With Your Dog:
Shenandoah National Park back country entrance
If you turn left out of the driveway and drive just over a mile to where the road ends, you’ll find a small parking lot. If you park there and follow the gravel road until it ends, you’ll see the trailhead to your right (look for the blue blazes).
You can access several trails from here.
Overall Falls Loop
Walk about a 1/2 mile until you see a path intersecting from the left. If you take a left you can hike the Overall Falls Loop. Be sure to look at a map (there are several at the cabin but you can also find it and download it on your phone through All Trails) to get your bearings. It is an 8-9 mile loop that takes you up nearly to Skyline drive and past the falls and then back down the other side of the gorge before you cross over and walk back up to where you started.
If you don’t take the left but continue down the trail about 1/4 mile, you’ll come to another set of smaller falls and pools (a favorite spot of the locals and back-country campers). The water is VERY cold (it’s coming from springs directly off the mountain) but it’s a beautiful place.
The River Park
The Andy Guest/Shenandoah State River Park is a great place to hike with your dog and is only about 3 miles away! The rangers do a great job maintaining the park and they have good programs too. It is $7/day (cheaper to get a week pass) to go in the main entrance where you can go to the visitor center, stop by the Cullers Overlook to see a great view of the river, have a cook out, mountain bike, put your canoe/kayak in at the launch, and access lots of great trails. They also offer canopy tours (ziplines!).
If you just want to get wet, park near the pavilions at the bottom of the park and you can wade in river there (it’s fairly shallow) but be sure to bring river shoes – it’s a rocky bottom, but the river is clear so you can usually see what you’re stepping on!
If you travel to VA state parks frequently, you may want to consider getting an annual pass to the River park. The rangers do such a great job with the trails, it’s the only place in the area I feel safe to hike in shorts and not worry about poison ivy. The pass is good not just for the River park, but also for the State Arboretum just north of Front Royal.
You can also access the river park for free at the public boat launch on Indian Hollow Road, across the bridge, just past Down River Canoe, which is only a few miles from the cabin.
After you park at the boat launch, walk back across the bridge and up Down River’s driveway and you’ll see the entrance. My favorite hike is the Red Tail Ridge hike. As you enter, go straight until you come to a trail that leads up hill to the Shale Barrens, follow signs to Red Tail Ridge. There are a few great look outs with benches up there. It’s a nice spot to read or journal.
The Down River Canoe entrance is also a great way to get into the park to mountain bike. There is a nice loop trail that is flat that follows the bottom of the ridge and comes back along the river, but the trails up on the ridge are also fun and once you’re up there, fairly easy.
If you bring your own tubes and have an extra car for shuttling, you can put in at the boat launch and enjoy a 3-4 hour (depends on the river and time of year) float to the Canoe Launch in the park. If you bring along adult beverages, keep them in coozies (there are two in the top corner shelf in the kitchen). They are legal ON the river, but not OFF the river in the park. You can also just take your tubes to the canoe launch and wade in and tie up to one of the rocks on the bottom and enjoy a peaceful float in place!
Allen’s Mountain Trail (State River Park)
This is nice loop trail – no views, just a long gorgeous hike in the woods. There is very little traffic on the trail and if you find you need to cut it short, you can always take the Jump Trail that cuts off the larger part of the trail. It’s a great place to build carnes or leave dogness stones (or find the ones I leave!). It’s one of my favorites for a nice quiet walk in the woods—the trail is wide so no real danger of poison ivy. A few short up hills and slightly rocky in places (mostly round riverstones), and you can sometimes also watch a few of the stations on the zipline tours. Access the trail by parking at the pavilion where the zipline tours meet. (drive to the end of the main road into the park and turn right and take first right)
This is a completely flat trail that is close to the river, campgrounds and yurts, so relatively heavily traveled. The final loop is a boardwalk through some swampy areas. This is the easiest trail in the park, good one for kids or elderly or non-hikers. Access this trail by parking near the pavilion where the zipline tours meet (drive to the end of the main road into the park and turn right and take first right)
This easy, flat short trail is beautiful, handicap accessible, a great place for kids to ride their bikes, and has lots of murals and other features. We love to take our dogs for a walk along the greenway and jump off it to go into town to the Hawksbill Brewery for a beer (dogs welcome).
Hikes in Massanutten Mountains
There are LOTS of hikes in the Massanutten Mountains and the George Washington National Forest. These trails are usually less busy than the ones you access via skyline drive or Shenandoah National park (other than our back country entrance). Look them up using an app like All Trails or the Hiking Project. We love hiking up to Kennedy Peak – it’s a fairly easy out and back from the trailhead parking (just under 5 miles) and the view is incredible. The Woodstock Tower is another great view and an even shorter hike (less than a mile each way) or you can park nearly at the tower and walk up.
Warren County Dog Park is on this side of Front Royal It is an ENORMOUS dog park. When I say enormous, I mean it. I’ve never seen a bigger one. It’s rarely busy and a great place to take your chuck-it stick or lacrosse stick and really throw the ball for your dog. There are two fenced areas one is big and one is MASSIVE.
Fairview Dog Park in Woodstock, is a bit further of a drive but is worth it. Woodstock is adorable and there are some great hikes to do on your way there (Kennedy Peak is my favorite). The dog park has large and small dog areas and has some agility equipment. It’s generally busier than the Front Royal park.
Taking your Dog Out for a Bite or a Brew in Front Royal
The Pav-Mint is a reimagined ex-gas station with excellent food – mostly BBQ oriented (but I’m a vegetarian and can always find something yummy there). They have a lovely outside seating area beside the creek, a GREAT beer menu, and are very dog friendly. They’ll usually bring your dog its own bowl of water.
The Beer Museum in Front Royal is a fun place with a small, quirky museum and a bar. They only serve beer – but almost exclusively VA beer and some great ones. They have regular entertainment out back with lots of picnic tables. Grab a beer (or a flight), bring your picnic and your dog.
Front Royal Brewing has outdoor seating where your dog is welcome to join you. Their beers are gettting better all the time, but they do have a delicious bar menu.
Naked Mountain Winery is a fun winery to visit and your dog is welcome in the tasting room and everywhere on the grounds (must be well-behaved and leashed). The winery is located on the northeast side of Front Royal. Despite the fun they have with their name and their merchandise, the wine is excellent. It’s a great place for a picnic on their hillside looking over the vines, up on the deck, or in their gorgeous tasting room.
North Mountain Vineyard is another dog-friendly winery (not sure the dogs can go inside, but they have plentiful outside space) with beautiful picnic spots. If you like red, be sure to try the Petit-Verdot – our favorite.
Three Fox Vineyard is a fun, fun place and even awards a pet of the month who is featured in their tasting room and wins some great stuff. You can enter your pup while you’re there. In my humble opinion their wines are still evolving but for just plain fun, they are the place – cornhole, picnicking amongst the vines, hammocks by the stream, outdoor tasting bar.
Without your dog
Glen Manor Vineyards is one of the nicest wineries with some of the best wines in VA and it also happens to be the closest to the cabin. It’s over in Browntown along Gooney Creek and has a fantastic view of the mountains, about ten minutes away (a very windy but gorgeous drive). Be sure to check their Facebook page or website to see what their hours are and whether they are having any special events. Their tasting room is pretty small, but it’s a great place to take a picnic and sit on the plentiful outdoor seating. (dogs are allowed at Glen Manor, but not inside the tasting room.)
Luray Caverns is a national landmark and is VERY busy (and very pricey). You will need to purchase tickets in advance. Luray is about fifteen minutes away. If you want to experience caverns on a smaller scale at a less crowded venue with a slightly lower price, you can check out Shenandoah Caverns, just this side of Front Royal on 340.
The town of Luray is intentionally becoming an artist destination. There are several theaters, plus the enormous Warehouse Art Gallery (that has events and classes). It’s free to check out the art (most of which is for sale). Along the main street there are several little thrift shops, an ice cream parlor, two bakeries, a hiking store, a tea shop, and a few others. Just past the visitors center is Hawksbill Trading Company which is a fun place to poke around in. It’s made up of individual booths that have antiques, upcycled crafts, handmade items, pottery, and even home baked treats. If you keep driving past, Hawksbill Trading Company, you find Willow Grove Farm Market on 340, It’s a tiny little gourmet grocery store on your left (with severely limited parking) that has great treasures if you’re a foodie – grass fed meats/cheeses, local and organic veggies, interesting dips/salsas/tapenades/ingredients, fresh local breads, seafood (delivered on Thursdays), healthish snack food, and ever-changing surprises.
Main street in Front Royal is filled with great little shops and galleries worth visiting, plus a few excellent restaurants, a locally owned ice cream store (where they make their own inventive flavors and like to good-naturedly harass the customers), a wonderful hiking store, the Beer Museum, and Front Royal Brewing. During the spring/summer/fall there are sometimes festivals and live music, so be sure to check the visitor’s center for updated information (located next to the park).