This enormous National Forest is the largest in the eastern United States. It’s made up of several parcels of land in northern and northwest Virginia, along with two in West Virginia. Terrain is largely mountainous here, with many rock outcrops, ledges, and some deep gorges.
Highest elevation is 4,472-foot Elliott Knob. Outstanding views are numerous. The Shenandoah Valley south of Shenandoah National Park falls within this National Forest. Designated wilderness areas include the 10,090-acre Saint Mary’s Wilderness, the 9,300-acre Rough Mountain Wilderness, the 6,725-acre Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness, and three smaller areas.
There are countless creeks and waterfalls. Among them is Crabtree Falls, highest in the state, which drops 1,200 feet over multiple cascades. The region is forested with hardwoods, along with pine and hemlock, including some old-growth stands, plus rhododendron and mountain laurel. Wildlife includes white-tailed deer, black bear, bobcat, and wild turkey.
Activities: Hiking and backpacking are possible on over 500 miles of trails, including 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail (see entry page 287). Some trails are open to horseback riding. Canoeing is available on several rivers, and on a few streams in springtime. Fishing is permitted, as is hunting in season.
Camping Regulations: Camping is allowed throughout the National Forest, as are campfires, except near developed areas or where posted otherwise. No permits are required. By Virginia law, campfires are allowed only from 4 p.m. to midnight during the period of March 1 through May 15 each year.
For Further Information: George Washington National Forest, 101 North Main Street, P.O. Box 233, Harrisonburg, VA 22801; (703)433-2491.