Though located in one of the most urban areas of the country, Shenandoah National Park has an impressive amount of officially designated wilderness. And on September 14 and 15 the park will be celebrating that wilderness with its 13th annual Wilderness Weekend.
This year commemorates the 37th anniversary of Shenandoah’s wilderness designation. You can celebrate that anniversary by viewing Shenandoah’s wilderness from Skyline Drive, hiking a wilderness trail, joining a ranger program, completing the Wilderness Explorer Ranger Activity Guide, or exploring a visitor center exhibit.
Wilderness Weekend is a partnership event between Shenandoah National Park, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), and the Shenandoah National Park Association (SNPA).
Special events will take place throughout the weekend. At the Byrd Visitor Center, milepost 51 on Skyline Drive, there will be a traditional tool display and demonstration from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Shenandoah National Park Trail Crew and PATC volunteers will share their expertise in the traditional tools used to maintain trails in wilderness. Visitors will also be able to try their hands at using these tools and gain insight on the important role trail maintenance plays in protecting wilderness for future generations. Rangers and volunteers will be on site to help explore the history and significance of Shenandoah’s wilderness.
There will also be a 30-minute ranger program held at 11 a.m. each day at the Byrd Visitor Center. This program will explore the history and values of Shenandoah’s wilderness.
A third event, a four-mile ranger-led hike to Rose River, will meet at the Fisher’s Gap Overlook, milepost 49.3, at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning. This hike will explore the unique beauty and benefits of Shenandoah’s wilderness trails.
A film narrated by Christopher Reeve, American Values: American Wilderness, will be shown at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the Byrd Visitor Center auditorium. Junior Rangers of all ages are invited to explore wilderness using the Wilderness Explorer Ranger Activity Guide, “The Wild Side of Shenandoah.” This activity guide, part of an advanced Junior Ranger series, leads visitors through a series of activities that explore the meaning and significance of Shenandoah’s wilderness. One activity puts the participant in the role of a wilderness ranger to decide how to protect wilderness while keeping trails open and safe for hikers. Activity guides are available for free at Byrd Visitor Center (milepost 51) and Dickey Ridge Visitor Center (milepost 4.6).
Visitors are encouraged to stop by park visitor centers for more opportunities to learn about Shenandoah’s wilderness through exhibits. The highly interactive exhibit at Byrd Visitor Center, “Within a Day’s Drive of Millions,” tells the story of Shenandoah’s establishment including the significance of wilderness designation.
At the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center, visitors can explore the history and meaning of wilderness through a computer touch screen exhibit, “The Spirit of Wilderness.”
Shenandoah’s wilderness was designated by Congress in October 1976. Forty percent of the park, almost 80,000 acres, is wilderness and represents one of the largest wilderness areas in the eastern United States.
Areas preserved as wilderness provide sanctuaries for human recreation, habitat for wildlife, sites for research, and reservoirs for clean, free-flowing water. Wilderness areas have been designated on public land across the United States. Today, more than 109 million acres of public land are protected in the National Wilderness Preservation System.
For more information on Wilderness Weekend, contact Shenandoah National Park at 540-999-3500. For more information about Shenandoah National Park and wilderness, visit the park’s website.