Scenic drives, exciting hikes and cascading waterfalls — Shenandoah National Park is a Virginia jewel that has all the important characteristics. Because of its location, only 75 miles (120 km) from Washington DC, it’s also a treasure that it’s easy to get to. But where to stay at Shenandoah National Park for the best experience?
For prime park access, there are a few places to stay inside Shenandoah National Park. Other options for where to stay when visiting Shenandoah are the gateway towns Front Royal, Luray, Harrisonburg, Waynesboro and Charlottesville.
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Where to stay overview
- Shenandoah NP – In the park
- Front Royal – Northern end
- Luray – Central access
- Harrisonburg – A bigger town
- Waynesboro – Southern end
Shenandoah National Park – Stay inside the park
Do you want the very best access to everything that Shenandoah National Park has to offer? The accommodations inside Shenandoah National Park gives you that unbeatable park access.
There are three rustic options for where to stay inside Shenandoah National Park: Skyland (mile 41.7 & 42.5), Big Meadows Lodge (mile 51) and Lewis Mountain Cabins (mile 57.5)
These unique places to stay in Shenandoah National Park are located at the park’s center, where the elevations are the highest. This means that you bed down with remarkable lookouts just a stone’s throw away.
Two gorgeous vistas not to miss, easily reached from the in-park Shenandoah lodging, are Crescent Rock Overlook at milepost 44 — especially look for the 4,051 feet (1,235 m) Hawksbill, Shenandoah’s highest peak — and The Point Overlook at milepost 55.5.
Both Crescent Rock Overlook and The Point Overlook, facing west, are superb sunset spots. If you travel with a loved one, it doesn’t get more romantic than a Shenandoah sunset here.
The places to stay in Shenandoah National Park not only give you prime access to iconic Skyline Drive overlooks. At the unique Shenandoah lodging you also have one-of-a-kind treks on your doorstep.
An American hiking dream, the Appalachian Trail — extending from Maine to Georgia — runs right past. On the Appalachian Trail’s 101-mile (163 km) journey through Shenandoah National Park park, it connects many popular spots.
Is there any reason not to stay inside Shenandoah National Park?
While the places to stay inside Shenandoah National Park are splendidly located, prepare for a stay without many of the comforts of civilization. In the nearby towns, offering hotels near Shenandoah National Park, you find more amenities, including restaurants and grocery stores.
Also have in mind that Shenandoah’s in-park lodging closes up for winter, while the park is open year round.
In short, the lodging inside Shenandoah National Park offers unrivaled park access. From the centrally located Skyland, Big Meadows Lodge and Lewis Mountain Cabins you easily explore the best of Shenandoah.
Pick Shenandoah NP for: Unique in-park location.
Recommended in-park Shenandoah hotels
Skyland Resort – Rising Shenandoah lodging at mile 41.7 & 42.5
Visitors have enjoyed the Skyland Resort, first called Stony Man Camp, since the late 1800s. Just off Skyline Drive’s most elevated stretch, 3,680 feet high, the resort showcases sweeping views of Shenandoah Valley.
Providing an appreciated range of rustic Shenandoah accommodations — from traditional rooms and comfy suites to homely cabins — Skyland Resort is not only about its location.
However, to make the most of the occasion, secure a mountain view room. With storybook-pretty Shenandoah Valley outside your window, you feel at exactly the right place.
Big Meadows Lodge – Central accommodations at mile 51
After driving through miles of dense forests, the Big Meadows often surprises Skyline Drive roadtrippers with its open space of grass and wildflowers. This is a favorite spot for wedding photographers and stargazers alike.
Continue a mile up the road from this verdant oasis to find Big Meadows Lodge, built in 1939 with stones from the Massanutten Mountain.
Check in and make yourself comfortable, lodging options include the main lodge and adjacent buildings and cabins. Then, sit down on Big Meadows Lodge’s adorable outdoor terrace overlooking Shenandoah Valley — maybe with a drink in your hand?
Lewis Mountain Cabins – Spartan Shenandoah cabins at mile 57.5
Among the options for where to stay in Shenandoah National Park, Lewis Mountain Cabins stands out as the most low-key pick. These Shenandoah cabins, just like they are intended to be, are the definition of Spartan.
Lewis Mountain Cabins offer a sanctuary for visitors who want to get back to the basics, giving the surrounding nature 100% of their attention. But don’t stay here if you crave for modern-day comfort.
Front Royal – Northern Shenandoah hotels
At the northern end of Skyline Drive, the cozy town of Front Royal is situated. With the park adventure literally down the street, this is a lovely option for where to stay near Shenandoah National Park.
From Shenandoah hotels in Front Royal, it’s just a few miles to the Front Royal Entrance Station. Continue a few miles more and Shenandoah Valley Overlook gives you a great first taste of Skyline Drive’s magnificent vistas.
Back in town, Front Royal’s historic Main Street — as friendly as a town center can be — serves hungry visitors brilliantly. Enjoy an appreciated selection of restaurants and an in general cute American small town vibe.
Front Royal’s second biggest attraction (after Shenandoah National Park) is Skyline Caverns. Discovered in 1937, although not the region’s biggest cave — see Luray Caverns — this is a beautiful underground experience.
It’s easy to fall for the charming Front Royal, providing Shenandoah lodging so near the park.
But as Shenandoah National Park is so long and thin, it takes three hours to drive from Front Royal down to the park’s southern end, without stops — and you will want to stop. So Front Royal is not where to stay when visiting Shenandoah National Park if you prefer a central base.
In conclusion, Front Royal is the best place to stay near Shenandoah National Park in the north. Where Skyline Drive begins, this town offers both great park access and inviting offerings off the park.
Pick Front Royal for: Best northern Shenandoah hotels.
Recommended Shenandoah hotels in Front Royal
TownePlace Suites by Marriott – Guaranteed Front Royal comfort
Sure, big chain hotels are not the most exciting ones. However, Front Royal is a small town and its Marriott has all you need for a good first Shenandoah stay: Convenient location right off I-66, spacious suites and top facilities, including a fitness center and seasonal outdoor pool.
Luray – Central hotels near Shenandoah National Park
It’s easy to see why Luray is a popular option for where to stay near Shenandoah National Park. Sheltered between the Blue Ridge and Massanutten Mountains, Luray is a town surrounded by scenery.
A 15-minute drive takes you from Luray to the Thornton Gap Entrance Station (mile 31.5). As you enter Skyline Drive, either drive north towards Front Royal, or for the most elevated portion of the park, head south.
The highest, and often most popular, overlooks of Shenandoah National Park are those in the southern direction, between Thornton Gap (mile 31.5) and Swift Run Gap (mile 65.7).
This means that Luray hits a real sweet spot for Shenandoah lodging. The Virginia town not only offers hotels near Shenandoah National Park but also gives you effortless access to the park’s main attractions.
In addition to overground scenery, Luray is the best place to stay near Shenandoah National Park for cave trolls. Luray Caverns, eastern USA‘s largest caverns, is a jaw-dropping attraction to add to the itinerary.
All in all, Luray is a unique option for where to stay near Shenandoah National Park. This gem of a town provides hotels at Shenandoah’s most elevated and popular portion — and is the home of Luray Caverns.
Pick Luray for: Central Shenandoah lodging.
Recommended Shenandoah hotels in Luray
The Mimslyn Inn – Enjoy sprawling history
A fine representation of Georgian architecture, The Mimslyn Inn brims with elegance and charm. The rooms are comfy too, but its the historic character — picture the quintessential Southern mansion — that you fall for.
Hotel Laurance – Apartment-style luxury
Do you crave for something that feels like your very own space? Hotel Laurance, offering a cute selection of luxurious and spacious apartments, is a unique place to stay in Shenandoah Valley.
Luray Caverns Motel – Low-key at Luray Caverns
Sure, this is not a luxury hotel in Shenandoah Valley. But at the budget-friendly Luray Caverns Motel, you bed down just half a mile from the entrance to the eye-popping Luray Caverns.
Are you a national park fan? It’s three hours from Shenandoah’s southern end to the next, New River Gorge NP. The best New River Gorge hotels offer top access to the park’s unique steel arch bridge.
Harrisonburg – A bigger town in Shenandoah Valley
In the heart of Shenandoah Valley, Harrisonburg is for visitors who prefer a slightly bigger city. This is an option for where to stay near Shenandoah National Park that combines the best of nature and civilization.
From Harrisonburg’s vibrant downtown district, it’s 30 minutes to the Swift Gap Entrance Station (mile 65.7). Cruise north from here to enjoy the highest points of Shenandoah National Park.
The stretch from Swift Run Gap (mile 65.7) to Thornton Gap (mile 31.5) is for good reason the most popular in the Virginia park. Prepare for a towering lineup of Shenandoah overlooks and hiking trails.
After a day out, Harrisonburg knows how to treat visitors with a good ol’ time. This is a college town, home to James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University, where something fun always is going on.
In historic Downtown Harrisonburg, tasty restaurants, friendly watering holes and diverse shops call for your attention. Spread out over 40 blocks, the district functions as the entertainment hub of Shenandoah Valley.
To sum up, Harrisonburg is a great option where to stay near Shenandoah National Park if you favor liveliness. This is the heart of Shenandoah Valley, offering off-the-park distractions that go hand in hand with the area’s stunning nature.
Pick Harrisonburg for: Shenandoah liveliness.
Recommended Shenandoah hotels in Harrisonburg
The Village Inn – Motel-style beauty
Set in the gorgeous Shenandoah Valley countryside, The Village Inn takes the motel experience to the next level. The comfort, affordability and, of course, views of surrounding rolling hills and mountains are drawcards.
Waynesboro – Southern Shenandoah lodging
After 105 miles (169 km) of grand Virginia scenery, Skyline Drive reaches its conclusion. At the southern terminus of Shenandoah National Park, Waynesboro is a town located at an intersection made in heaven.
It’s only 4 miles (6 km) from Downtown Waynesboro to the southern entrance of Skyline Drive.
Where Skyline Drive ends, the Blue Ridge Parkway — running for 469 miles (755 km) from Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina — takes over.
Add to that the Appalachian Trail, and Waynesboro’s unmatched trio of thoroughfares is complete.
To recharge or load up, the walkable Downtown Waynesboro offers an appreciated range of eateries and shops. With South River flowing right through Waynesboro, the adventure feels close even at the heart of town.
In short, Waynesboro is the closest option for where to stay near Shenandoah National Park in the south. This Virginia town is brilliantly located at the intersection of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Pick Waynesboro for: Lodging in Shenandoah’s south.
Driving Skyline Drive
Skyline Drive, intersecting Shenandoah from north to south, begins in Front Royal and ends 105 miles (169 km) later near Waynesboro. With a speed limit of 35 miles (56 km) per hour, traveling Shenandoah takes time.
But Shenandoah National Park rewards you greatly. Running along mountain ridges, showcasing the surrounding landscape with the help of 75 lookouts — Skyline Drive is roadtripping at its very best.
As a bonus, navigation is easy thanks to helpful mileposts marking out locations along the way.
Want to continue south? Check out the Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary and where to stay on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Final words about where to stay at Shenandoah National Park
Some roads are more scenic than others, and Shenandoah’s Skyline Drive is one of the very, very best. Here, less than 90 minutes from the bustling Washington DC, stunning nature brushes over you.
Check in at one of the roadside Shenandoah National Park hotels and be steps from jaw-dropping overlooks.
But the gateway towns are great options for where to stay when visiting Shenandoah National Park too. Against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, these are shining examples of civilization and nature coming together.
Where to stay at Shenandoah National Park FAQ
Here you find the answers to some frequently asked questions about where to stay at Shenandoah National Park, VA.
There are three options for where to stay within Shenandoah National Park: Skyland, Big Meadows Lodge and Lewis Mountain Cabins. These unique places to stay give you unique access to Shenandoah’s scenic overlooks and trails, including the iconic Appalachian Trail.
In addition, several gateway towns dutifully serve Shenandoah National Park. Popular towns with hotels near Shenandoah National Park are from north to south Front Royal, Luray, Harrisonburg, Waynesboro and Charlottesville.
While each gateway town presents its own characteristics, Luray stands out if you look for a central base. From Luray, also home to eastern USA’s largest cave, you reach the most popular portion of Shenandoah National Park in 15 minutes.
Shenandoah National Park is an outstretched destination, Skyline Drive is 105 miles (169 km) long, where different towns are close to different parts of the park.
Front Royal is located at the northern end of Shenandoah National Park, Luray is a town offering the best access to the central part of Shenandoah National Park and Waynesboro is the southern gateway town, connecting Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Harrisonburg is the biggest town and entertainment capital of Shenandoah Valley. Positioned 23 miles (37 km) from the central Swift Gap Entrance Station, this hub combines the best of nature and civilization. After a day exploring the park, enjoy Downtown Harrisonburg’s abundance of restaurants, bars and shops.
Another sizable city in the area, but east of Shenandoah Valley, is Charlottesville. From Charlottesville, it’s 24 miles (39 km) to the southern entrance of Skyline Drive.
The highest, and most visited, overlooks of Shenandoah National Park are those in the middle of the park, between Thornton Gap (mile 31.5) and Swift Run Gap (mile 65.7). If you want to stay as close to Shenandoah’s main action as possible, you have two main options.
The in-park lodging, Skyland, Big Meadows Lodge and Lewis Mountain Cabins, is located along this stretch. Offering unbeatable access, these are the only places to stay inside Shenandoah National Park.
However, Shenandoah hotels in the town of Luray also make up central options. It’s only 15 minutes from Luray to the Thornton Gap Entrance Station. As a bonus, Luray is home to the renowned Luray Caverns.
Feeling like a southern mansion from a Hollywood movie, the Georgian-style The Mimslyn Inn is one of the most unique places to stay near Shenandoah National Park. Be greeted by imposing Tuscan columns; then let other features including stunning gardens and terraces against the backdrop of Shenandoah Valley take your stay to a one-of-a-kind level.
The sophisticated Hotel Laurance offers apartment-style luxury at the heart of Luray. Close to Shenandoah National Park, Luray Caverns and, when hunger calls, restaurants, there’s absolutely nothing about the location to complain about either.
Thanks to Skyline Drive, as convenient as breathtaking, you can drive through Shenandoah National Park in just one day. However, the Virginia park is best experienced over at least two days. Add extra time for more extensive hiking and to discover the cute towns in Shenandoah Valley.