From cascading waterfalls and abundant wildlife to one of America’s most scenic mountain roads and Big Meadows, Shenandoah National Park in central Virginia has more than its fair share of attractions. And one of the absolute best things to do is catching a Shenandoah National Park sunrise.
There are a couple of ways how you can manage to actually see that Shenandoah National Park sunrise, as it will involve getting up pretty early. First, you can opt to stay at one of the campgrounds or lodges within the park (probably the best choice). This will also give you a much better chance to spot wildlife such as deer and black bears. Second, you can stay in Charlottesville or another historic town nearby (adding a decent chunk of culture and history to your vacation).
A Glorious Shenandoah National Park Sunrise
Once you get to the park, catching a sunrise is a piece of cake. This is thanks to Skyline Drive, one of the greatest, most beautiful and most popular roads in the United States. This 105-mile road runs along the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park and includes an incredible 75+ lookout points.
For a sunrise, you obviously need to find one that faces east. I suggest that, if you’re coming from outside the park, you enter at the Thornton Gap Entrance Station. This early in the morning you won’t have to pay an entrance fee as the booths aren’t open yet. Turn south on Skyline Drive and you will find a number of spectacular overlooks on your left-hand side, most notably the Hazel, Buck Hollow and Pinnacles overlooks.
I recommend spending significant time—an hour or so—at one of those overlooks. Take in the Shenandoah National Park sunrise as the sun slowly rises above the horizon, painting the rolling landscape and mountains in glorious hues of yellow and orange.
Additionally, make sure to also go take a look at some of the overlooks facing west. These viewpoints offer tremendous views down on the Shenandoah Valley. If you’re lucky, there will be clouds trapped between the mountain ranges below, only their ridges rising above them. During golden hour, these views are quite phenomenal as well.
After enjoying a memorable Shenandoah National Park sunrise, you have plenty of options to fill the rest of your day. You can go for a hike to a mountain summit or down to one of the many waterfalls in the park. You can go picnicking at Big Meadows or you can simply drive along Skyline Drive. Always keep your eyes peeled for black bears (which you will almost certainly spot).