SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK, Va. (WVIR) - Weekends at Shenandoah National Park mean packed parking lots and crowded trails. Park officials say they’re trying to navigate the spike in visitors, as they expect October to be the busiest month of the year.
“We typically get, this is hard to believe, but we typically get 25%, that’s one fourth of our entire visitation, in the month of October," said Clair Comer, an official at the park.
Weekend after weekend, the park has been slam-packed, with campsites and parking areas filling quickly. Since the beginning of 2020, nearly one million visitors have made their way around the park, spending a collective total of nearly four million hours there. Comer says the park is bracing for those numbers to jump next month, especially since camping sites are already booked for every weekend in October.
“If we’re already ahead, and we have the same sort of popularity that we have in October, it could get really crazy," Comer said.
Even though the spike in visitors is a good thing for the park, it also causes some concern, especially since hikers are not able to social distance when passing each other on narrow trails.
“You don’t come to the park to stand in line at the shoot to get through or to, you know, be worried about being too close to people on the trail," Comer said.
Safety has also become an issue, especially with new visitors.
“We have had several tragic accidents, people who have fallen from our waterfalls, and that’s just something that all, all of the park rangers are worried about," Comer explained.
Comer said it’s important for everyone to have a hiking or camping plan, stay on trails and pack for cooler weather. Park officials are urging people to use the southern part of the park that is not as busy, and to get their pass online.
If a campsite or trail is full, Comer said there are many to choose from, and that it shouldn’t discourage people from visiting.