How To Get to Shenandoah National Park: Complete Guide

With its stunning views, abundant wildlife, and miles of hiking trails, it’s no wonder that so many people want to visit Shenandoah National Park. 

However, if you’re not familiar with the area, visiting Shenandoah can be a bit tricky. There are several ways to get to Shenandoah National Park, and this guide will explore the most popular options for getting to the park.

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How To Get to Shenandoah National Park

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 Where is Shenandoah National Park Located?

The location of Shenandoah National Park 

Shenandoah National Park is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, west of Washington, D.C. The Park stretches 105 miles from its northern entrance at Front Royal to its southern entrance near Waynesboro. 

The famous Blue Ridge Parkway starts at the southern Rockfish Gap Entrance.

Shenandoah’s entrance stations

There are four entrance stations to Shenandoah National Park (from north to south): 

  1. The Front Royal Entrance is located at Milepost 0.6 on Skyline Drive and is accessible via U.S. 340. It’s the most northern entrance to the park and is just five minutes from the town of Front Royal.

The other three entrance stations are accessible via U.S. 211 and U.S. 33. 

  1. The Thornton Gap Entrance is located at Milepost 31.5. 
  2. The Swift Run Gap Entrance is located at Milepost 65.7.
  3. The Rockfish Gap Entrance is located at Milepost 105. 

Towns near Shenandoah National Park

The closest city to Shenandoah National Park is Charlottesville.  It’s 25 miles/ 30 minutes to the southern Rockfish Gap entrance.  The other major city nearby is Washington DC.   It’s 70 miles | 1.5 hours to the northern Front Royal Entrance and 85 miles | 1 hour 45 miles to the Thornton Gap Entrance. 

There are also several smaller towns near Shenandoah National Park. 

  • Front Royal lies just outside the Front Royal Entrance.
  • Luray is 10 miles | 15 minutes from the Thornton Gap Entrance. 
  • Ekton is 7 miles | 10 miles from the Swift Run Gap Entrance.
  • Waynseboro is just 5 miles | 10 minutes from the Rockfish Gap Entrance.

Taking a Tour to Shenandoah National Park

If you don’t want to drive, the easiest option is to take a tour from Washington DC.

Rock formations in the Luray Caverns in Shenandoah National Park

One Day Tour along Skyline Drive and to Luray Caverns

This full-day trip leaves from DC and spends time at the spectacular Luray Caverns as well driving along the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park. In addition to stopping at some of the viewpoints, you’ll have time for a short hike in the park.

BOOK A ONE-DAY TRIP FROM DC TO SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK & LUTRAY CAVERNS


How to Fly to Shenandoah National Park?

The closest airport to Shenandoah National Park is Shenandoah Valley Airport.  It’s just 22 miles to the Rockfish Gap Entrance and 26.5 miles to the Swift Run Gap Entrance.  Both take about 30 minutes. However, because it’s a small regional airport, there are only a limited number of flights to Shenandoah National Park each day.

The nearest airport to Shenandoah National Park with more flights and airlines is Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport. It’s 23 miles to the Swift Run Gap Entrance and 30 miles to the Swift Run Gap Entrance.

There are rental cars available at both airports, though Charlottesville has more options.

Richmond International Airport is also an option for the southern entrances, though it’s 100 miles to the Rockfish Gap Entrance.

For the two northern entrances to the national park, the Washington DC airports are the most convenient. 

From Washington Dulles Airport to Shenandoah National Park (Front Royal Entrance) is 57 miles / 1 hour and 5 minutes and to the Thornton Gap Entrance is 68 miles / 1 hour and 25 minutes.

Reagan National Airport is 72 miles / 1 hour and 25 minutes to the Front Royal Entrance and 83 miles / 1 hour and 45 minutes to the Thornton Gap Entrance.  

There are plenty of rental car options at both airports.

For more information about flying to Shenandoah, read my guide to the best airports near Shenandoah National Park

Check prices on flights to Shenandoah National Park airports here


Taking the Train to Shenandoah National Park

Trees with colorful leaves in the middle of the day with blue skies in Shenandoah Valley

Closest Train Stations to Shenandoah National Park

If you prefer traveling by train, there are several options to get to Shenandoah National Park. The closest train stations to the park are located in Culpeper, Charlottesville, and Manassas. 

The Culpeper station and the Manassas station are served by Amtrak’s Northeast Regional and Crescent trains. The trip from Washington DC’s Union Station takes just under an hour to Manassas, which is most convenient for the Front Royal Entrance. From DC’s Union Station to Culpeper takes about 1.5 hours and this is the most convenient station for the Thornton Gap Entrance.

Charlottesville station is served by the Cardinal, Crescent trains and Northeast Regional train lines. This station is best for the two southern entrances – Rockfish Gap and Swift Run Gap.

Getting to Shenandoah National Park from the Train Station

Other than taking a tour from Washington DC, the only way to get from the Amtrak station into Shenandoah National Park is to rent a car. 

Once you arrive at the train station, you’ll need to take a taxi or Uber/ Lyft to the car rental agency, as none of them are inside the Amtrak stations.

Culpeper: Enterprise car rental is 7 minutes away.

Manassas: Hertz is 12 minutes; Avis and Budget are both 11 minutes from the train station.

Charlottesville:  Hertz is 11 minutes; Avis and Budget are both 17 minutes away.

Search Discover Cars for the best deals


Taking a Bus to Shenandoah National Park

Closest Bus Stations

If you prefer to travel by bus, there are several options that will get you close to the park but, again, you’ll then need to rent a car.

The nearest Greyhound bus stations are:

Washington DC Union Station:  Closest to Front Royal Entrance (approximately 50 miles) and Thornton Gap Entrance (approx. 86 miles). 

Harrisonburg Greyhound Station: Approx. 25 miles to Swift Run Gap Entrance

Charlottesville Greyhound Station: Approx. 24 miles to Rockfish Gap Entrance

You can also take a Virginia Breeze bus from Washington DC to Harrisonburg, VA.  There is no specific Washington DC to Shenandoah National Park bus, but if you wanted to get closer to the park and minimize your driving to the park, Virginia Breeze also has a service from DC to Front Royal, VA, which lies just outside the northern entrance.

You can pick up a rental car in Washington DC, Harrisonburg, Charlottesville and Front Royal. There’s an Enterprise Rental car agency in Front Royal and Harrisonburg and more options in DC and Charlottesville.

Shuttle Service

If you really don’t want to rent a car, there is a private shuttle service, Nina’s Shuttle Service that will drop you at a particular spot in the park.  It’s expensive and is mainly used to drop people off or pick people up from a trailhead.  It’s designed for people hiking the Appalachian Trail, but you could arrange a drop off/ pickup at one of the lodges in the park and just limit yourself to hikes in that area. Or do a through-hike and arrange drop off/ pick up at different points. 


How to Drive to Shenandoah National Park

Chances are that you will drive to the park – either from home, a nearby airport, or a train or bus station. 

Rent a car at the Washington Dulles Airport here

Check out my guide to saving money on rental cars before you book.

Self-Driving Guided Tour

Once you’ve arrived at the park, you will spend some time driving the legendary Skyline Drive.  Get the most out of your drive with a self-guided audio tour. Just download the app and Stories, tips and directions play automatically based on your location.

GET A SELF-GUIDED AUDIO TOUR OF SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK

Driving directions to Shenandoah National Park

Here are basic Shenandoah National Park directions from several major departure points.

How to get to Shenandoah National Park from DC (Front Royal Entrance)

Take I-66 West towards Front Royal, Virginia. Follow signs to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive.

From Washington, D.C. to Thornton Gap Entrance

Take I-66 West to Exit 43A. Merge onto US-29 South towards Gainesville. Turn right onto US-211 West towards Warrenton. Follow US-211 West to Luray, Virginia. Turn left onto US-340 South and follow signs to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive.

From Richmond to Shenandoah National Park Rockfish Gap Entrance

Take I-64 West towards Charlottesville, Virginia. Take Exit 99 and merge onto US-250 West towards Waynesboro. Follow US-250 West to Rockfish Gap Entrance and follow signs to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive.

From Roanoke, VA to Shenandoah National Park

Take I-81 North towards Staunton, Virginia. Take Exit 222 and merge onto US-250 East towards Waynesboro. Follow US-250 East to Rockfish Gap Entrance and follow signs to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive.

From Charlottesville, VA to Shenandoah National Park Rockfish Gap Entrance

Take I-64 West towards Staunton, Virginia. Take Exit 99 and merge onto US-250 West towards Waynesboro. Follow US-250 West to Rockfish Gap Entrance and follow signs to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive.

From Charlottesville to Swift Run Gap Entrance

Take US-29 North towards Madison, Virginia. Turn right onto VA-230 East towards Stanardsville. Turn left onto US-33 East towards Swift Run Gap Entrance and follow signs to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive.

From Philadelphia to Shenandoah National Park 

Take I-95 South towards Washington, D.C. Take I-495 West towards Northern Virginia. Take Exit 49 and merge onto I-66 West towards Front Royal, Virginia. Follow signs to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive.

From NYC to Shenandoah National Park 

To get from New York to Shenandoah National Park, take I-95 South towards Washington, D.C. Take I-495 West towards Northern Virginia. Take Exit 49 and merge onto I-66 West towards Front Royal, Virginia. Follow signs to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive.


How do you get to Shenandoah National Park without a car?

There are limited options for getting to Shenandoah National Park without a car.  If you don’t have your own vehicle, these are your choices:

  • Tour: There are a couple of day tours from Washington DC.  DC has plenty of connections with trains, buses and planes. 
  • Shuttle Service: There is a shuttle service from nearby towns (which you can get to by bus, train or plane), but this is mostly for drop off/ pick up at trailheads. You could have them drop you off at one of the lodges or campgrounds inside the park and stay in that area.
  • Taxi or Uber: As an alternative to a shuttle, you could take a bus or train to a nearby town and then a taxi or Uber into the park. This is expensive and you’d be limited to one small area of the park.
  • Biking: If you enjoy cycling and don’t mind hills, you can bike to Shenandoah National Park using the Skyline Drive. This is popular among cyclists.

FAQs about Getting to Shenandoah National Park

What is the closest town to Shenandoah National Park?

The closest town to Shenandoah National Park is Front Royal, Virginia. It’s located at the northern entrance of the park and is easily accessible from Interstate 66. 
Other nearby towns include Luray, Virginia, which is located on the eastern side of the park, and Waynesboro, Virginia, which is located at the southern end of the park.

How far is Shenandoah National Park from DC?

It’s about 60 miles from Washington DC to the Front Royal Entrance of Shenandoah National Park and 70 miles to the Thornton Gap Entrance.

Is there a train to Shenandoah National Park?

There is no direct train into the park, but you can take Amtrak’s Cardinal, Crescent or Northeast Regional trains to Charlottesville.  From there, you can pick up a rental car and drive 30 miles to the nearest park entrance.

What airport do you fly into for Shenandoah National Park?

Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport, Shenandoah Valley Airport, Washington Dulles Airport, and Reagan National Airport are all convenient airports for Shenandoah National Park.

Which entrance of Shenandoah National Park is best?

Which entrance you use for Shenandoah National Park depends where you come from.  From points south, the Rockfish Gap is best.  From the north, Front Royal is closest.  To avoid long line at these entrances at peak times, consider using the other two entrances: Swift Run Gap to the south and Thornton Gap to the north.


Travel Insurance for Shenandoah

You should definitely have travel insurance when you travel to Shenandoah.  Good travel insurance will cover you for trip cancellation, theft or damage of your property when traveling, medical help if you have an accident in or while getting to Shenandoah National Park, or medical repatriation if you need to get medi-vaced out.

A great insurance option is Travelex.  It has coverage for all you’ll need. You can choose the best travel insurance plan for your trip here or get a quote right now:

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Enjoy Shenandoah National Park!

Did you decide how to go to Shenandoah National Park?  Join my private Facebook group National Parks Collectors and comment and let me know (you can also pick up extra planning tips, share your photos and stories with other national park lovers and more).

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How To Get to Shenandoah National Park

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About the Author

James Ian Yosemite

James Ian is a national park, camping and hiking expert.

He has dedicated his life to travel, visiting more than 80 countries, all 7 continents and all of the main national parks in the United States. With over 35 years experience in the travel industry, James has worked on cruise ships, at resorts and hotels, and as a travel planner who’s helped hundreds of people plan successful trips to US national parks. 

Based on his experience visiting our national parks multiple times, in-depth research and expertise as a travel planner, James has published detailed itineraries for most of the major national parks in the US. These itineraries, as well as in-depth park guides, comprehensive camping and hiking gear reviews and buying guides, and helpful packing lists and gift guides will help you have your own incredible trip to US national parks without stress and hassle.

As a national park expert, James has contributed to many publications, including Time Business News, Savoteur, Best Trip, and Wired.

Read more…


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