LIKE A VALLEY SET ON FIRE The Shenandoah glows with red, gold, and orange light each fall—painting a landscape that’s one of the country’s greatest autumn spectacles. Ablaze with color and full of wildlife, the valley is also rich with history. Here, the moccasins of Native Americans once paced the Great Indian Warpath. And here, Stonewall Jackson’s soldiers fought fierce battles that forged Civil War lore. Today, hikers and campers still press into the valley along breathtaking trails and down equally scenic drives. So, whether you drive beneath the fiery leaf shape or survey it from a rugged summit, your eyes will be filled with wonder.
Luray Cavern’s Wishing Well
The last issue, we said caves of wonder are everywhere. Well, here’s proof. Beneath folded stone formations with cathedral-sized rooms, Luray Caverns holds another kind of treasure: a glowing pool where visitors make wishes— with both coin and cash. Nearest Parking Lot Coordinates: 38º 39’ 53” N 78º 28’ 59” W
Get the Mountain Top View
Parking just off Skyline Drive and paralleling the Appalachian Trail, take a short hike to get a 3,642-foot view of the valley. The trail is just over half a mile and is kid-friendly. More mature legs can also press on to complete the 3.3-mile loop. Nearest Parking Lot Coordinates: 38° 36’ 20” N 78° 21’ 59” W
A Cascade of Waterfalls
Beneath the color-changing canopy, there’s another kind of fall to be found. Starting on the north end of the Cedar RunWhiteoak Circuit, you’ll find eight waterfalls on your route. Know upfront that it’s a tough 9-mile trek—and you can expect to cross several streams. Nearest Parking Lot Coordinates: 38° 33’ 22” N 78° 23’ 12” W
Blaze your own trail into the brilliant heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains
Running north to south, Skyline Drive snakes its way down the valley for 105 miles from its Front Royal entrance. There’s a gas station at Mile 51 near Big Meadows Campground, but you’ll definitely want to spend some time on foot. The park itself offers 75 beautiful overlooks and over 500 miles of hiking— sharing 105 with the Appalachian Trail. White-tail deer abound all across the ancient hunting grounds of the Great Indian Warpath. Staunton, the Valley’s Queen City, lies a half-hour south of Civil War battlefields at Cross Keys and Port Republic—fun educational detours for the kiddos.
CHASING A PERFECT SUNSET
Renee Hahnel, the coauthor of Roaming America, has hiked the Shenandoah Valley in both summer and fall. But catching the autumn sunset was her standout experience. Here are a few of her tips for when you visit.
“Cruise along Skyline Drive and stop at all the different overlooks. Some of my top recommendations are Brown Mountain Overlook, Stony Man Overlook, and Bacon Hollow Overlook.”