When preparing for a hike at Shenandoah National Park, there are few things to make sure you have on your checklist: water, sunscreen and now hand sanitizer. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shenandoah has now reopened for 24 hours a day, but visitors have some rules and restrictions to be aware of in order to make their experience as enjoyable—and safe—as possible.
On June 11, Shenandoah National park entered phase two of reopening as Virginia is currently reopening recreational spaces and public spaces as the state sees a downtrend in new COVID-19 cases. Although you might think, “The park is entirely outdoors! What do I have to worry about?” here are a few new guidelines to consider before heading to the park.
Picnic areas at Shenandoah National Park are open, as well as all boundary trail heads. Visitors are encouraged to pay entrance fees with a credit or debit card to avoid the use of cash. The park also recommended planning activities at less-crowded spaces or during hours that are known to be less busy, and, since indoor facilities are closed, park officials say necessary items to bring include water, a first-aid kit, hand sanitizer and a face mask.
Also, since the visitor centers and indoor accommodations are closed, visitors are encouraged to download trail and park maps ahead of time, since paper copies are not currently available. You can find park maps, used for navigation, safety and more, here.
Shenandoah is currently accommodating overnight guests for camping, including in on-site shelters and huts, and backcountry campers (if using a camper, apply for Shenandoah’s backcountry permits online or at the self-serving kiosks). Backcountry cabins are also available for rental.
Although overnight camping accommodations are available, they are currently limited to encourage safe social distancing and and state-mandated guidelines of a minimum of 20 feet between personal campgrounds. Also, no reservations are being taken at this time, and all campgrounds are first-come, first-served. This could change as the state moves toward an eventual phase three of reopening and capacity limitations are lifted, but as of next week, no reservations are being taken.
As always, if you are parked illegally alongside the road or not in a designated parking area (look out for those that are currently closed), or even at the base of a trail head, you could be ticketed or towed at your own expense. In order to practice more safety and social distancing, if a parking lot or park area is full, move on to another one and explore a new area of the park you may have never been to before.
If you or your family are not yet ready or planning to travel, virtual tours and resources are available from the safety of your home.
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