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Shenandoah Wilderness

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A gorgeous shot of the autumn transition in the Old Rag Mountain area on a fairly sunny day.
Library image #2454: Old Rag Mountain


The United States Congress designated the Shenandoah Wilderness (map) in 1976 and it now has a total of 79,579 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Virginia and is managed by the National Park Service.


The 197,000 acres of Shenandoah National Park stretch for 80 miles along the Blue Ridge Mountains, which form the eastern boundary of the Appalachian Range. The valley to the west holds the Shenandoah River and lends its name to the park. Settlement began here in the early 1700s, and early settlers discovered rich soil in the region and outstanding vistas from the Blue Ridge.

The Shenandoah Wilderness demonstrates the recuperative powers of natural processes in eastern deciduous Appalachian forest. All of the wilderness was once cleared and inhabited, farmed, logged and burned. The Park was established in 1936 and natural regeneration to the wilderness conditions which followed encouraged National Park Service officials to recommend and eventually designate 42% of the Park as wilderness. The Park interprets these unique values to the public and protects remaining cultural resources.

Deer, bears, and bobcats are protected in their wilderness habitat. Chipmunks, groundhogs, squirrels, skunks, raccoons, and opossums are frequently seen. Approximately 200 species of birds have been identified in Shenandoah, with ruffed grouse, ravens, juncos, barred owls, and wild turkeys counted among the permanent residents. Timber rattlesnakes and copperheads are occasionally sighted, but they rarely pose a threat to humans.

More than 500 miles of trails provide access to the Park, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail (AT). Approximately 175 miles of trails traverse wilderness.

Planning to Visit the Shenandoah Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Shenandoah Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.

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