Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Shenandoah National Park is about 70 miles from the Capital Beltway. To access the park via the Thornton Gap entrance, take Interstate 66 west to Gainesville, then Route 29 south to Warrenton, then Route 211 for about 35 miles to the park. The Harry F. Byrd Sr. Visitor Center is about 20 miles south of the entrance, but it takes at least 40 minutes to get there on the winding road. Admission to the park is $15 per car, good for seven days. There are two fee-free weekends coming up, July 18-19 and Aug. 15-16.
Lodging in the park ranges from campsites ($20 a night) to full-service cabins ($259 for summer weekend nights). Make reservations at http://www.visitshenandoah.com/lodging-food/index.cfm or by calling 888-896-3833.
The Big Meadows Wayside restaurant near the Byrd Visitor Center has comfort food such as fried chicken ($8.95 for a two-piece meal) and hot dogs ($6.95), plus fancier fare including the Anti Pasto Vegetable Wrap ($7.95). For a post-hike pick-me-up, a scoop of blackberry ice cream ($1.75) or a milkshake ($3.50) can't be beat. The Skyland and Big Meadows lodges also have more formal full-service dining rooms with a variety of options (dinner entrees, $13-$30).
Rent a unit from the Byrd Visitor Center, which is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. You must return the units that day, so plan accordingly. Units are $9.95 apiece and have about 3 1/2 hours of battery life.
A few tips on getting the most from the devices:
-- Watch the introduction and tutorial. It takes a few minutes to access a strong GPS signal, so don't try to start the tour right away.
-- Make sure you have the antenna up.
-- Use the "Hold" button to save battery power while you're not on the trail.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Shenandoah National Park: 540-999-3500, http://www.nps.gov/shen.