Your northern gateway to the Shenandoah Valley and Shenandoah National Park!
Front Royal, Va.
Your northern gateway to the Shenandoah Valley and Shenandoah National Park!
Enjoy all that the crown jewel of outdoor recreation and the Canoe Capital of Virginia has to offer. Located a stone’s throw from our Nation’s capital but miles from the hustle and bustle, Front Royal is a town where you can settle in and be a local. Designated “Best Mid-Sized Outdoor Town” by the readers of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine in 2016, the whole family is sure to enjoy a fun-filled visit!
Front Royal was once known as the breadbasket of the Confederacy. Now, the Shenandoah Valley presents a visually stunning landscape dotted with Civil War battlefields and historical landmarks. The origins of Front Royal’s unusual name are unknown. The town once served as “le front royal” or “royal frontier” between French and British territories. However, local legend favors a more colorful origin for the town’s unusual name. Supposedly, a giant oak, the royal tree of England, stood in the public square. Exasperated by the inability of militia recruits to follow even the simplest command, a drill sergeant once bellowed, “Front the Royal Oak!” This command allegedly evolved into “Front Royal,” and the name stuck.
- Pop into the Front Royal/Warren County Visitor Center where you’ll find a welcoming staff and broad array of resources to help you make the most of your time in Front Royal. Ask for lists of overnight accommodations, outfitters, shuttlers, and guides who can answer all your questions!
- Explore the historical riches of Chester Street: the Warren Rifles Confederate Museum, Warren Heritage Society, Ivy Lodge Museum, Laura Virginia Hale Archives and Belle Boyd Cottage, home of the 19-year-old Confederate spy who played a key role in the Battle of Front Royal. Continue on to Main Street where the Visitors Center offers a self-guided walking tour through the historic district and a self-guided Battle of Front Royal driving tour.
- Take a hike on some of the hundreds of miles of hiking trails threading their way across Warren County. Shenandoah National Park, the Tuscarora Trail, and the Appalachian Trail offer loops for hikers and backpackers of all levels. Families can stay overnight or enjoy picnicking and day hikes along the Shenandoah River at Shenandoah River State Park, just a few miles south of town on US 340. In addition, the Massanutten Range, just west of town, has been designated a “top secret hiking getaway” by Backpacker Magazine.
- Adventure into Skyline Caverns to tour of one of the area’s unique “karst” – limestone – cave systems, featuring the world’s largest encrustation of anthodites, “orchids of the mineral kingdom” that cling to the cave ceiling, their delicate white spikes resembling crystalline sea urchins.
- Relax on the water by renting canoes, kayaks, rafts, and tubes to travel down the Shenandoah River. Rates include shuttle service along routes ranging from three miles to 40-mile overnights.
- Get a birds-eye view, from a Blue Ridge Hot Air Balloons one-hour aerial tour, followed by the traditional champagne toast upon landing.
For the Family
- Stop by the Visitors Center to pick up a brochure for a walking tour of historic Downtown Front Royal and order a picnic lunch from one of several family-friendly restaurants.
- Take a drive along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park to the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center near Mile Post 4. Enjoy a picnic on the lawn with a fabulous view of Browntown Valley below. Then, walk across Skyline Drive to the start of 1-mile Fox Hollow Nature Trail Loop.
- Next, either explore more trails in Shenandoah National Park or head for Shenandoah River State Park to check out the Virginia Canopy Tours Zip Line.
- And, don’t forget the dog! Front Royal’s riverside Eastham Park has one of the nicest dog parks you’ll find anywhere. After a romp in the dog park, leash your pet and continue your stroll along Front Royal’s five-mile Greenway loop, including Main Street, the Happy Creek Arboretum, and a bit of Shenandoah National Park.
- End your day with a relaxing evening meal and ice cream on Main Street.
- On rainy days, you can visit Skyline Caverns, tour the Warren Heritage Society Museum and historic buildings, or take the driving tour of the Battle of Front Royal.
For the Romantics
- Scenic Skyline Drive, with its vistas and overlooks, sets the tone for a romantic getaway.
- Settle in to the quiet pace of the Shenandoah Valley by enjoying our many wineries and fine restaurants.
- Spend the afternoon on a peaceful paddle down the Shenandoah River or an invigorating trail ride from one of the nearby stables. Overnight accommodations range from touring motels to cabin rentals, national chain hotels, elegant and historic B&Bs, hiker hostels, and RV campgrounds. Front Royal and Warren County can satisfy anyone’s budget and taste.
For the Adventurers
- You know the tune “Oh Shenandoah” – National Park, State Park, River – that is! Hundreds of miles of trail thread through the Shenandoah National Park or George Washington National Forest, including a loop hike with an amazing view from Signal Knob. If you’re interested in aquatics, hire a tube, canoe or kayak from one of several local river outfitters and float the Shenandoah River, where smallmouth bass abound. Or, if treetop heights are your thing, check out the Virginia Canopy Tours Zip Line at Shenandoah River State Park. Got your mountain bike? Head to nearby George Washington National Forest, where you can ride the trails. Every day’s an adventure! And, if you forgot something essential for your outdoor adventure, one of our local outfitters will have just what you need.
Looking for more than just a day-trip?
- Consider an overnight backpacking trek on the Appalachian Trail, from the Route 522 Trailhead north to Manassas Gap. This 8.5-mile section includes a moderately challenging climb up and around High Knob, followed by a gentle descent into Manassas Gap. Camp overnight at either Mosby Tent Site (3.5 miles) or the Jim & Molly Denton Shelter (5 miles).
- If you’re up for a longer backpack, start at the Manassas Gap Trailhead Parking Lot and head south. In 11.5 miles, you’ll reach the Tom Floyd Wayside Shelter. Don’t be fooled by the name; this shelter is not one of the Shenandoah National Park’s waysides on Skyline Drive. It is a typical three-sided shelter on the AT, with composting privy, spring, and additional tent sites. On Day 2, just 0.5 miles south of Tom Floyd Wayside Shelter, you will enter the Shenandoah National Park (SNP), marked with a kiosk. If you plan to camp out a second night, this is where you pick up your free SNP Backcountry Camping Permit before continuing on to Gravel Springs Hut, for a total of 10 miles for the day. [Note: Before setting off on this hike, ask for a list of local shuttle drivers at the Visitor Center. Decide how far you intend to hike and arrange return transportation ahead of departure, as cell phone service is spotty in SNP.]
• Better Thymes Natural Foods
• Blue Wing Frog
• C&C Frozen Treats
• Down Home Comfort Bakery, LLC
• Front Royal Brewing Co.
• Front Royal Canoe
• Front Royal/Warren County Visitor Center
• Front Royal Wines
• Happy Creek Coffee & Tea
• Main Street Mill Restaurant
• Mountain Home B&B
• Mountain Trails Outfitter
• Next Bend Adventures LLC
• Ramsey True Value Hardware
• River and Peak Outfitter
• Royal Cinemas
• Royal Family Bowling Center
• Samuels Public Library
• Soul Mountain Cafe and Grill
• Stokes General Store
• The Vine & Leaf
• Try Thai Restaurant
• Turnmeyer Galleries
• Play Favorites
These businesses support the Trail by taking part in the A.T. Community Supporter program.
Photographs of Front Royal, Va.
Gazebo in Springtime, DiscoverFrontRoyal, photo by Vivid Image Studio
Canoe, DiscoverFrontRoyal, photo by Donna Hudson Wilson
Possum's Rest, photo by Catherine Harron
Overlooking Browntown, photo by Sonja Carlborg, Front Royal/Warren County AT Community
Shenandoah River State Park - Culler's Overlook - DiscoverFrontRoyal, photo by Derek Zurfluh
Featured Local Hikes
Browntown Trail and Possum’s Rest Detective Quest:
Possum’s Rest Detective Quest
- Hike Difficulty Rating: Moderate/Easy Hike
- Hike Length: 1.4 miles roundtrip
- Description of treadway: Some uphill climbs, mostly smooth trail with a nice rock outcrop at Possum’s Rest
- Hike start location: Trailhead parking lot at the end of Route 610 (Chester Gap Road) Distance and direction from town center: 4.3 miles south on US Route 522 (Commerce Avenue/Remount Road) to signs for Chester Gap. Turn RIGHT on Route 665, then immediately RIGHT again onto Route 610/Chester Gap Road. Follow to the end (up, up, up) to the Trailhead parking lot at the end of the road. The Quest begins at the trailhead.
- Parking: Trailhead parking lot at the end of Route 610 (Chester Gap Road) Route type: out and back Overview: Pick up a printed copy of the Possum’s Rest Detective Quest and a pencil at the visitors center on Main Street.
- Dogs: Required to be on a leash.
- Detailed description: Possum’s Rest Detective Quest
- Hike Difficulty Rating: Moderate
- Hike Length: 6.8 miles
- Elevation change: 1750 ft.
- Description of treadway: Initially a gravel road, at the end of the road, follow the old roadbed through two stream crossings. Near the Shenandoah National Park boundary, the trail starts to climb, with a series of switchbacks.
- Hike start location: There is limited parking on the shoulder of SR 631. Start hiking up old Browntown Road. Distance and direction from town center: 7 miles southwest of Front Royal via SR 649 to Browntown. From Browntown, follow SR 631 for about 1 mile, Where SR 631 turns sharply right, old Browntown Road is straight ahead. Do not drive up Old Browntown Road.
- Parking: Park on the shoulder of SR 631 Route type: out and back
- Overview: This lightly used trail follows the old Browntown Road that predates Shenandoah National Park
Potomac Appalachian Trail Club
The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) has enhanced the mid-Atlantic outdoor experience since 1927, including 240 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. We maintain trails, shelters, and cabins, and make maps and guidebooks for outdoor adventurers. Learn more and become a member today at patc.net.
ATC Volunteer Program
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is always looking for dedicated volunteers to help maintain the A.T. and assist in our visitor center and headquarters. Opportunities range from greeting visitors and providing information about local hikes to joining a Trail crew for week-long maintenance trips, gaining first-hand experience in what it takes to keep the A.T. open and enjoyable for millions each year. Learn more at appalachiantrail.org/volunteer.