Shenandoah National Park is one of the most highly visited national parks in the country. What I didn't know is that the park is really designed to be driven through. (Which may explain why it's so popular) Skyline drive, which runs through the park, is known as "the most scenic road in America". The same cannot be said of the hiking trail in the Shenandoah.
Upon entering the park, the trail runs through a section where we hikers were treated to views of power lines and satellite dishes. Then we enter the green tunnel.
The shelters, on the whole, were not the greatest. ( though there were a few nice ones) Often, the shelters were strategically placed at the bottom of a wash, so any rain runoff would flow directly around or under the shelter. Since it rained pretty much every day we were in Shenandoah Park, most shelters were surrounded by puddles of stagnant water on the outside, and permeated with a musty/moldy aroma on the inside.
Then there were the tenting sites. A very limited number of tent platforms were at the shelter sites. I imagine the sites were absolutely beautiful around 1989 or 1990. Now they are filled with various things not conducive to sleep- like big rocks and roots. And they are situated at an angle far less desirable than horizontal. Each night I tented in Shenandoah, I would wake up in the bottom corner of my tent, surrounded by any object inside the tent- my fleece which I use as a pillow, my clothes bag, which I placed under my feet in an effort to put them at the same level as my head, my iPad, which I had been journaling on until I fell asleep. My stuff and I would end up all in a heap with a really pointy rock jabbing me on the head. So I'd climb back to the middle of the tent, arrange my stuff, and try to sleep while clinging onto my Thermarest. Only to wake up a couple hours later in a heap at the bottom of the tent with the rock poking into my shoulder blades.
The privies, however, were spectacular in the Shenandoah,
Then there was the issue of trail magic. There is a very active bear population in the Shenandoah, so leaving food unattended is frowned upon. That, of course, is what trail magic looks like. I talked to people who were trying to leave trail magic while they went on a hike, and planned to pick up the trash on the way out. They were reprimanded and told they would have to stay with the food or leave it in the car with the door unlocked for hikers to help themselves to. Neither option seems ideal. I fully understand that leaving food is not a good idea in bear country. But perhaps they need to re-examine and standardize their trail magic rules.
All of that said, I did see my first bear on the Shenandoah. And the food was spectacular- especially the famous blackberry milkshake. The people in the park were wonderful, too, from the rangers, to the restaurant staff, to the guy at the camp store who kept the store open an hour past closing because the hiking guidebooks said it was open an hour later than it actually was. How nice is that?
Toward the end of the park, we even got a couple views from the trail, not the road.
In summary, I would definitely recommend Shenandoah National Park to anyone and everyone. Just experience it the way it was meant to me seen- by car!