There are so many reasons to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains, but the winter season may deter some travelers from exploring this beautiful region. It shouldn’t though because winter can be a great time to travel here: fewer crowds, snow-capped peaks, wildlife, and cheaper costs help make this region a perfect winter oasis. Here are some things to help you prepare for exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains in the winter.
Be aware of winter hours.
During the winter season (which runs from late November-March), it is important to note that the Shenandoah National Park Visitor Center moves to a weekend only schedule. This means they are open to answer questions, help you plan your trip, or help you obtain camping permits Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9:30AM – 4:00PM. (They are open on holiday weekends too.)
Prepare for winter weather.
With the winter season comes wintry weather. And while Shenandoah National Park never closes, sometimes portions of Skyline Drive, the main road, will close if weather conditions are bad. Since conditions can change quickly be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, and emergency supplies. (We recommend stopping by Throx Market Station to pick up some yummy snacks and fuel for the car.) It is important to stay up-to-date on road closures which can be found by visiting this website, calling (540) 999-3500, or checking the park’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates.
Dress in layers.
Even if weather seems mild before entering the park, always be prepared with extra warm clothes in your car. There is about a 10 degree difference between the Valley and the mountains. As you increase altitude into the mountains, the temperature will decrease. If you are hiking, wear layers. There will be times that your body heats up as you are exerting energy during the hike, but as soon as you stop for a moment you will feel the winter chill. Wearing layers will help you easily remove/add clothing as needed to stay comfortable. Wearing a hat will also help regulate your body’s temperature and keep those ears toasty!
Look out for wildlife!
Winter is actually a great time of year to spot wildlife in the Blue Ridge Mountains. You can often see deer, squirrels, or even turkeys out and about looking for food. If there is snow on the ground, look to see if you can spot any animal tracks.
Enjoy the fewer crowds and winter solitude.
Winter hiking brings with it a whole new perspective on the mountains. Snow covers the Valley in a blanket of white, and everything becomes calm and quiet. Enjoy your space without having to fight crowds for those beautiful scenic overlooks, and bring your best camera to capture the moment.
Warm up with a good meal.
After a day of hiking, be sure to treat yourself to a good meal! Stop by Magnolias at the Mill, one of the Shenandoah Valley’s best restaurants, for a drink and a savory meal to replace all those carbs you just burned to stay warm!
I hope these tips help you feel prepared to explore during the winter in Shenandoah. Do you ever go hiking in the winter? We would love to hear about your experience!