Shenandoah National Park
Slow down, take it in, and enjoy
The serpentine Skyline Drive crosses and re-crosses the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains as it stretches like a ribbon among sixty mountain peaks. Seventy-five “overlooks” along this famous drive provide breathtaking views of the Shenandoah Valley more than 4,000 feet below.
Enjoy miles of hiking trails that encounter pristine waterfalls ascending to ancient granite summits. The forested hills, hollows and slopes abound in creatures large and small: the largest population of the North American black bear, the gently grazing whitetail deer, 100 varieties of trees, 100 flowering plants, and 200 species of birds.
Go ahead and get reacquainted with the great outdoors.
Driving Here is Half the Fun
It takes about three hours to travel the entire length of the park on a clear day.
You can enter Shenandoah at only four places:
- Front Royal Entrance Station near Rt. 66 and 340
- Thornton Gap Entrance Station at Rt. 211
- Swift Run Gap Entrance Station at Rt. 33
- Rockfish Gap Entrance Station at Rt. 64 and Rt. 250 (also the northern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway).
If there are no staff at the entrance stations when you first arrive at the Park, you may proceed into the park and pay your fee when you exit. Remember, your fee dollars go towards projects that have a direct benefit for the visitors!
As you travel along Skyline Drive you will notice mileposts on the west side of the road (right side if you are traveling south, left if you are heading north). These posts help you find your way through the park and help you locate areas of interest. The miles begin at 0 at Front Royal and continue to 105 at the southern end of the park. The largest developed area, Big Meadows, is near the center of the park, at mile 51. All park maps and information use these mileposts as a reference. View or download maps of Shenandoah National Park.
The speed limit is 35 mph, so you can roll down your windows, feel the breeze and experience every curve and turn of this beautiful drive. There are nearly 70 overlooks that offer stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley to the west or the rolling Piedmont to the east.
RVs, camping trailers, and horse trailers are welcome, but be prepared to shift into low gear. Be sure you will clear Marys Rock Tunnel (just south of Thornton Gap entrance from Route 211) at 12’8″.
Deer, black bear, wild turkey, and a host of other woodland animals call Shenandoah home and regularly cross Skyline Drive in their daily travels. Watch carefully for these animals who may dart across your path without warning. At 35 mph, you’ll stand the best chance of a fun and exciting wildlife encounter rather than an unpleasant wildlife experience! If you want a closer look, be sure to pull completely off the Drive and stay in your vehicle. It is unlawful to feed the wildlife.
Check out the operating hours and seasons so you know what it is open in the Park before you arrive. Facilities tend to be limited during late fall and winter.
Feast Your Evening Eyes
Shenandoah National Park is the perfect place to enjoy a view of the star-filled night sky, without the light pollution of developed areas.
As the sun goes down, a different kind of opportunity to enjoy nature’s exquisite beauty emerges. Stars sparkle with more intensity, and constellations come into clearer view. Depending on the time of year, celestial objects viewed can vary from a quarter moon to the planets, distant galaxies, star clusters, nebulae and double stars.
Free stargazing presentations are held weekly at Skyland and Big Meadows Lodge. Program start time varies based on sunset. Discussions are led by Greg Redfern, an adjunct professor of physics and astronomy at George Mason University and a NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador.