Shenandoah National Park entrance

Record crowds opting for Rappahannock County experience

So you thought vehicular traffic rolling through Rappahannock County in October seemed heavier than it’s been in recent years?

Try a lot of years.

Shenandoah National Park’s visitation just for the month of October 2020 alone was 363,191, an impressive 52.62 percent increase over the 236,554 visitors in 2019. While figures are preliminary, it was certainly the busiest October for the park in decades.

Better yet, many of the outdoor enthusiasts bound for Shenandoah are opting to pass through Rappahannock County, even if it’s not the most direct route.

How many hikers and leaf peepers?

At the Thornton Gap Entrance Station above Sperryville, just for the month of October, 110,808 visitors passed through the gates, an increase of 57.4 percent over the October 2019 visitorship of 70,411. Otherwise, that was 46,727 vehicles passing through the station at Thornton Gap last month alone (the park’s “person-per-vehicle” multiplier to arrive at the visitorship figure is 2.5).

Year to date, through the end of October, a total of 456,999 people — nearly a half-million visitors — have entered the park via Thornton Gap, or 12.6 percent more than in 2019. (Bear in mind that the park was closed due to COVID-19 from April 8 to May 23, and campgrounds did not open to full capacity until July 15, yet visitors still exceed 2019.)

And get a load of this, Rappahannock County: the 456,999 people who thus far in 2020 have entered the park through Thornton Gap surpasses by a good margin the 437,000-plus visitors who have come through the Front Royal Entrance Station close to Interstate 66.

On top of that, Thornton Gap has logged more visitors so far this year than any of the park’s other entrance stations.

Which helps explain the tremendous amount of visitor traffic for much of this year along Route 211 in Rappahannock County. It also suggests that people are in less of a hurry to reach Shenandoah via more convenient interstates, experiencing the Rappahannock countryside up close and personal.

It’s a fact that roadside fruit and vegetable stands in Rappahannock County have experienced record traffic this autumn.

All told, Shenandoah’s year-to-date visitation through October 31, 2020 stands at 1,458,372. This is an increase of 14.12 percent compared to 2019, again taking into account that the national park was shut down for six weeks earlier this year.

Otherwise, 2020’s not done yet and the park’s visitors still keep coming, to the extent that November and December could similarly set records for visitorship.


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