Exploring Shenandoah National Park with Kids

I just got back from exploring Shenandoah National Park with my toddler and we had a fantastic time! I loved that the park had a good number of kid-friendly hikes and amazing views available from my car! I also loved that it was a short road trip from my house. From northeast Ohio, it took us 5.5 hours to get to Shenandoah National Park, which is always a win for me. It’s also incredibly easy to navigate because there’s only one main road in the park- Skyline Drive. 

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A female driving a Chevy Equinox along the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.

Tickets for Shenandoah National Park 

Ticket prices for Shenandoah National Park cost $30 per private vehicle or you can purchase an America the Beautiful National Park Pass for $80 which will get you into any National Park for a year. If you purchase the standard ticket, it’ll get you into the park for 7-days. Just make sure you don’t lose your receipt because you won’t be able to get back into the park without it unless you pay another fee! You don’t need a reservation (unless you’re camping). 

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Why Take Children to Shenandoah National Park? 

I love traveling to National Parks with my son! I feel like it’s a perfect learning experience because there’s a lot to learn within National Parks. When it comes to Shenandoah National Park, there’s a lot of history to learn within the park and the surrounding area. There’s a good number of kid-friendly hikes in the park, which is the main reason I wanted to explore the park. 

When is the Best Time to Visit Shenandoah National Park? 

I visited during late June when it was 90+ degrees each day. It was nice to be shaded by the trees while hiking, but I wouldn’t say that it’s the best time. The best time to visit Shenandoah National Park is late September/ early October. This is when the leaves start changing and the temperatures are much more comfortable. I’m itching to go back during the fall time because seeing the leaves changing is my favorite time of year. Fall is typically off-peak for most types of travel, so it’s likely to be less crowded. 

View of the Shenandoah Valley during sunrise at Shenandoah National Park

Skyline Drive at Shenandoah National Park 

When researching what to do in Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive came up a lot. I didn’t know that this was, but it turns out it’s the one main road that goes through Shenandoah National Park. It’s 103 miles long and takes about 3 hours to complete since the speed limit is 35 mph all throughout the drive. It contains 73 overlooks, so it’s extremely easy to stop the car and get great photos of the views. My toddler loved getting out of the car and reading the informational posts that were located at the overlooks. 

Kid-Friendly Hikes at Shenandoah National Park

I was initially worried about taking my toddler to Shenandoah National Park because he’s not used to walking around for long periods of time. Shenandoah has many kid friendly hikes that are 1-2 miles long. If you want to see all of the kid-friendly hikes, I would strongly recommend downloading the National Parks App because it organizes all the hiking trails by difficulty (it also has a lot of other useful information for each park). 

A white tail fawn in Shenandoah National Park.

Fox Hollow Trail

This trail is located right across from the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center and is a designated TRACK trail for kidsinparks.com. It’s 1.2 miles long and you can pick up a brochure to learn about the history of the Fox family. It has an elevation gain of 310 feet and takes about 1 hour to complete. 

A toddler walking through Fox Hollow Trail at Shenandoah National Park. A pamphlet reading "Hiking through History in Shenandoah National Park" is being held up.

Bearfence Viewpoint Trail 

This trail is 1.1 miles long with an elevation gain of 310 feet. This trail will also take about an hour to complete, unless you choose to do the Rock Scramble. The Rock Scramble is a part of the trail where you climb through boulders. I was able to hike the Rock Scramble with my 3-year-old, but there were points where I got nervous that he would slip and fall. 

What To Do Around Shenandoah National Park 

Skyline Caverns

There’s quite a bit to explore around the park, especially caves. Skyline Caverns is located near the northern entrance of the park. They are open 7 days a week year-round and their current hours are 9am-4pm. It’s $27 per adult and kids 5 and under are free! The cave tour lasts about an hour and I would suggest bringing a light jacket as the cave is 54 degrees year round. They also offer both a mirror maze and miniature train ride at $7 per person for each activity. There’s also a one mile nature trail you can hike up. We tried to walk the trail, but my toddler didn’t want to do it, so we headed back into the gift shop to purchase cave tour tickets. 

Melrose Caverns

Melrose Caverns is located about 45-minutes from the southern entrance of Shenandoah National Park and costs $24 per person with children 5 years and younger being free. I personally enjoyed this tour a bit more because I found the history behind the cave interesting. There was a period during the civil war where soldiers went into the cave and wrote all over the walls. There’s also Native American petroglyphs you can see inside the cave. 

A Native American petroglyph inside Melrose Caverns

Waterpark at Massanutten Resort 

Just 15-minutes from the southern entrance of the park is Massanutten resort. Massanutten Resort is a wonderful place to stay if you’re looking for a variety of family friendly activities, including the waterpark. They have an indoor waterpark that’s open year-round and an outdoor waterpark that’s open during the summer. Prices and hours vary depending on the time of year you visit, so make sure to check out their website before you travel! There’s also Diamond Jim’s Arcade that’s located on the second floor of the building.

A colorful waterpark in the Shenandoah Valley
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How Much Time Is Needed at Shenandoah National Park? 

How much time you spend at Shenandoah National Park completely depends on what you want to get from the park. I would say, on average, 3 days should be a sufficient amount of time. Between the Skyline Drive and hiking in the park, each activity takes at least an hour. 

Toddler standing on a tree stump making a silly pose with the Shenandoah Valley in the background.

Conclusion

To wrap up, Shenandoah National Park is a fantastic destination for families, especially those with young children. From the scenic Skyline Drive to kid-friendly hikes like Fox Hollow Trail and Bearfence Viewpoint Trail, there’s plenty to explore and enjoy.

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