Shenandoah National Park: walking trails and searching for bears

While most of our visit to Shenandoah National Park was a scenic drive, we took the time to get out of the car as well and explore a little bit by short walks.  After all the 169km split in 2 days gave us ample time to do this.

As stated before, a lot of the hiking are longer trails or trails with a lot of height differences and often not looped. But we found some: 

Frazier discovery trail 
It starts across from the Wayside gift shop and loops for about 2-3 kms.  At the top of your climb you join for a short moment the famous Appalachian trail and you get 2 rewarding viewpoints. Since it's a lot of climbing/descending on a narrow forrest trail, it took us more than an hour. The difference in height, the forest and our changing position on either side of the ridge, ensured we felt noticed differences in temperature and cloud positions, so be prepared for different types of weather. 

On all our stops we searched for one of the 500-800 black bears that live in the park, but we spotted none.  The approaching storms might have kept them in hiding.  We missed 4 of them just by a few minutes though, so we are told by other tourists at one of the pull-out stops.  Our disappointment was big.

On day 2 we were very quickly lucky somewhere between South river and Lewis Mountain. While we gathered with a few cars on top of a pull-out overview, we had a good view on a black bear roaming casually around down below from us at the edge of the forest. Yeay! 

At the Byrd Visitor Center, we participated in a ranger talk about the park's black bear population. Right after that, we wanted to make another walk along the "Story of the Forest Trail".  At the entrance of the trail, some returning tourists warned us about the presence of bears on the trail.  We assumed that the passing of those tourists would have scared the bears away.  We continued vigilantly with the children closely gripped at our hands while scanning the forest around us tightly.  Right away we saw a running deer and only 200m into the trail...we spotted 3 bears ahead another 50m ahead of us.  We stopped, grabbed the children, made noise, took some pictures...and the bears didn't move. So we turned around, cancelled our intended hike and walked back the full 200m to the visitor center parking lot.  Instead we walked a little on the big meadow fields across from the visitor center that give a rare wide open grassy space in this park, where more deer could be spotted. It was the coolest canceled walk I've ever done though :-)


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