Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive meanders for the entire length of the beautiful Shenandoah National Park in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s especially popular when Mother Nature waves her brush and the leaves switch from green to vibrant hues of yellow, orange, and scarlet. But the truth is, any time of year offers scenic delights of this drive that follows the mountain peaks of Blue Ridge Skyline Drive. Driving the route is just the beginning of the fun. It's a starting place for hikes, camping, birdwatching, and a long list of fun. 

History

Like many engineering marvels in national parks, this highway traces its roots to the Works Progress Administration. Construction began in 1931, and the project was one of many that put men to work during the Great Depression. It was a difficult project, but the first part of the Blue Ridge Skyline Drive opened by 1939. Construction took 20 years in total, and during that time, the Civilian Conservation Corps helped make the drive more scenic and safe, adding overlooks, guardrails and lots of greenery.

Sights & Outdoor Activities

Sights & Outdoor Activities
Sights & Outdoor Activities

Both a National Scenic Byway and a National Historic Landmark, Skyline Drive is one of the enjoyed activities at Shenandoah National Park—just 75 miles from Washington, D.C. Of course, driving the road is the best way to experience Blue Ridge Skyline Drive. With hundreds of overlooks along the way, you can stop and enjoy the scenery, including the trees and wildlife. There are few better places along the East Coast to see black bears. Of course, you can do more than just drive, Hiking is a great way to experience the scenery up close. More than 500 miles of trails wind through the park, including 100 miles of the famed Appalachian Trail, with many of the trailheads along Skyline Drive. At the visitor centers, you can pick up maps or join one of the park rangers on a guided hike or interpretive program. The Shenandoah Valley is prime grape-growing country, and a brief detour at any of the exitis will bring you close to one of the area's great wineries.

Skyline Drive Hotels & Lodging

Skyline Drive Hotels & Lodging
Skyline Drive Hotels & Lodging

If you want to make more than a day out of visiting Shenandoah National Park, it’s easy to find overnight accommodations without leaving the park or venturing far off Skyline Drive. Four campgrounds are located within the park, easily accessible from Skyline Drive, and backcountry camping is allowed. Both the Skyland Resort and Big Meadows Lodge provide comfortable accommodations in hotel rooms and cabins. Guests are treated to a long list of things to enjoy, including tasty dining and guided hikes. Both lodges run a full schedule of hands-on events like culinary demonstrations, wine tastings, and family-friendly crafts.

Skyline Drive Map

Skyline Drive Map
Skyline Drive Map

It takes some time to travel all 105 miles of Blue Ridge Skyline Drive, but that’s part of the fun. You don’t need to worry about the traffic slowing you down. By following your Skyline Drive map and checking out the window, you can keep track of the miles. On the west side of the route, mile markers keep track of the distance. The first milepost is found at Front Royal. Big Meadows is at mile marker 51, and mile 105 is a the southern tip of the park. At mile 0, Front Royal is one of four entrances to the park. It’s close to the confluence of Routes 340 and 66. The second, Thornton Gap connects with Route 211. Rockfish Gap, the northern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway, is at Route 250 and 64. The fourth entrance to the park is Swift Run Gap, which connects to Virginia Highway 33. On a clear day, you can expect to take three hours to travel the highway with a speed limit of 35 mph. It takes even longer if it’s raining or you’re driving a slower vehicle.

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