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.
For special needs parents, it can be tough to find activities that whole family can enjoy together. But doing so is totally worth it. You don’t want your special needs child to be left out of those great memories that siblings share. Not to mention it’s more efficient if everyone can have fun at the same time! And that’s worth taking into consideration… After all, special needs parents are some of the busiest people in the world!
The good news is that the Front Royal area has plenty of opportunities for special needs family fun. We’ve done the research to round up a selection of accessible Front Royal destinations that will appeal to all different abilities and interests.
Whether you’re planning a trip to the Shenandoah Valley, or already live in the Front Royal area, this post is for you. Read on for a comprehensive list of accessible activities that parents and siblings will also enjoy. Everyone’s included!
Accessibility in Shenandoah National Park
No doubt about it, the top tourist attraction of the Front Royal area is Shenandoah National Park. With its stunning mountain views, the park attracts over one million visitors every year. It’s also one of the most accessible of America’s National Parks. In fact, this park was specifically designed with driving in mind. In an era when cars were first becoming widely available, the park’s designers planned that the central feature of the park should be Skyline Drive, a road leading all the way down the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You can enjoy the park’s major attraction without ever having to leave your car! There are also plenty of accessible picnic spots with stunning views, conveniently located right by the road.
If you're not already aware, individuals with disabilities are entitled to a free lifetime pass to our National Park system! Learn more here!
With a variety of accessible facilities, including lodging and camping, Shenandoah National Park is a welcoming destination for the special needs family. For a fully accessible hike, check out the Limberlost Trail. Shenandoah National Park is beautiful all year long, but it’s a particularly popular destination in the fall.
Horseback Riding for the Whole Family
For special needs families in the local area, North Star Stables offers both able-bodied and therapeutic horseback riding lessons, for riders of all capabilities. You won’t find a more welcoming environment! Head instructor Teresa Pilegaard is a special needs mom herself. She’s seen the benefits of therapeutic riding in all areas of development: physical, mental, and emotional. North Star Stables is truly a treasure of the Front Royal area. There isn’t another PATH certified therapeutic riding instructor for hours around! The best part? Able-bodied siblings are welcome at North Star Stables too. All the kids can jump in and experience the benefits of horseback riding!
Note: due to medical clearance requirements, North Star Stables is unfortunately unable to offer one-off sessions for traveling families.
Summer Fun: Pools and Parks
If you’re thinking that water fun is an essential part of summer, we agree! And Warren County does too! Special needs families can enjoy the Claude A. Stokes Community Swimming Pool, which features a lift to assist those with mobility challenges to into the pool. Or for splashing and sprinklers, visit the splash pad at the Dr. Saul Seide Memorial Gardens. You’ll find it’s fully accessible and fun for all the family. Within the same park, you’ll also find Free Wheeling Way, a wheelchair accessible playground structure, complete with accessible picnic tables. It’s a recipe for a day of summer fun at the park.
Several of Front Royal’s other parks also feature accessible walking trails. The beautiful Eastham Park walking trail is located right on the banks of the Shenandoah River. Other options are the Skyline Soccerplex trail and the Rockland Park walking trails. Enjoy in the summer, or any time of year!
Even More Accessible Activities in Front Royal
After a day at the pool, on Skyline Drive, or on horseback, there’s still more to enjoy in Front Royal!
Older children, or those with a special interest in history, may enjoy Front Royal’s Civil War Driving Tour. Did you know that Front Royal was the scene of a Civil War battle? The driving tour will take you to all the important spots, and bring the history to life.
Arts and craft lovers will want to check out Explore Art and Clay. The studio is wheelchair accessible and offers paint your own pottery sessions. Come make memories painting a mug, plate, or seasonal decoration. They’ll give your work of art a professional finish. Budding sculptors should check their event schedule for the Kids Clay Club sessions. Projects can be adapted to suit different ability levels.
Finally, bowling is an all-time favorite for family fun. Bring the whole family to Royal Family Bowling Center. The lanes that are fully wheelchair accessible, and bowling ball ramps are available. Kids and adults of all abilities can play.
When the whole family’s together, you’ll make memories you’ll cherish for years to come. Start your adventure in Front Royal, Virginia. It might be as simple as a day at the park, or as exciting as a series of horseback riding lessons. Whether you’re coming for a visit or here to stay, we’re sure you’ll enjoy the unique opportunities you’ll find in the Front Royal area.
With the COVID-19 crisis throwing travel plans into chaos, it may be tempting to give up on the idea of a vacation this year. But the benefits of some time off are well-documented. Taking advantage of paid vacation time improves your health, your happiness, your family relationships, and even your productivity at work. If you want to take a break, but aren’t able to make travel plans we have a solution: a Front Royal staycation! Block out some time to rest, rejuvenate, and explore your hometown!
If you’re lucky enough to live in the Front Royal area, there are plenty of opportunities for fun and relaxation right on your doorstep. Not sure where to start? Read on! We’ve rounded up some of our best ideas to make your Front Royal staycation feel like a vacation. You should find something below to suit everyone in the family. And don’t forget: your Front Royal staycation will help the small local businesses that have taken a hard hit during the COVID-19 crisis.
(COVID-19 policies change frequently. Avoid disappointment! Be sure to double check directly with the company for any policy updates before you finalize plans.)
DISCOVER FRONT ROYAL
Front Royal Staycation Dining
One major perk of vacation is taking a break from the never ending tasks of meal-planning, grocery shopping, and cooking. On your Front Royal staycation, you should make sure you still give yourself a break. In fact, since you’ll be saving money on travel and lodging, consider enjoying an extra fancy dinner or two. You might be dying to get out of your house and enjoy a meal in a restaurant. The good news is that many restaurants are now reopening with limited and outdoor seating.
COVID-19 has a lot to answer for, but it may also give you a chance to enjoy an old favorite restaurant in a whole new way. In an effort to follow COVID-19 guidelines, several local restaurants have added outdoor dining, and even carry out or delivery services. Outdoor dining definitely has a vacation feel to it. If you don’t feel like going out, you have the chance to enjoy your favorite restaurant in the comfort of your home.
Some Front Royal favorites that have added a COVID-19 carry out service include The Element, the Front Royal Brewing Company (also offering delivery), and Pavemint Taphouse,. Or bring home an old favorite such as Spelunkers Burgers or Melting Pot Pizza.
See here for a more extensive list of Front Royal dining options.
Front Royal Outdoor Adventure Staycation
Enjoying the great outdoors is a great way to have some summer fun while observing COVID-19 guidelines. Front Royal is the perfect place for a range of outdoor staycation activities (to suit varying levels of adventurousness!).
Nothing says “summer” like relaxing on the river. Many people happily travel for hours to spend some time on a scenic river in the summer. If you live in Front Royal, you don’t have to. A Shenandoah River staycation is at your fingertips! Front Royal’s river outfitters have reduced services due to COVID-19, but if you’re interested in boating or tubing, Front Royal Outdoors has limited river trip offerings. And if you have your own boat, Skyline Canoe is offering a shuttle service so you can enjoy a trip down the river without having to worry about getting back to where you left your car. Fishing and swimming at public river access points are great options for enjoying the river while complying with social distancing guidelines. Water enthusiasts can easily plan a whole week of different river activities in and around Front Royal.
For another day of outdoor summer fun, consider hiking or biking one of Front Royal’s popular trails. Pack your own picnic, or stop at Blue Wing Frog and have them pack one for you.
Other options for outdoor fun in and around Front Royal include rock climbing, golfing, and horseback riding stables. You can even enjoy a horseback ride through the Shenandoah National Park.
It wouldn’t be a summer vacation without some ice cream. Don’t forget to cool down at the end of the day at one of Front Royal’s favorite ice cream spots. Try The Apple House Ice Cream Stand, the ever popular Spelunker’s, or C&C’s Frozen Treats on Main Street.
The Indoor Front Royal Staycation
If being outdoors and active in the heat of summer doesn’t sound relaxing, don’t worry. There’s still plenty to do in Front Royal. And many indoor-based businesses have established COVID-19 policies that allow them to remain open. Here are some slower-paced ideas for your Front Royal staycation fun in Front Royal.
If you’re looking for a relaxing afternoon in town, Front Royal’s quaint Downtown area is an excellent choice. Happy Creek Coffee, and Main Street’s Daily Grind are two of the town’s most popular coffee shops. If you’re not a coffee lover, The Vine and Leaf offers teas and fine wines. Peruse the shop or enjoy a beverage in the “sipping room.”
It’s also fun to take your time exploring Front Royal’s selection of unique shops. Royal Bookshop is a charming used bookstore that’s a walkable distance from Main Street. Arts and crafts lovers will have fun painting their own pottery at The Kiln Doctor. Or for an activity that has you in nature, but out of the sun, take a tour of Skyline Caverns.
For beer and wine lovers, Front Royal has plenty of opportunities for a relaxing afternoon or evening. On Main Street, try ViNoVa Tapas and Wine Bar or the Front Royal Brewing Company. Or take a drive into the country for an afternoon at one of several scenic wineries and breweries in the Front Royal area.
COVID-19 has led to many disappointments. It’s not easy to deal with the cancellation of a summer vacation. But a week of Front Royal staycation fun may be just what you need to lift your spirits.
Celebrating Spring has not been the same here in Front Royal this year. Locals and tourists alike anticipated meandering through the glorious Shenandoah National Park, taking in the spectacular scenery and enduring rugged outdoor adventures. As a popular destination for weekenders in Warren County and nearby regions, drivers can ostensibly travel the 105-mile road in about three hours. But those three hours do not account for the enticement to stop, look, picnic, play or simply explore so much of what is Skyline Drive.
But all was changed on April 4, the day it was closed to motorists due to the coronavirus.
We missed the sounds of rumbling motorcycles coming in from I-66 transporting cruise riders, the Harley riders, and young-at-heart senior riders (good for them!). We missed the cars parked on the side while waiting for an order from Spelunker’s. We missed viewing the magnificent landscape dotted with flowering dogwood, redbud, and wild plum trees. We missed the trails artfully displaying colorful azaleas, pink-and-white mountain laurel, and hundreds of wildflowers carpeting the forest’s floor.
After many weeks and confusing federal and state guidelines, Shenandoah National Park will begin Phase Two of its phased reopening plan.
Phase Two: What You Need to Know
Beginning at 7:00 a.m. on June 11, 2020, Shenandoah National Park will reopen access to:
Concession-operated services will open as follows:
Beginning June 12, 2020, the Park will reopen access to:
With public health in mind, the following facilities remain closed at this time:
Planning ahead is important.
Keep yourself and others safe by planning before coming to Shenandoah.
A few simple things can help ensure a safe visit.
The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners continues to be paramount. At Shenandoah National Park, our operational approach will be to examine each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance and will be regularly monitored. We continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health using CDC guidance to ensure public and workspaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners, and volunteers.
While these areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. When recreating, the public should follow local area health orders https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/prevention-tips/, practice Leave No Trace principles, avoid crowding and avoid high-risk outdoor activities.
Details and updates on park operations will continue to be posted on our website www.nps.gov/shen and social media channels: https://www.facebook.com/shenandoahnps/, https://twitter.com/ShenandoahNPS, and https://www.instagram.com/shenandoahnps/. Updates about NPS operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus. Please visit www.goshenandoah.com for updates about park concessioner, Delaware North’s operations.
As the weather gets warmer and the dangers of the coronavirus are lessened, grab that picnic basket filled with your favorite foods. Do not forget the blanket, insect repellant, and a few rain ponchos. Your day to cruise Skyline Drive awaits.
And as the summer passes by so swiftly, the annuals in your garden will start to fade, the fireflies will take their final bow and the leaf peepers will back up traffic at the corner of South Royal Avenue and South Street.
It may have been a silent spring, but the roar of leather-clad motorcyclists and carloads of nature lovers won’t miss the must-take road trip this Fall.
Discover Front Royal