Where to stay at Shenandoah National Park, VA

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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. However, also consider the cozy gateway towns of Front Royal, Luray, Harrisonburg, Waynesboro and Charlottesville.

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Shenandoah National Park

Want the very best that Shenandoah National Park has to offer at your fingertips? The accommodation inside Shenandoah National Park gives you that unbeatable park access.

There are three 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 rustic places to stay 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 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.

In addition to iconic Skyline Drive overlooks, 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 lodging inside Shenandoah National Park is splendidly located, prepare for a stay without many of the comforts of civilization. In the nearby towns, 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.

Pick Shenandoah NP for: Unique in-park location.

Empty picnic table on green lawn outside wooden cabins at Skyland
Choose from a wide range of Shenandoah lodging.

In-park Shenandoah hotels

Skyland Resort – 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 accommodations — from traditional rooms and comfy suites to homey 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 – 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 – 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 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.

Log Skyland Cabins hiding behind trees with leaves changing color from green to orange during fall
Skyland, offering unique in-park Shenandoah accommodations.

Front Royal

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 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 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.

Pick Front Royal for: Northern end.

Best hotels in Front Royal

  • TownePlace Suites by Marriott – 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.
  • Mountain Home B&B – Just out of town — 120 steps east of the Appalachian Trail — you find this snug home filled with antique grace. Be sure to ask about the history of the house during check in.
Group of split logs in front or green trees in Shenandoah National Park, VA
Front Royal is in the front row for Shenandoah NP.

Luray

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.

Pick Luray for: Centrality.

Best hotels in Luray

  • The Mimslyn Inn – 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 – 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 – 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.
Bright stalagmites and stalactites in Luray Caverns, Luray, VA
Descend into Luray Caverns, VA.

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

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.

Pick Harrisonburg for: Liveliness.

Best hotels in Harrisonburg

  • The Village Inn – 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 main drawcards.
Red roof of James Madison University in Harrisonburg backdropped by forested mountains
Harrisonburg’s James Madison University.

Waynesboro

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.

Pick Waynesboro for: Southern end.

Best hotels in Waynesboro

  • Best Western Plus – Spacious and comfortable are the two words that best describe Best Western Plus in Waynesboro. It’s not the most unique place to stay when visiting Shenandoah, but it certainly provides the good night’s sleep that you need ahead of exciting outdoors adventures.
Natural smoke plumes hanging just over the tree tops of the Blue Ridge Mountains
Peaceful parkway surroundings.

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

Where should I stay when visiting Shenandoah National Park?

There are three options for where to stay within Shenandoah National Park: Skyland, Big Meadows Lodge and Lewis Mountain Cabins. These 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.

What is the closest town to Shenandoah National Park?

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.

What is the biggest town near Shenandoah National Park?

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.

Which is the best place to stay at Shenandoah National Park for central access?

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, the town of Luray also offers 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.

Which are the most unique places to stay near Shenandoah National Park?

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.

Which are the best luxury hotels near Shenandoah National Park?

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.

How many days do you need in Shenandoah National Park?

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.

Keep planning your trip in the South

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Sam Norton

    Thank you for the great guide. For our visit we’ll arrive in the late afternoon from Washington DC. Then we’ll have the entire next day to explore the park (two nights in total to spare for Shenandoah) before continuing south on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Where would you recommend us to stay?

    1. Avatar photo
      Olof Arnberg

      Hi Sam,

      That’s a nice trip you have ahead of you! A nice approach would be to spend the first night at the northern end (Front Royal), then drive Skyline Drive the next day and stay your second night around Waynesboro. That really gives you a full day for the park and puts you in the perfect position to continue along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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