National Geographic Traveler features editor Amy Alipio (on Twitter @amytravels and on Instagram @amyalipio) recently returned from a family day trip at Shenandoah National Park, one of the crown jewels of America’s East Coast.
Here are some of the high points of her trip, in her own words:
Biggest selling point: We were hoping to catch the last of the fall color in Shenandoah National Park. But I realized as I made yet another stop at an irresistible overlook along Skyline Drive that even if all the leafy trees stood bare, the vistas of the Shenandoah Valley would make any trip to this park in any season worthwhile.
Memorable moment: My three kids (ages eight, five, and two) and I hiked the Limberlost Trail (at mile 43), geared especially to young children. At the start of the 1.3-mile loop, we picked up an illustrated activity guide. Despite the chilly temperatures that day, my suburban kids sniffed tree trunks, hunted for hemlock cones, spotted a deer—and didn’t complain once about the cold.
Standout culinary experience: The signature dessert at Skyland Resort (at mile 42) is the blackberry ice cream pie. Even though the graham-crust slice was huge, I had to be convinced to share it with my kids.
Best place ever: Stony Man (at mile 40), wearing a frosty beard the day we visited, was my family’s favorite spot to stop along Skyline Drive. It’s also the park’s second highest mountain, affording some of the best views.
Practical tip: Pair a trip to Shenandoah National Park with a visit to Luray Caverns, about a 15-minute drive from the Thornton Gap exit on Skyline Drive. Its geological highlights include the working Great Stalacpipe Organ and the impressive drapery formation called Saracen’s Tent.