is a recreational area of the Shenandoah National Park
in Madison County and Page County, in the US state of Virginia.
The meadow is located on the Skyline
Drive at Milepost 51 and contains the park's Harry F.
Byrd Visitor Center, a lodge, camp store, and camping area.
Several hiking trails can be accessed from Big Meadows, including
the Mill Prong Trail which leads to Rapidan Camp on the Rapidan
River, the fishing retreat of President Herbert Hoover from
1929-1933, which is now restored to its 1930s configuration.
President Roosevelt used Big
Meadows in 1935 as the site for dedicating Shenandoah
National Park and Skyline Drive. In 1962, during the Ash Wednesday
Storm, Big Meadows recorded Virginia's greatest 24-hour snowfall
with 33 inches, and the total storm snowfall was 42 inches at Big
Meadows. In the Blizzard of 1996, Big Meadows recorded Virginia's
greatest storm snowfall accumulation at 47". Archaeological work
has uncovered evidence of prehistoric periods of human habitation
as long ago as 2000 BC. Big Meadows was added to the National
Register of Historic Places in 1985.
Activities at Big Meadows
Big Meadows has a dining hall, gift shop,
horse trails, and a series of lodges for guests to stay in. Each
lodge guestroom has a stone fireplace and a supply of firewood,
although the building has natural gas-fired central heating - the
fireplaces are for decorative purposes only.
Big Meadows Wayside has a campground with
some 200 lots. There is a shower building, laundry accommodations,
a storage building for packaged campfire wood, and a small office
at which ice, firewood and basic supplies can be purchased.
There are several hiking trails:
- Lewis Spring
Falls follows the Appalachian Trail for about
1.5 miles from the main campground to the falls overlook. It
is an easy trail with standard hard-packed pebbles and dirt,
with a few rock scrambles along the way.
Falls begins at a parking lot close to the
Byrd Center. From the parking lot, a 0.7-mile trail takes
hikers to overlooks at the top and bottom of the falls. The
trail is scenic and wide, but somewhat steep on the return.
The summit of Blackrock Mountain is located 0.3
mile from the main campground and adjacent to the Skyland Lodge.
It is the highest point at Big Meadows and provides a scenic view
of the Shenandoah Valley.
The Big Meadow
A part of the campground area, called The Big
Meadow, is adjacent to the camp store and the Byrd Visitor center.
Campers often wander the grassy trails of the meadow, watching for
blueberries and blackberries. Usually, the bears have harvested
the ripe stuff before the hikers arrive; in early-morning hikes,
bears are sometimes spotted around the edges of the meadow.
There are black bears, white-tailed deer,
chipmunks, skunks, squirrels and a variety of birds who visit the
campground area and are very used to people. The deer are eager to
find campers who will hand out food and treats. The rangers
discourage this, but the result is that the deer wander the
campgrounds throughout the day. It is not uncommon to have a deer
take food from a human's hand in a campsite. Daytime bear
sightings are not uncommon. The black bears have not been
aggressive and to this point no attacks on humans have been
reported. The park provides bear-proof metal lockers around the
camp area to protect food at night.
The biggest concern is the skunk
population. Like the deer, they forage the campsites for
food. Campers will sometimes note the aroma of a skunk who was
startled during the night. Wise campers ensure there is no food on
the ground to attract skunks, and that the tent flap is secured
against skunk entry.
Other wildlife includes venomous snakes,
although they are relatively rare. The park houses rattlesnakes,
copperheads, as well as garter snakes and other non-venomous