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.
Now that the imposed limitations from COVID-19 are almost behind us and summer is on its way, having fun outdoors can mean being on or in the water. Canoeing and kayaking are not only great for seeing picturesque views, but a wonderful way to relax and destress from the hectic pace of day-to-day life. Finding peace and quiet on the water is all part of the overall experience.
With one of the most beautiful and iconic parts of America’s landscape, the Blue Ridge Mountains, for its backdrop, the Shenandoah River is undoubtedly what so many residents and nature-loving people enjoy most about Front Royal. In 1999, Front Royal received the honor of being named the “Canoe Capital of Virginia”. The river is controllable for beginners but includes expanses of thrills as well. The canoe has been used for trade and transportation along the river since the earliest recorded history in the Valley, so enjoy the history, beauty, and tradition that canoeing entails in the Shenandoah Valley.
Front Royal is fortunate to have two forks of the river running through our land:
The South Fork Shenandoah is a popular destination for canoeists and kayakers. The nearness of the river to the more urban areas of Virginia and the bucolic beauty of the valley attracts thousands each year. Several canoe outfitters operate on the South Fork and traffic can be heavy on certain sections of the river during the summer months. Twenty (20) public access points along the entire length of the river creates the opportunity to plan many different float trips of varying distances.
The North Fork is a relatively small, shallow river and is very accessible to wade angling. This part of the river is ideal to float, canoe or kayak. Clear water, pleasant scenery, abundant wildlife, and mild whitewater make the North Fork a paddler’s dream.
Fishing opportunities on the North Fork:
Consider these other benefits of canoeing and kayaking in the Front Royal’s portion of the Shenandoah River:
Prior to jumping into your canoe, don’t forget these necessary and practical health and safety tips for canoeing and kayaking:
Canoe outfitters along the Shenandoah River normally provide a shuttle service, drop you off and let you float back a chosen distance to the outfitter headquarters. Looking for a local Front Royal shop to help?
Some combination of canoes, kayaks, inner tubes, rafts and paddleboards, may be rented from Front Royal Outdoors, Downriver Canoe Company or Shenandoah River Outfitters.
Launching your own vessel is popular, too, and many access points/boat ramps are found in or near Front Royal.
One of Virginia’s many state parks is nearby as well—the 1600-acre Shenandoah River State Park. It is located eight miles south of town on Route 340, offering miles of riverfront and mountain trails for hiking and mountain biking, as well as cabin rentals, a new zipline and tent camping.
From beautiful mountains, lush pastoral farmland and glistening river waters, Front Royal’s nature will astonish both young and old. Mark your calendar, Friday, June 26th is National Canoe Day! Make it a weekend getaway by renting a cabin, staying in a nearby Bed & Breakfast, and or local hotel. Now is the time to plan your trip to enjoy a river experience in the Canoe Capital of Virginia!
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