We are about to start the month of May and that means it is time to start prepping for our Memorial Day Weekend National park adventure! This Memorial Day weekend we will be driving north and visiting 4 National Park sites in Virginia around Shenandoah National Park!
Last Memorial Day weekend we took an epic trip to the Washington DC area to specifically see the special exhibit at Ford’s Theatre. Read about our D.C. National park trip here.
While the National Park Service has over 400 “units” or “sites” in the system, only 59 pf them are designated National Parks. Just last month we visited 2 of the 59 National Parks when we visited Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park. To date, we have visited as a family 12 of the 59 National Parks. Our trip at the end of May to Shenandoah National Park will be our 13th National park visited!
Here’s our itinerary:
Saturday May 28th, 2016
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park encompasses 200,000 acres of protected lands just 75 miles from Washington D.C. It is filled with amazing hiking trails and scenic drives.
Hiking Trails at Shenandoah National Park
With over 500 miles of hiking trails it is tough to choose which hikes to prioritize. Fortunately, Shenandoah National Park has a ratings system based on mileage, elevation, and difficulty. We are spending a full day at the park so we are planning at least 3 easy to moderate hikes:
Upper Hawksbill Trail
In my research, many people recommend this hike. Upper Hawksbill Trail offers some of the best scenic views of the park and it is the highest point in the entire Shenandoah National Park. It is only 2.1 miles roundtrip and contains a wide, even ground trail.
Dark Hollow Falls Trail
Dark Hollow Falls Trail is a short 1.4 mile hike that starts near the Byrd Visitor Center. My family loves to do trails that end in waterfalls. We went on some pretty scenic hikes at Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well as Zion National Park and I am looking forward to seeing these beautiful falls.
South River Falls Trail
Of course I am always looking for scenic hikes that not only give me amazing vistas but also opportunities to get up close with nature. I read about this South River Falls hike in a photography website and it was noted for it’s beauty and opportunities to get up close with waterfalls and the creeks coming off of it.
Stay tuned for my pictures and videos of our trip to Shenandoah National Park when we return!
Sunday May 29th, 2016
Cedar Creek & Belle Grove National Historical Park
While Cedar Creek & Belle Grove National Historical Park has a rich Native American history and beautiful views of the Shenandoah Valley, we will be spending the majority of our time learning the history of the Civil War battles that occurred there–most notably, the battle at Cedar Creek: a Union victory on October 19, 1864. This National Park site offers a 2 hour self-guided battlefield tour that spans 18 miles around the area.
They also have a free, multimedia and GPS-enabled smartphone tour of the Cedar Creek Battlefield. We most recently, enjoyed a similar smartphone tour when we visited Kingsley Plantation last month.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Harpers Ferry is a super diverse National Park site that features historical sites, museums, hikes, and battlefields. There are a number of Ranger-led tours throughout the day. We plan on exploring the Visitor Center to learn which tour is best for us. A mandatory for us is to visit John Brown’s Fort. “It was in this building that John Brown and several of his followers barricaded themselves during the final hours of their ill-fated raid of October 16, 17, and 18, 1859.”
Monday May 30th, 2016
Manassas National Battlefield Park
Manassas is a name that most people in this area have heard of but maybe do not know what it’s significance was. There were 2 Civil War battles in the plains of Manassas. You may have known them as the Battles of Bull Run.
My family is super fascinated by the American Civil War. So far, we have visited a number of significant Civil War battlefields and significant sites in the National parks system including Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, Richmond, Fort Sumter, Appotmattox Courthouse, and Fort Pulaski to name a few.
In fact, my 9 year old is the most obsessed with American History and specifically the American Civil War. Here is a picture of him dressed up as General William Tecumseh Sherman for his school’s wax museum project:
There are 2 bucket list National park sites on my 9 year old’s list: Antietam and Shiloh. Notice a trend?
59 down…4 more in May!
We are planning on visiting 18 new National Park sites in 2016. Check out this post for details. Thanks for following me and my family as we embark on our next adventures!