National Park is well-known for the fabulous Skyline Drive and
for it's spectacular Fall foliage. But the leaves are long-gone
off the trees and Skyline Drive has been closing off and on
this Winter due to inclement weather. So, why go now?
National Park Public Affairs Officer Karen Beck-Herzog says
that the winter is actually her favorite time of year at the
park. The air is crystal-clear and those bare trees allow for
greater views of the lowlands, as well as the many wild animals
that make their home there. Of course, she quickly cautions
to always make a little extra preparation.
mistake that winter visitors can make, she says, is simply to
fail to call ahead to see if the park is open, particularly
if plans include a trip along Skyline Drive. Although the Drive
has been opening and closing all Winter long due to successive
snow storms and thaws, the rest of the park is open at all times
and it is still possible to hike in - either from the entrance
stations or at points along the park boundaries.
many of the park's winter visitors are often die-hard types,
such as the many people who hike the Appalachian Trail at this
time of year, there are families and other kinds of folks who
want to come just to get out in the woods for a bit of adventure.
Beck-Herzog says that, because visitation is lower in the winter,
the wilderness experience is enhanced. You may never see another
soul the entire day.
think the forest is so awesome, when it's so quiet, and you're
listening to your footsteps crunching through the snow, and
you just really do have Shenandoah National Park to yourself,"
up on top of the Blue Ridge Mountains is fickle and relatively
cooler any time of the year, but even more so in cold months.
That fact makes it so important to always come prepared. Temperatures
can be anywhere from 10 to 20 degrees cooler from Valley floor
to mountain peak, and there is nearly always a wind chill factor.
And what may be rainfall at lower elevations is often ice or
snowfall up in the park.
recommends layering up with lots of clothing and taking along
plenty of food and water, even more than you think you may need.
Be sure to fill up the fuel tank before heading there, and don't
expect to rely on your cell phone -- reception is spotty throughout
the park. However, there are emergency phones at the park entrances
and at various places in the park. The Locations, current weather
conditions and update emergency alerts are posted on the park's
Web site, www.nps.gov/SHEN. The park emergency number is 1-800-732-0911.
Beck-Herzog says that the incidences of serious problems among
winter visitors are relatively rare, if you do get into trouble,
you should try to get to an emergency phone. Or, if you are
lucky to be in cell-range, call 9-1-1. She says that, even though
there are few visitors in the park, the park employees keep
busy there all year round. After making contact with a park
employee, she says, simply follow the instructions you are given.
of the park facilities, such as restaurants and lodging are
open at this time of year. Still, a winter hike in Shenandoah
National Park can be a memorable time. It's even become a tradition
with many people, such as some who have hiked Old Rag Mountain
every New Years Day for 30 years. It's very likely that, no
matter where you go, you'll see a lot more at this time of year.
can see areas in the Valley that you wouldn't normally be able
to see, because there may have been shrubs or the leaves on
the trees are completely obscuring that," Beck-Herzog says.
"So you actually have new or more views of the Valley than
you would have in the past, during the spring, summer or fall."
Herzog is interviewed on the Jan. 8, 2010 edition of the Shenandoah
Valley Radio program.