Imagine seeing bears, waterfalls, dears, wild flowers, mountains and vast amounts of nature in one road trip. Sounds too good to be true right? Well, you're wrong. Shenandoah National Park has all of this to offer, and more! The Skyline drive runs 105 miles along the Blue Ridge Mountains and is the only public road through the park. It takes roughly about 3 hours to drive the entire length of the park, traffic and wildlife depending of course. Entry to the park costs $15-$30 depending on the vehicle.
We drove from Charlottesville, Virginia, through the Shenandoah National Park to finish at Washington DC - if you want the scenic views rather than the view of a highway then we definitely recommend this drive, just remember in most places the speed limit is 35mph so don't be prepared to drive through it quickly. We started our journey at the Swift Run Gap, just of the US 33. You can pay at the entry gates or pre-pay online before your visit, on arrival, they also give you an interting map which shows you some of the best stops during the drive, as well as a great insight to the history of Shenandoah.
There are 2 visitor centers, the main one being Byrd Visitor Center which is opened year-round, they also have 8 food and lodging services, the main stop being Big Meadows Wayside - which has the only fuel station on the Skyline Drive so make sure you plan accordingly. They have several camp grounds and picnic areas dotted around the drive, but some need to be pre-booked.
Inside the national park, they have an abundance of wildlife residing here. The Park is home to over 190 resident and transient bird species, over 50 mammal species, over 20 reptile and amphibian species, over 40 fish species, as well as an unknown number of insects, spiders, and other invertebrates. A handful of animal species are large and more likely to be sighted. Some of the mammals living inside the national park include: white-tailed deer, black bear, bobcat, and big brown bat. They also have 26 species of reptiles, including the eastern box turtle, timber rattlesnake and broad-headed skink. As well as these animals, they have fish, insects, amphibians and birds. During our drive through the national park, we spotted the white-tailed deer several times, the bobcat hiding under the Big Meadows Wayside and plenty of birds.
Shenandoah National Park has 75 overlook spots located throughout the park, the ones we recommend the most are Bacon Hollow overlook, Hogback overlook and Crescent Rock overlook. These were our favourites, but every place you stop has spectacular views of the national park. They also have over 500 miles of trails contained inside the park, our favourite one being the Limberlost trail which led to the Dark Hollows waterfall.
Some places of interest along the way include Big Meadows, Skyland and Old Rag Mountain. Big Meadows is a high elevation meadow which is a great contrast to the lush greenery of the national park. In fact, its existence is still unknown as to how its grown there, but that makes it even more unique. Skyland is a great area to visit; with cabins, horses, gift shop, history and dining, theres plently to do when stopping at Skyland. Finally Old Rag Mountain is a physically demanding and dangerous hike through the national park, but once completed offers panoramic views of the national park and can make you feel like you're on top of the world!
We absolutely loved our road trip through the Shenandoah National Park. If you weren't convinced to drive the Skyline drive before reading this article, then we're sure you're about to book it as we speak! We can't wait to head back to the U.S. and drive the 105 mile drive through the Shenandoah National Park again!
For more information head over to the National Park website
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