Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. If you’ve only heard them mentioned once or twice, you’re not alone. And yet these underappreciated snow sports deserve a lot more popularity. Their famous cousins, skiing and snowboarding, tend to steal the spotlight. But both essentially require travel to expensive resorts, and demand a reasonably high level of physical fitness. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are much more widely accessible. If you like to hike (or even walk!), and live in an area where there’s snow, chances are you’ll be able to enjoy one or the other with only minimal upfront investment.
A snowy day in the Front Royal area is a great setting for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Whether you’re new to these snow sports, or an old hand, we’ll hope you’ll adventure out this winter and enjoy them. Read on for more information about these sports, as well as some suggestions of where to go in the Front Royal area.
Snowshoeing – the Basics
Snowshoeing can be as simple as hiking in the snow . . . but using specially designed snowshoes to make your life easier. Snowshoes work by providing a wider base for your feet than normal shoes. With your weight distributed over the wider area of the snowshoe, you can walk on top of the snow, without your feet sinking fully into it.
It’s possible to take a deep dive into various specialized techniques for snowshoeing. However, it really can be as simple as slipping snowshoes over your boots and taking a walk (in snow, of course!). “If you can walk, you can snowshoe” is a common mantra among snowshoeing enthusiasts. Snowshoeing is a great way to continue to enjoy your favorite hiking trails through the winter months. To get started, simply buy or rent a pair of snowshoes and head out. Poles are also worth considering if you plan to tackle steep slopes or tricky terrain.
Cross-country skiing is both more expensive and more challenging than snowshoeing. Nevertheless, it’s still more accessible than downhill skiing. It’s a great sport to try if you’re looking for a bit more excitement than snowshoeing.
Cross-country skiing involves a pair of skies similar to those used for downhill skiing. Poles are also essential. Cross-country skis allow the skier to traverse flat and even uphill terrain in addition to downhill runs. Because of the speed involved, downhill slopes are the most challenging to navigate in cross-country skiing, and should be approached with caution.
To get started cross-country skiing, it’s helpful to do some research into techniques. Check out videos such as this one, which give beginners a good introduction to the sport. You can also possible to look into instruction and guided trips, but since you can take cross-country skiing at your own pace, it’s also possible to try it out on your own.
Locations for Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing in the Front Royal Area
With snowshoeing’s similarities to hiking, it is possible to snowshoe on many of the great hiking trails around Front Royal. In fact, there are so many beautiful places to hike around Front Royal, that it’s a great place to give snowshoeing a try. When Skyline Drive is closed to traffic because of snowy conditions, remember you can access the park on foot from any boundary access point.
To find a great cross-country skiing trail, you’ll need to be a little more selective. You’ll want to find smooth trails, with gentle slopes. However, there’s still plenty to enjoy in the Front Royal area. Check out some of the trails in Sky Meadows State Park where the terrain is less mountainous. In Shenandoah National Park, the Limberlost Trail is a top pick for beginner cross-country skiers. The Big Meadows area is another part of the park that is particularly popular, with its gentle slopes and open fields. Finally, the iconic Skyline Drive itself might be an option. Before the road is plowed after a snowfall, while it’s still closed to traffic, it can provide an ideal surface for cross-country skiing, complete with stunning views and overlooks. Of course, you’ll need to keep a close eye out for the snowplow if you take this option. It’s also suggested that skiers access Skyline Drive at the Thornton Gap entrance station, rather than in Front Royal. A long, steep climb is the first thing you face after the Front Royal entrance station.
Though they are accessible to a wide variety of people, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing do involve some risk. As with any sport, especially those involving snowy and icy conditions, it is possible to suffer serious injury while snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Don’t be discouraged from giving these sports a try, but remember that it is important to exercise caution and stay within your limits. Ideally, you should bring a buddy if you are heading out onto the trails. At least be sure to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. If you feel uncertain about your proficiency, it is much better to obtain professional training than to risk injury.
Don’t let the fantastic hiking trails in the Front Royal area lie silent and unused this winter.
A snowfall in the Front Royal area is a great opportunity to get out and give one of these snow sports a try. It’s not too hard to get started, and you may discover a new favorite way to exercise in the winter.
Skyline Drive/Shenandoah National Park is an incredible leaf-peeping destination. It’s not surprising that the park is something of a national treasure. The only problem is that it does attract significant crowds during the peak of fall foliage.
If you’re looking to enjoy fall foliage in the Front Royal area without dealing with crowds, this post is for you! We’ve rounded up some spots for leaf-peeping that will take you a little off the beaten path, while still ensuring that you can enjoy the unparalleled beauty of the Shenandoah Valley in fall.
1. Shenandoah River State Park
This amazing park is like Skyline Drive’s overshadowed little brother. Located just nine miles down the road from Skyline Drive’s Front Royal Entrance Station, Shenandoah River State Park doesn’t get the attention it deserves. However, there’s plenty to write home about here. The park extends right up the Shenandoah River, and you’ll find plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy.
Visit Shenandoah River State Park to discover 5.2 miles of Shenandoah River shoreline, over 24 miles of hiking trails, scenic overlooks, and opportunities for camping, horseback riding, and fishing.
2. George Washington National Forest
George Washington National Forest is another great option for fall outdoor adventure in the Front Royal area. Though less frequented than Skyline Drive, the National Forest is full of hiking and biking trails, and also boasts great locations for camping and fishing. Passage Creek is a stocked trout stream that flows through the forest. It’s a favorite of local fly-fishermen. And, of course, the forest features plenty of trees, so there’s lots of fall foliage to enjoy.
If you’re looking for scenic views in the George Washington National Forest, Buzzard Rock is a great hike to check out. It’s something of a local favorite. You’ll follow a wooded trail before eventually emerging on the exposed rocks at the top of the mountain. From this vantage point, enjoy stunning views of the surrounding countryside. There’s a good chance you’ll even see some buzzards soaring through the skies.
3. Enjoy Fall Views from the Shenandoah River
If you want to enjoy a relaxing outdoor adventure away from the crowds, don’t forget that Front Royal sits right on the famous Shenandoah River. You might associate river trips more with summer, but the river can be a great fall destination too. As fall colors appear on the tree-lined banks of the river, a boating trip is a great way to enjoy them. To plan your trip, get in touch with one of Front Royal’s River Outfitters. Or, if you have your own boat, you can organize a day on the river independently. This map shows public river access points in the Front Royal area.
4. Take a Scenic Fall Drive
Skyline Drive isn’t the only scenic road in the Shenandoah Valley. There are plenty of other options for those seeking less heavily travelled fall foliage drive. If a fall drive through the Front Royal area sounds appealing, consider this Fall Foliage Driving Tour, developed by the experts at the Virginia Department of Forestry. They’ve carefully planned out the route to ensure lots of opportunities for enjoying the fall leaves. To make the day complete, stop in Front Royal to pick up some fall-themed road trip snacks or a pumpkin spice latte to sip on as you drive.
Don’t let fear of crowds prevent you from enjoying all that the Shenandoah Valley has to offer in the fall. Even if you’d prefer not to join the crowds at Skyline Drive, there’s plenty of beautiful fall foliage in the Front Royal area.
If you’ve ever caught yourself wondering whether this fall is quite the same as the last one, the answer is: probably not. Every fall is different – and while all of them are beautiful, it’s true that some are more splendid than others. Each year, several different factors influences the complex biological process of the changing of the leaves. Small differences in these factors can lead to variations in many aspects of the fall season, including the timing of the color change, the length of the season, and the intensity of the colors.
Wondering how you can plan you fall “leaf-peeping” when the season is so unpredictable? Read on to learn more about what factors influence the display of fall leaves, and what we’ll be doing to help you stay right up-to-date with the exciting developments of fall in the Shenandoah Valley. We’re keeping our finger on the pulse of the season from right here in Front Royal.
Last week, we mentioned that cool temperatures, as well as shortening days, trigger the process by which the leaves on a tree begin to change color and die. While the length of the days stays constant from year to year, the temperatures can vary widely. You won’t really see leaves starting to turn until the cooler temperatures arrive. The onset of cooler weather is a major factor in determining the beginning of the leaf-peeping season.
Even once cooler temperatures come, the weather conditions of the fall can vary. You might see an unexpected warm spell, an early freeze, clear and sunny days, or pervasive cloudy weather and rain. Each of these weather conditions will result in differences in the fall foliage display. Generally, cool temperatures that remain above freezing tend to generate the most brilliant displays of fall colors. In addition, sunlight increases the production of anthyocins, the chemicals responsible for the red colors of the fall. A sunnier fall will result in more vibrant reds than an overcast and rainy season. An early freeze can dampen the display, and strong winds or rain can cause leaves to fall more quickly, shortening the season.
Well before the arrival of fall, spring and summer conditions will have set the stage for the foliage display. If the summer has been particularly hot and dry, the trees will be more stressed, and the splendor of the colors will be somewhat dimmed. A stressful summer may even cause some of the leaves to brown or fall prematurely. A late spring is often associated with a delay in the arrival of the vibrant colors of fall.
Introducing: Leaf Report 2020!
With so many factors affecting the condition of the fall leaves, it’s impossible to predict exactly how the season will develop. The good news is that we’re here to help. Discover Front Royal's Leaf Report 2020 is a super informational tool for all things fall in our area and is excellent as a tracking tool to help you check the condition of the leaves from far away - complete with a 'Live Leaf Cam'! We’ll be updating this page frequently with reports and images from the Front Royal area to help you stay up-to-date and plan your visit. Don’t forget to follow us for updates, and more fun fall information and tips.
It’s a simple, natural change that takes place in many places around the world every year. And yet it’s also one of nature’s greatest masterpieces. It’s the changing leaves of the fall. It’s not uncommon to hop on a plane and cross oceans to visit ancient monuments, great masterpieces, and famous landmarks. But some people are so captivated by the sights of fall, that their favorite kind of sightseeing is the chance to revel in the autumn splendor of reds, golds, and oranges. The word for these lovers of fall is “leaf-peepers.” The name of the pastime is “leaf-peeping.” And nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, Front Royal, Virginia is a leaf-peeper destination par-excellence.
Just one fall visit to the Shenandoah Valley will be enough to explain why the area is such a sought-after fall destination. The tree covered slopes of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains are like a canvas under the hands of a master craftsman; each year they come alive with a new, yet familiar, work of art. From Skyline Drive, atop the Blue Ridge Mountains, you can see mile after mile of trees ablaze with color for miles and miles. October remains Skyline Drive’s most visited month of the year, proof of the enduring popularity of these fall foliage vistas. Situated at the northern entrance of Skyline Drive, Front Royal makes a great home base.
Reds, Oranges, and Yellows – Where Do They Come From?
A good way to understand the process of the fall leaf change is to think about it from the perspective of the tree. As a tree, your job (like pretty much any other living organism) is to grow larger, sustain yourself, and reproduce. To perform these important jobs, you need energy. While animals get their energy from eating food, trees make their own “food” from sunlight, air, and water.
But trees can’t get their energy from just “raw sunlight.” That’s where the leaves come in. They’re the food factories of the tree. It’s their job to transform sunlight into usable energy. However, keeping the leaves alive also uses up some of the tree’s energy. In the winter, there’s not enough sunlight for the tree to keep growing and supporting the leaves. So each year, trees go into a kind of hibernation. They stop growing. They stop reproducing. They rely on food stores. And their leaves die and fall off.
So why the crazy colors? In order to transform sunlight into tree food, leaves use a chemical called chlorophyll. It’s the chlorophyll that gives leaves their green color. As the days grow cooler and shorter, chlorophyll decreases. And as chlorophyll disappears, the other pigments in the leaves to shine through: oranges and yellows. If it wasn’t for chlorophyll, we’d see those oranges and yellows all the time.
Meanwhile, the combination of bright sunlight and cool air triggers the production of another chemical called anthocyanin in many trees. Scientists still aren’t exactly sure what the purpose of anthocyanin is. One theory is that it helps the trees to extract all the possible nutrients from the leaves before they die and fall off. However, we do know that anthocyanin is responsible for the shades of red that combine so beautifully with the oranges and yellows of fall.
Fall in Front Royal and the Shenandoah Leaf-O-Meter
So, this year, when you’re out leaf-peeping and enjoying those stunning fall scenes, you’ll have a better an idea of exactly what’s going on in nature. Stay tuned for the next post in our fall series. We’ll be introducing an exciting tracking tool to help you follow the change of seasons and plan your trip to the Front Royal area and the Shenandoah Valley.
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