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Come for the Leaves. Stay for the Stars. Nature’s Beauty Day and Night in Front Royal, Va.

fall foliage front royal

Every fall sees large numbers of visitors heading to the Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive area in pursuit of the breathtaking fall foliage vistas. But if you’re seeking nature’s glory this year, make sure you catch the whole show! Mother Nature isn’t done after a day of stunning leaf changing displays in the splendor of fall. There’s an equally glorious display about to come: 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 fall so you can enjoy the night sky the way it should be seen.

Photo by Scott Turnmeyer

Come for the Leaves: Where to Leaf-Peep Around Front Royal

Skyline Drive and its home, the Shenandoah National Park are incredible leaf-peeping destinations. It’s not surprising that the park is something of a national treasure in the fall. And the northern entrance station to the park is conveniently located right in the town of Front Royal. See here for a handy list of leaf-peeping spots near the Front Royal entrance station.

Shenandoah Valley fall foliage
Shenandoah Valley

George Washington National Forest is another great option for fall outdoor adventure in the Front Royal area. The National Forest is full of hiking and biking trails, and boasts great locations for camping and fishing. If you’re looking for scenic views in the George Washington National Forest, check out the Buzzard Rock hike. You’ll follow a wooded trail before emerging on the exposed rocks at the top of the mountain. From this vantage point, enjoy stunning views of the surrounding countryside. There’s a good chance you’ll even see some buzzards soaring through the skies.

Photo by Roxanne Bauserman

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

Why leave when there is more to see? For those in search of the thrill of gazing at a starlit sky, there are two parks in the Front Royal area that offer particularly outstanding displays.

The first is Shenandoah National Park. To maximize your night sky viewing in the 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.

Schlett Road, Shenandoah National Park
Schlett Road, 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 Dinner in Front Royal

If you’ve spent the day out leaf peeping and are planning a night of star gazing, you’ll want to fit dinner somewhere in between! Another great reason to make the Front Royal area your fall 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, Main Street, Front Royal, VA
Gazebo, Main Street, Front Royal, VA

There are few sights as captivating as a night sky filled with stars, or as stunning as the Blue Ridge mountains lit up with the colors of fall. Plan to enjoy both in Front Royal this year. A combination leaf-peeping star-gazing trip will leave you filled with awe at nature’s wonders.

All photos courtesy of Front Royal

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