Information in this article is accurate as of April 11.
An hour a day of exercise can be healthy to keep the mind and the body from going crazy in these times of self isolation. I was feeling really stir crazy so my parents and I hopped into the car on April 5 and headed towards the mountains for Shenandoah National Park.
I was leary at first about going because I had heard that a lot of people had flocked to the National Parks for comfort and I didn’t want to be breaking social distancing just for some air. The drive alone helped with feeling stir crazy, though. I would recommend just driving slowly with the windows down just to get out and about.
Most places, except for gas stations and grocery stores were closed. Because of this I would suggest packing a cooler picnic lunch with plenty of water and snacks. I would also suggest not driving far for a National Park and make it only a day trip, for no hotels are open. Campgrounds aren’t open either, so unless you wish to sleep in your car in the parking lot, make sure you can get back home to your bed at the end of the day.
When we hit Shenandoah’s South Entrance we found that the National Parks were free to go into, but most of the park was closed with only the parking lots being able to drive into. Parks are open and closed status is decided on a park to park basis, Yellowstone being one of the parks that are closed, so double check on the National Park website if the parks near you are open before going. The service station and bathrooms were all closed, but there were porta potties open for use so I didn’t have to pee in a bush.
There were plenty of people milling around and the parking lot was half way full. Even though the gates to the hiking trails were closed to drive through, there were plenty of people walking around the gate and down the road to find trails or just go to the viewing points on foot.
We left Shenandoah and drove nine miles down the road towards Luray Caverns and a state park that has a Bluebell Trail. This trail wasn’t well marked, but it was a beautiful walk with Bluebells taking over the forest and river side. There were so many people in the parking lot and the trail isn’t large enough to really keep six feet apart unless you step off the trail slightly as I did. At this trail, and it’s safe to assume most National Parks and State Parks, you’ll end up meeting the same amount of people as if you went to your local Walmart to shop for groceries.
Don’t stray too far on your own, even though it may feel like you have open reign in these parks with the gates being closed and the roads being open to walk on, for park rangers aren’t there to help you get out of trouble, and less people will be around to find you if you get stuck or lost. Still try and stay on the trails.
Keep within your comfort zone when it comes to trails, especially when hiking solo, and keep in mind that cell service isn’t always the best in the bigger parks. But get out, even if you’re just staying in your car for a drive, and find some roads you’ve never driven before.