The Blue Ridge Mountains are in some ways a reflection of the hardscrabble people who have always called them home, ranging from early Native American tribes to Scotch-Irish settlers to the mountain men and women who rode out the Civil War, mine conflicts and harsh conditions here. Perhaps there is nowhere better than this region that showcases the struggle between preservation of natural wonders and man’s desire to eke out a living on his own land. Located a mere half-a-day drive or less from urban centers like Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park is one of the most beautiful and has been one of the most controversial national parks from the eminent domain and private property issues that arose when the park was created to the fight to desegregate the park beginning in the 1930s.
This park in Virginia’s Piedmont Region contains parts of the Appalachian Trail, Civil War battlefields and the former homes built by loggers, miners and farmers who attempted to eke out a living in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Running from Swift Run Gap in the South to Front Royal in the north, the park’s iconic Skyline Drive is not only part of the much larger Blue Ridge Parkway but also more than 115 miles of scenic highway between Waynesboro and Front Royal. It is easy to spend days in Shenandoah and still feel like you have barely scraped the surface of what the park has to offer. While some of the controversy about how this national park was created still simmers, it is hard for anyone to disagree that Shenandoah has some of the most beautiful land America has to offer.
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