Dog friendly travel tips for your trip to Shenandoah National Park. Most hikes and public areas in the park are dog friendly and there are also great lodging and dining options.
(Top of Hawksbill Mountain)
Just 75 miles southwest of DC lies 200,000 acres of protected land that makes up the beautiful Shenandoah National Park. We took a quick trip this past weekend to do some hiking and leaf peeping and had the best time! We stayed at Big Meadows Lodge which is one of 2 big lodges in the park (there are also lots of camping options and some rustic cabins). We were so impressed by how pet friendly Big Meadows Lodge was! We love traveling, but don’t like leaving Layla behind, especially for trips where we are going hiking – her favorite activity! We hope to make staying at Big Meadows Lodge an annual tradition!
1. Dog Friendly Lodging
Big Meadows Lodge was built in 1939 just a few years after Shenandoah National Park was established. It is owned and run by the National Park Service. The rooms are modest, but the lodge itself had a beautiful, old rustic charm. They have a limited number of pet-friendly rooms available for an additional fee of only $25/night! You can bring up to 2 dogs (or cats) and don’t believe there is a weight limit.
Note: The lodge is not open year round. It opens up in May and closes in early November. You can check the website here for room rates and availability.
2. Dog Friendly Great Room
At Big Meadows Lodge dogs are allowed in their impressive Great Room and out on the Terrace. The Great Room has vaulted wood-beamed ceilings, comfy couches, Adirondack rockers, a warm fire and great views! You are able to order food to-go from the restaurant and eat it in the great room. We did just that for lunch between hikes while Layla cozied up by the fire and met a few other dog friends!
3. Dog Friendly Menu
Ok this is the part that took the dog friendliness at a new level! A dog menu?! Walter and I love any opportunity to spoil Layla (bet you couldn’t tell…) so the idea of getting to order off or a dog menu was almost too much for me! We ordered her the Field and Trout Rice Bowl off of their Yappy Hour menu! The website makes it seem as though you can only order off this menu during dinner time, but it was also available during lunch. For humans, the menu is a little over-priced, but at $5 and under the pet-friendly menu is a steal! Layla’s bowl was packed with fish and pork. We joked that we should have just ordered off the pet menu, it would have been much more cost effective, ha!
All joking aside, from the human perspective, the food was really good too and the large dining room has a nice ambiance with large windows and a fireplace. Downstairs in the main building they also have the New Market Taproom that serves a more casual menu and has a full bar.
(Top of Hawksbill Mountain)
4. Dog Friendly Staff
Layla was treated like a guest from the moment we arrived at Big Meadows Lodge and was so loved by all of the lodge staff. When we first arrived she was offered a treat and lots of pets! We had to wait a bit to check-in so the staff offered her a bandana (I don’t think this is standard), it said “I’m a bark-ranger at Shenandoah National Park”, hehe, so cute! The check-in is attached to the Great Room so we saw many dogs come in and out and they were all loved on by the staff.
(At the falls on Lewis Falls Trail Circuit)
5. Dog Friendly Hikes
Shenandoah is one of the few National Parks that allows dogs on the trails. The park has over 500 miles of hiking trails and there are only 10 trials totaling less than 20 miles where dogs are not allowed. That means you have LOTS of options for hiking with your dog! We did 3 hikes, Lewis Falls Trail Circuit, Mill Prong – Rapidan Camp Trail and the Hawksbill/Salamander/ A.T. Circuit.
Here is a really helpful hiking guide that gives you lots of information about hikes in Shenandoah. For reference, Big Meadows Lodge is located in the Central District.
(Top of Hawksbill Mountain)
Lewis Falls Trail Circuit: A beautiful hike to to view Lewis Falls. You can pick this hike up right near Big Meadows Lodge and loop right around back to the lodge. It is a bit narrow and quite rocky so may not be the best for all dogs depending on age/agility.
Mill Prong – Rapidan Camp Trail: You have to drive to this hike from the lodge, you can pick it up from the Milam Gap Parking Lot. This is an out-and-back hike that takes you to the Rapidan Camp where you can see the recently restored summer retreat of former President Hoover. The trail is pretty wide and not terribly challenging other than the fact that you have to make 3 stream crossings. The first 2 are easy with stones placed as a walking path across, but the third is more challenging. I think the water level was higher than normal given all the rain we had the end of last week, but we had to cross the stream by walking across a large log. If you are into history you will probably enjoy this hike as there was a small museum and a park volunteer at the Rapidan Camp site answering questions.
Hawksbill/Salamander/A.T Circuit: This hike will take you up to the top of Hawksbill Mountain, the highest peak in the park at an elevation of 4,051 feet. The views from the top are breathtaking, especially this time of year when the leaves are changing. The Salamander portion of the hike is the most challenging, it’s narrow, pretty steep and rocky, but the other portions are relatively easy. If you wanted a shorter, easier hike option to the peak for views you can park at the Upper Hawksbill Parking Lot, from there it is a 1-mile gradual uphill hike on a very well cut, wide trail to the summit.
(Lewis Falls Trail)
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