Virginia Scenic Drives: Skyline Drive

This map of Virginia's Skyline Drive lists just a few of the nearly 80 overlooks that provide stunning mountain and valley views.
This map of Virginia's Skyline Drive lists just a few of the nearly 80 overlooks that provide stunning mountain and valley views.

One of the wonders of America's national parks, the 105-mile-long Skyline Drive in Virginia was built to show off the Blue Ridge scenery. On both sides of the winding road, tree-covered slopes drop sharply to the valley floor.

To the east is the Piedmont, Virginia's rolling foothill country, where green pastures and golden fields form a patchwork quilt. To the west sprawls the broad Shenandoah Valley, where the Shenandoah River, fabled in song and story, makes repeated silvery loops.

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From beginning to end, the drive tempts motorists to stop at nearly 80 overlooks, although only the most dedicated of sightseers would try to take in them all. Running north to south, the route parallels a 101-mile segment of the Georgia-to-Maine Appalachian Trail, which it crosses some 32 times.

Almost any of these intersections is a good place to stretch the legs on a short stroll on the trail. During fall foliage season, the mountains are ablaze in color.

Deer are plentiful along the drive, so much so that it is wise to keep alert at the wheel. And it is not unusual to spot a startled mama bear and her cubs dashing into the woods to get out of your way. Shenandoah National Park is home to an estimated 300 to 500 bears.

Learn along the way of the hardscrabble life of the Appalachian folk who once farmed these lush Blue Ridge slopes and hollows.

Find more useful information related to Virginia's Skyline Drive:

  • Virginia Scenic Drives: Virginia's Skyline Drive is just one of the scenic byways in Virginia. Check out the others.
  • Shenandoah National Park: Learn more about visiting this national park, which showcases the Blue Ridge Mountains.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.

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Highlights of Virginia's Skyline Drive

Numerous overlooks along Viriginia's Skyline Drive offer motorists an opportunity to stop and absorb the dramatic views.
Numerous overlooks along Viriginia's Skyline Drive offer motorists an opportunity to stop and absorb the dramatic views.

Virginia's Skyline Drive features majestic views of green farm valleys and the famous Shenandoah River. Start this beautiful tour in Front Royal, and end in Rockfish Gap.

: A small city, Front Royal is both a gateway to Shenandoah National Park and Shenandoah Valley. Nearby visit Linden Vineyards; Cedar Creek Battlefield; and Belle Grove with its garden and orchard, maintained by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. At Shenandoah River State Park, go for a three-mile, three-hour tube float (with shuttle service).

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Dickey Ridge Visitor Center: This rustically appealing old structure straddles the narrow crest of the Blue Ridge, presenting views east and west. Take in the 12-minute introductory slide show, "Gentle Wilderness," and learn about the Appalachian Mountain people who once lived here. Stroll the Fox Hollow Trail to the Fox Family homestead.

Hogback Overlook: When a haze doesn't intrude, you can see the South Fork of the Shenandoah River and its many bends.

Elkwallow: The camp store and service station here are open May through October. The picnic ground is open year-round.

Thornton Gap: Panorama Restaurant, a park facility, is open from May through October. From this park entrance, descend west to the town of Luray and Luray Caverns, one of the East's largest commercial caves. It is noted for its "stalacpipe" organ, which produces symphonic serenades from a rock formation.

Pinnacles Overlook: Skyline Drive intersects the Appalachian Trail here. Stretch your legs on a short hike north or south. You might run across hikers en route from Georgia to Maine with interesting tales to tell.

Skyland: The 177-room lodge with a restaurant is the oldest and largest of Shenandoah's two main lodges. Occupying motel-like wings, the rooms are plain but comfortable. Many have outstanding valley views. You will find the horse stables here.

Big Meadows: The park's other major lodge and restaurant, Big Meadows offers 25 rooms in the main building and 72 more rooms in rustic cabins. Built in 1939 of stone cut from nearby Massanutten Mountain, its interior is paneled with native chestnut, a tree now nearly extinct because of the chestnut blight. Learn more about the history of Shenandoah and Skyline Drive at the Byrd Visitor Center.

Rockytop Overlook: Take in a good view of the Big Run watershed and its wild canyon country.

Calf Mountain Overlook: Before this drive ends, enjoy a stunning 360-degree view.

Rockfish Gap: Skyline Drive ends (or begins) here on the outskirts of Waynesboro. Straight ahead is the beginning of the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, another scenic national park route tracing the Blue Ridge south through western Virginia and North Carolina to the entrance to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Waynesboro is about a 30-minute drive from Charlottesville, home of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello -- America's most intriguing presidential residence.

Virginia's Skyline Drive flows like a stream among the high rocky peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains, offering dramatic views of Shenandoah National Park.

Find more useful information related to Virginia's Skyline Drive:

  • Virginia Scenic Drives: Virginia's Skyline Drive is just one of the scenic byways in Virginia. Check out the others.
  • Shenandoah National Park: Learn more about visiting this national park, which showcases the Blue Ridge Mountains.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.

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