Skyline Drive
When you’re not looking out over vistas, you’re enjoying a tunnel of color on Skyline Drive

Mid-October is prime time for fall color in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, best soaked up along its hiking trails and on a leisurely drive along the 105-mile Skyline Drive between Front Royal and Waynesboro. Fall is the finale for the national park, as visitor facilities shut down for the winter as the last of the leaves drop, and access to Skyline Drive diminishes as winter weather settles in.

With blue skies and brightly painted leaves beckoning on Columbus Day, John and I took a leisurely drive atop the Shenandoahs, delighted that the road wasn’t too crowded and parking was only tricky at Skylands Lodge. It was a first for him, and my third trip along this meandering, 35 mph scenic parkway.

Skyline Drive
Considering the options: plenty of stops are along this route!

There are dozens of overlooks along Skyline Drive, and after a while you won’t stop for every one. When you reach the entrance station, ask for a map and circle the stops you make so you’ll remember them. This kiosk at Shenandoah Valley Overlook is the first posted map you’ll see after entering the park at Front Royal.

Signal Knob Overlook
The Shenandoah Valley from Signal Knob Overlook. The Shenandoah River snakes back and forth across the valley floor.
Hogwallow Flats Overlook
Two out of three visitors find the autumn colors at Hogwallow Flats Overlook more interesting than their smartphones.
Skyline Drive
With its slow speed limit, Skyline Drive is a favorite of classic car owners who want to ease their cars out on a scenic drive. This early 1960s Ford Fairlaine is a sweet ride.
Range View Overlook
Overlooks are found on both sides of Skyline Drive, showing off prime views. We pass by Range View Overlook since it’s rather full.
Skyline Drive
Elevation signs along Skyline Drive call out major features such as gaps and peaks.
Skyline Drive curves
Drivers must be alert to the many curves along this mountain road, another reason for the limited speed on Skyline Drive.
Skyline Drive CCC stonework
You’ll see no metal guardrails on Skyline Drive. Stonework built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s defines the more severe dropoffs along the road in an aesthetically pleasing way.
Appalachian Trail at Matthews Arm
On the Appalachian Trail at Matthews Arm. The AT crisscrosses Skyline Drive dozens of times. Watch for white blazes and signage.
AT in SHenandoah
Of course we had to get out and do a little hiking on the AT in Shenandoah
Cyclist on Skyline Drive
Cyclists share the road on Skyline Drive, challenged by the mountainous terrain.

Well before either Skyline Drive or Shenandoah National Park existed, Skyland was a destination for middle-class travelers in the 1890s, providing a dramatic vista from the privately owned cabins and dining hall. Once the park was established, Skyland became a hub of activity, offering lodging for visitors.

Old Rag
Old Rag Mountain, as seen from Skyline Drive. The hike to Old Rag is one of the more popular trails in Shenandoah National Park. There are over 500 miles of hiking trails in the park.
Skyline Drive
Catching up with a 1970 Camero along the drive. This one has to dial it down to keep within the 35 mph speed limit, but handles the curves like a pro.
Overlook on Skyline Drive
Sometimes you come around a corner and are greeted with an unexpected panorama – and a clot of traffic trying to get in and out of the overlook.
Skyline Drive
Although trucks are prohibited on Skyline Drive, you will see many campers and some truck-sized RVs. Campgrounds are at Matthews Arm, Big Meadows, Lewis Mountain, and Loft Mountain.
Two Mile Run overlook
From Two Mile Run Overlook, you can see where Massanutten Mountain comes to an end at the south end of the Shenandoah Valley.
Skyline Drive wayside
The waysides of Skyline Drive provide visitors with restrooms, restaurants, and gift shops. You’ll find them at Elkwallow, Big Meadows, and Loft Mountain.
Jackson's Valley
Jackson’s Valley framed by fall color.
Corvette on Skyline Drive
Following an early 1980s Corvette through a tunnel of autumn leaves.
Rockfish Gap on Skyline Drive
Skyline Drive ends at Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro as it meets US 250 and the beginning of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which extends another 469 miles south atop the Appalachians to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Visiting Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive is the main thoroughfare through Shenandoah National Park, providing access to recreation areas, campgrounds, lodging, and restaurants. At the north end, you access it from Front Royal, Virginia. At the south end, it ends at Rockfish Gap, where the Blue Ridge Parkway takes over.

Entrance fees for Shenandoah National Park are now $30 per car, $25 per motorcycle, or $15 for people on bicycles. The permit is good for seven consecutive days. An annual pass is available for $55. Fall is always a very busy time for Skyline Drive, so we recommend planning your visit for a weekday, and booking any lodging, whether in the park or at one end or the other, in advance.

At their discretion, the park may close Skyline Drive due to weather conditions that make driving unsafe.