gem icon Big Meadows

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Big Meadows is the largest developed area in the park. It is located off of Skyline Drive near mile-marker 51. Here, you'll find the Harry F. Byrd Visitor Center with a lodge, store, and camping area. A number of the park's trails can be accessed from Big Meadows, such as Story of the Forest Trail and Dark Hollow Falls Trail. In 1936, Franklin Delano Roosevelt officially dedicated Shenandoah National Park at Big Meadows.

The Big Meadows area has the highest concentration of rare plants in Shenandoah National Park. There are two "Mafic Fens" (types of wetlands) that contain rare plant communities that are thought to be endemic to the park. Here, you can also find eight different state rare plant species. The Meadow is also a great area to spot a number of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.

Officially termed a "fen", the Big Meadows Swamp, between the campground and Skyline Drive, is a wetland that is sustained by groundwater that has high levels of calcium and iron. The nutrient-rich water found in the swamp combined with the surrounding geology, elevation, and environmental conditions creates an environment that enables the extremely rare "Northern Blue Ridge Mafic Fen" plant community. This plant community has the highest concentration of rare plants per unit area within the entire park and is found nowhere else in the world.

Thanks to Larry W. Brown, for sharing this description. If you’re interested in learning more details about great hikes, weather, camping / lodging, wildlife, and scenic drives, check out the comprehensive Guide to Shenandoah National Park.

Short Walk: There are a number of parking areas at Big Meadows. Head out on a wildflower walk or run along one of the many trails that start near the visitor center.

Family Friendly: Right off the road with opportunities to spot deer and other mammals as well as rare plant species.

Gem Type: Family Attraction

Shared by:
Zander Goepfert

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Shared by Zander Goepfert on May 19, 2016. All Page Views: 48. Last Month: 5.