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Come for the Adventure. Stay for the Stars. Wander in Wonder Day and Night in Front Royal, Va.

Another glorious fall is slowly drawing to a close in the Shenandoah Valley. But as the blaze of fall begins to disappear from the mountainsides, there’s still adventure to be had, and beauty to be beheld! The Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive area is a great choice for a winter adventure. And don’t forget to stick around for the whole show! After a day of adventure in the quiet hush of winter’s beauty there’s still more to come. Plan to stay and take in the star-filled night sky above Front Royal, VA. Today, light pollution has made stargazing difficult for those living in highly populated, metro areas. That’s yet another reason to escape to the Front Royal area this winter so you can enjoy the night sky the way it should be seen.

Photo by Scott Turnmeyer

Come for the Adventure: Winter Adventures Around Front Royal

Adventuring in the great outdoors might be something we first associate with warmer weather. But winter is a fantastic time to plan a trip to the countryside! Crowds have dispersed, and there’s a peace and stillness that comes to the land with the cold weather. Plus with leaves off the trees, you can enjoy views you might never see in the warmer months. A winter visit to the town of Front Royal will put you right at the starting point of countless adventures. Skyline Drive and its home, the Shenandoah National Park is convenient and breathtaking. Or check out the George Washington National Forest and Shenandoah River State Park for even more fantastic local options.

Shenandoah National Park North Entrance Signage
Shenandoah National Park North Entrance Signage

Hiking is a natural choice for a winter adventure; so long as trails are clear of snow and ice, it’s a straightforward and fulfilling activity that will leave you energized and refreshed. See here for some helpful hints on planning a winter hike in the Front Royal area. When there’s no snow on the ground, mountain biking is another great option, and there are plenty of great trail options in the Front Royal area. Biking is not permitted on unpaved trails in Shenandoah National Park, but road bikers will love a ride along Skyline Drive itself. Just be prepared for a steep climb into the park (or keep your bike on your car until you get up that first hill!).

After a heavy snowfall it’s time for the winter sports to take a turn. Even a beginner with very little experience can get out there with a pair of snow shoes and enjoy the winter wonderland a whole new way! Bolder adventurers will love giving cross-country skiing a try! Shenandoah National Park is a great location for both activities.  

Winter in Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park

Stay for the Stars: Stargazing Spots in the Front Royal Area

Whether you are relaxing après adventure around a campfire or dining on Main Street Front Royal, you need to stick around to see these stars. With the lowest light pollution in all of Virginia according to darksitefinder.com, Front Royal and Shenandoah National Park boasts some of the best night sky views around.

group around campfire

To maximize your night sky viewing in Shenandoah National Park head to one of the top stargazing areas. The Big Meadows area is a sought-after stargazing spot, and the location of Shenandoah National Park’s formal astronomy program. The Skyland Amphitheater is another favorite stargazing spot in the park. Making arrangements for a campsite, cabin, or hotel room in Shenandoah National Park is a great way to enjoy some stargazing without having to make a long trip home at night.

For more tips, see this guide to stargazing in Shenandoah National Park.

On the other side of Front Royal, another great option is Sky Meadows State Park. Sky Meadows offers such great night sky views, that it’s recently become an officially designated Dark Sky Park. The park typically closes at dusk, but check their schedule of events for the popular Astronomy for Everyone program. For these family friendly events, the park stays open after dark, and you can enjoy a guided stargazing experience. Or if you want a real stargazing adventure, plan on using their primitive hike-in tent camping site and spending a memorable night under the stars.

dark sky
Photo by Scott Turnmeyer

Grabbing a Cozy Dinner in Front Royal

One of the best parts of an outdoor adventure in winter is getting to warm up somewhere cozy afterwards! If you’ve spent a day adventuring, and are planning a night of star gazing, you’ll want to warm up in between with a delicious dinner! Another great reason to make the Front Royal area your winter adventure destination is the number of conveniently located gourmet eateries available. Head back to town around dinner time, and you can take your pick from craft breweries such as Vibrissa Beer and Pavemint Taphouse, fine dining at Element on Main, or legendary pizza at Melting Pot. There’s plenty more to choose from too. You can make eating part of your adventure in Front Royal! See here for a more complete list of Front Royal’s restaurants.

gazebo with holiday decorations
Gazebo, Main Street, Front Royal, VA

There are few sights as captivating as a night sky filled with stars, or as peaceful as the stillness of a winter landscape. Plan to enjoy both in Front Royal this year. A combination adventure star-gazing trip will leave you filled with awe at all of nature’s wonders.

All photos courtesy of Front Royal

Places to Go, Things to See: