The Skyline Drive
Shenandoah National Park
The Skyline Drive is 105-miles long and located in the Shenadoah National Park of Virginia. This two-lane, sometimes twisty road stretches along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains from just outside of Waynesboro and I-64 northward to Front Royal near I-66.
Construction began in 1931 and was completed in 1939. It was one of the projects of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression.
There is a fee for travelling this National Scenic Byway; cars $15 and motorcycles $10 (good for one-week). Annual passes are also available. The speed limit is 35 mph and traffic can be heavy which makes this route a slow tour. There is also wildlife that can ruin your trip in a hurry. We saw numerous deer and turkeys. One bear was spotted near the northern terminus. If you are looking to make time take I-81.
After riding the Blue Ridge Parkway we were somewhat disappointed with the Skyline Drive. Access to facilities along the route is just about nonexistent except for those on the Drive itself. The lower speed limit and increased traffic can be irritating. There are some great views, but they much more limited than the BRP.
Be aware that there are only two intersecting roads that allow for exiting the Drive; US 33 at mile 65 and US 211 at Mile 31. GPS units might show you others but they are only gated fire roads.
After getting a quick picnic lunch in Waynesboro we jumped on the Drive beginning at Mile 105. We paid the $10 entry fee and headed north.
The Drive begins at 1900 feet and climbs to over 2600 at Bear Den Mountain in the first 4-miles. Each of the 68 pull-offs have signs naming the Overlook and giving the elevation at that point.
It was along this section that we saw a lot of deer grazing just off the roadway. We slowed to 10 mph as we passed just in case they decided to spook. They continued to eat as if we were not there. Watch out for vehicles stopped in the middle of the road looked at the fauna.
The first facilities on the Drive are at Loft Mountain Visitor Center at Mile 80. Here you can find fuel, restrooms camping and camp store.
There are a number of Overlooks and forested sections between Loft Mountain and US 33. We were on high alert looking for deer.
US 33 intersects at Mile 65. The town of Elkton is six miles to the west and offers fuel and food. Note that the entry fee for the Skyline Drive is good for seven days so you can hop off and reenter without additional fees.
One of the more unique landmarks in Elkton is the Miller-Kite House in which General Stonewall Jackson used as a headquarters during the Civil War. Today the house is a museum and a cardboard reproduction of Jackson can be seen in one the second floor windows. Many have sensed ghostly behavior in the building.
Lewis Mountain at Mile 57 offers cabins, camping and picnicking. We kept on the road and I got a Biofreeze treatment on my neck. It really helps on a long ride (this day we did 350 miles, twice our preferred ride). We are not Ironbutters!
At Mile 51 is Big Meadows Visitors Center with fuel, food, camping, picnic area, nature trails and lodge (rooms in the $110-$160 range). It was here that President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Skyline Drive in 1935. It is easy to see why this area is named Big Meadows as you pass the expansive meadows.
At Mile 42 is Skyland Resort, the highest point on the Skyline Drive at 3,680 feet. Room rates vary from $111 to $180 a night. Reviews were mostly positive for both the accommodations and the food.
Some of the best overlooks are in the next 20 miles of downhill. Mary’s Rock Tunnel at Mile 31 is the only tunnel on the Skyline.
US 211 intersects at Mile 31. Luray is eight miles to the west with fuel, food and lodging. Sperryville is seven miles to the east. This section of US 211 is part of the Lee Highway, a National Auto Trail connecting Washington D.C. with San Diego, California (officially from New York to San Francisco). Named for Robert E. Lee, the route was designated in 1923 with measurements from Zero Milestones located in various cities. SEE THE WASHINGTON DC MILESTONE AT LEFT
Elkwallow Wayside is at Mile 24. There is camping, a camp store, restrooms, fuel, food and even beer. We made a quick stop here to pick up some souvenirs and stretch our legs.
The final 20 miles the FJR was like a horse heading for the barn and Nancy was applying another dose of Biofreeze to my neck. It had been a long day and we missed the last scenic overlook at Dickey Ridge. With only a few miles to go on Skyline Drive a black bear darted across the road in front of us. Nancy didn’t have the camera ready.
We didn't get a chance to explore Front Royal, but will return to see the historic downtown.
SKYLINE DRIVE MAP
Nancy had found a unique place for us to stay that night. It was a 16 mile run to the Inn at Vaucluse just north of Winchester. Not your typical B and B, the Inn consisted of 15 different bedrooms in six guest houses. The 100 acre property had a spring, small lake, swimming pool and herb gardens. Some of the buildings dated back to 1850. Each was elaborately decorated.
We stayed in the second floor Hite Suite in Chumley Homeplace. It had a remote control fireplace, queen bed and a one-person Jacuzzi.
We ordered a pizza and wolfed it down with a couple of imported beers in the Chumley living room. After the meal we walked the immaculate grounds.
We slept well and after a morning walk we were ready for breakfast served in the old Manor House up the hill. We have never had such a special breakfast. After being served coffee and juice we had a tasty, light apple bread. The next course was pineapple in triple-sec, and the main course was a peach croissant bread pudding with grilled chicken sausage. It was quite a culinary experience.
We did have one regret with our stay at Vaucluse. We wished we had stayed two or three days!