come to the park and when the campgrounds will be full. It can be quite warm during these periods, with temperatures averaging around 80°F or 27°C.

The nighttime temperatures dip to comfortable, yet still cool, sleeping conditions. They average between 50-60°F or 10-15°C. During the summer, it is safe to pack a summer sleeping bag, but best to bring blankets with you if you are camping.

Read More : What Should I Pack for Summer Camping?

Fall

Shenandoah National Park - Fall

During the Fall, color explodes over the entire mountainside. There is a vast array of golden hues augmented with dashing reds and oranges. The months of September and October see a renewed explosion of tourists, many of whom are there simply for the breathtaking views seen from the comfort of their cars.

Skyline Drive is typically packed with people this time of the year, and the traffic can make it difficult to navigate through the park. November is the last primary month of the year, and most of the campgrounds close as the weather begins to cool down.

Winter

Shenandoah National Park - Winter

The winter months of December through February are not very popular in the park in terms of tourism. Lows dip down into the teens in Fahrenheit, or far below zero in Celsius. If you enjoy cross country skiing or winter hiking, the park is still open. Feel free to lace up your winter boots and pack plenty of warm hiking clothes to visit.

Read More : What Should I Pack for Winter Camps?

Spring

Shenandoah National Park - Spring

The springtime months are a bit touch and go in the park. They can be beautiful if the season starts to warm up quickly. However, if winter hangs on, then the ice will not melt until the end of March. Continue to pack and plan for cold weather and use a winter sleeping bag if camping here in the spring.

Amanda Williams

Amanda Williams is a writer, plant-nerd, and outdoor enthusiast. She has traveled extensively, around the U.S., throughout Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Everywhere she treks, she takes time to enjoy the outdoors. John Muir is her hero. She aspires to inspire people to live better as he did.