Activities For Dogs In Shenandoah National Park

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Introduction

In general, National Parks can be a bit restricting when it comes to dogs. Many only allow dogs on certain trails, if any, restrict them from backcountry exploring, certain campgrounds and more. Fortunately, there are others that are still dog-friendly, including Shenandoah National Park. While a few no-go zones still remain, including some of the park's hiking trails, to put it into perspective, fewer than 20 of the park's total of over 500 miles of trails are limited access, which leaves more than enough room for you and your dog to traverse. With over 300 square miles of beautiful forests, rolling hills, mountains, rivers and streams, Shenandoah National Park is easily one of the best places you and your canine companion can enjoy some adventure.

Skyline Drive

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Any Day
Cheap
Easy
2 - 3 hrs
Items needed
Vehicle
Leash
Dog Bags
Activity description
For anyone who is already tired from other activities, has limited mobility, has a dog with limited mobility, or just wants to go for a drive for that matter, consider taking a trip down Skyline Drive. The 105-mile drive can be taken several directions and entered or exited at a few select roads throughout the park. It offers one of the most picturesque drives in the region and covers the great length of the park. It's perfect for inclement weather, so it can be done year-round (and is open year-round, 24 hours a day for that matter) and only costs as much as the entrance fee, which is usually around $30 (or you can get an annual pass for little more or choose to go on a fee-waived day).
Step
1
Making plans
Skyline Drive will always be available as long as the weather is safe enough to drive in, but that doesn't mean it has to be a standalone activity. Of course, for those who want to make it as such, it's still quite an experience. However, given that we're tasked with compiling a list of dog-friendly activities in the park, we suggest incorporating it into your visit overall, instead of as a singular event. If you do plan to make it the latter, consider visiting in fall when the trees have changed to vibrant colors (or better yet, in fall during the magic hour). Otherwise, figure out a way to make your drive coincide with other plans you have inside the park, such as hiking, camping, or fishing.
Step
2
Map it out
Once you've figured out whether Skyline Drive will be a singular event or a part of your overall schedule, you can start mapping your activities out. If it's a one-time thing, our work is done. Choose an entrance point and a direction and go enjoy! For the rest of you, start by getting a map of the park and deciding what kind of activities you want to partake in, whether that's fishing, hiking, camping or even EarthCaching - the website is a great place to start. Once you've found some places you'd like to explore, orient your adventures in one direction, such as starting on a southern trail, hiking a trail with your dog, coming back to the car, then hopping in and working your way north. With the right planning, you can align your activities in a way to never have to backtrack and see the same things twice on the Drive.
Step
3
Timing and execution
While you can certainly take Skyline Drive any time of day, do yourself a favor and time it out in accordance with your other planned activities. For instance, try hiking earlier in the day if it's hot so you can drive with the windows down or A/C on during the hot stretches and still enjoy the view. If it's cold, the opposite would apply. If it's going to rain, save your hiking for dry time and driving for the precipitous parts. If you want to catch the sunset from a mountaintop, use an elevation map or talk to a park ranger for the best lookout points, then time your arrival so you and your adventurous pup can enjoy it with time to spare. The best part about Skyline Drive is that it can seamlessly work into your other park-related activities or just be a great fallback option. Figure out what suits you and your canine travelling partner best and enjoy!
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EarthCaching

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Sunny Day
Cheap
Easy
1 - 3 hrs
Items needed
GPS (or GPS-enabled smartphone)
Camera
Dog Bags
Leash
Activity description
Sure, hiking has purpose in itself. It's great exercise, it gets you and your dog outdoors as well as getting you both in better touch with nature. But sometimes, people may want to have a reason to explore one place over another, which is where EarthCaching comes in. Like Geocaching, EarthCaching provides participants with specific locations to travel to as well as payoffs for discovering them. But unlike Geocaching, there's no physical reward, just the experience of knowing you found a really unique spot that others appreciated as well, which leaves the park all the more natural. The activity itself costs nothing other than park entrance fees, is easy to do, rewarding, and like a hike, can be done anywhere and anytime within the rules of the park.
Step
1
Getting started
There are several ways to go about EarthCaching, but the most rewarding is being able to track your progress. Start by signing up for an EarthCaching account online. It will not only help you keep track of your work, but locate and detail each assignment or activity and even provides feedback from others on each cache. This will also help you choose which caches are most appropriate for your athleticism and your dog's skill level and even tell you the distance, terrain and plenty of other details.
Step
2
Pick your path
Once you've signed up for an account, you can search for Shenandoah National Park specifically. It's divided into three sections, so depending on your current or desired location, you can easily identify what's closest. Use this to your advantage! If you want to do more of them, choose those that are shorter, easier and in close proximity. For a bit more adventure, choose longer and tougher trips.
Step
3
Cache in
Once you've paid your park fees and gotten inside the park, head to the launch point for your first cache. Make sure you have the right supplies for the trip, then hit the paths! Follow the instructions for each cache and don't forget to snap photos to prove you found them. Once you're done (or even during the process), you can upload your pictures of you and your canine trekking partner as well as your information and fill out your adventure/cache log with tons of cool spots, photos, and experiences!
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Go Fish!

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Rainy Day
Moderate
Normal
1 - 4 hrs
Items needed
Rod
Reel
Approved Lures
Dog Bags
Leash
Towels
Activity description
If you're looking to go beyond the trails to see wildlife (let alone catch it), consider fishing in Shenandoah. While there is a pretty hefty list of regulations, most are in place to help preserve the park's natural environment and won't impede your enjoyment or ability (if you're good, that is). While we've listed it as a rainy day activity, as rain makes fish more active and give the fisherman the upper hand, fishing can be done year-round with the right gear for both you and your dog. Plus, if you don't know how you can learn, you can hike from spot to spot, which will get you both some exercise and new sights, and it's a great and more unique way to see more of the park since most people stick to the trails.
Step
1
To learn or teach
Before you hit the waters, you'll first want to do a bit of planning. Your first consideration should be to decide whether you plan to go alone or hire a guide. There are several licensed guides in the area that are allowed to use the National Park commercially, so if you want to find the best spots or learn some new techniques, this is the best way to go. If you're a tenured fisherman, you may just want some peace, quiet and time with your dog. If it's the priority, look into what companies are local, place a call and get some info. If it's the latter, you'll want to get a detailed map of the area you plan to fish in, many of which you can find online, others of which you can obtain in person (plus you'll be able to ask a ranger where good spots are).
Step
2
Regulate
Once you've got a plan for whether you're going guided or guideless and a general idea of where to go, consider highlighting a few individual points on the map within hiking distance of each other. This will ensure that if you're hitting a dry spot with fish, you'll have plenty more to check out, plus more locations to hike to and get the pair of you some exercise. Once you've done so, you'll want to fully read through the park's fishing regulations, as certain areas are open for harvest while others are simply catch-and-release (this may also determine where you choose to go). There will also be regulations on where your dog is and isn't allowed to go, so make sure you have a clear path to your spot so you can both get exercise and entertainment on the way.
Step
3
Fish on!
Once you've done your research, mapped your trip and gone over the regulations, you'll just need to procure any last minute supplies (including appropriate lures if you don't have them already) and hit the road. Once you arrive, make sure you don't neglect your dog, as it's supposed to be adventure time for them too! Engage them with hikes, work on getting them to sit and stay while you try to hook one, let them explore the extent of the park's dog-friendly areas and let them examine your catch (as long as they won't try to steal it!).
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More Fun Ideas...

Photo Tour

If your dog is well-trained, chances are you will still be able to catch a glimpse of some wildlife. Make a checklist of local animals and see how many you can catch on film! If nothing else, you can just find cool and beautiful spots to snap a memorable photo with your canine companion.

Hike It

Don't want to get too fancy and GeoCache? Just go for a hike! The park has over 450 miles of dog-friendly trails perfect for hiking, bike rides and general exploring.

Stay Overnight!

If you can't fit in everything you want to, consider staying overnight. There are several pet-friendly lodges and cabins nearby and plenty of dog-friendly campsites in the park.

Conclusion

When it comes to dog-friendly National Parks, Shenandoah is near the top of the list. With absolutely gorgeous (and seasonally dynamic) backdrops filled with mountains, rolling hills, flora and fauna around every corner, there will be no shortage of things to see whether you choose to take it all in by wheel, heel or paw.