This Scenic 105-mile Drive in Virginia Has 70 Scenic Overlooks in an Iconic National Park

Just 75 miles south of Washington, D.C., in Shenandoah National Park, is the stunning Skyline Drive.

<p>zrfphoto/Getty Images</p>

zrfphoto/Getty Images

Driving in the United States along the crest of a mountain range might be something most people associate with trips out west, but one of the country’s most beautiful scenic mountain drives is far from the Rockies and America’s most famous national parks. Spoiler alert: it’s in Virginia.

Just 75 miles south of Washington, D.C., in Shenandoah National Park, is the 105-mile Skyline Drive, and traveling the road by car is one of the most iconic American road trips you can undertake.

Developed in the 1930s at the height of the Great Depression, the driving route welcomed a staggering number of visitors in its first year (1934 – 1935) — nearly 500,000 people. Decades later, driving the route still retains an air of mid-century Americana, with rustic, throwback park lodging like the Skyland Resort and Big Meadows Lodge. Even today when the Skyline Drive welcomes over one million visitors annually, the route feels far away from the rest of the world and holds its own as one of the great American road trips.

<p>JacobH/Getty Images</p>

JacobH/Getty Images

The Skyline Drive is the only public road in the entire park — it is home to over 200,000 protected acres and over 500 miles of hiking trails — and offers a continuous road along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Hovering between 2,500 and 3,500 feet above the Shenandoah Valley, the views from the route are nothing short of commanding, and visiting in the fall during peak foliage weeks, and at sunset, is worth planning your visit around.

The drive stretches north to south along the Blue Ridge, and if you were to travel the full route it would take at least three hours, not accounting for any inclement weather, lookout stops, or wildlife crossings. Visitors can plan their route based on the four entrances to the drive: the Front Royal entrance (mile 0) in Front Royal, Virginia; the Thornton Gap entrance (mile 31.5) near Luray, Virginia; the Swift Run Gap entrance (mile 65.5) near Elkton, Virginia; or the Rockfish Gap entrance (mile 104.6) which is also the northernmost entrance to another scenic drive: the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Skyline Drive is best undertaken with plenty of time to stop and enjoy the view. There are over 70 vantage points throughout the drive perfect for a picnic or photo stop, with notable pit stops including the dining hall turned visitor center at Dickey Ridge (mile 4.6), the Thornton Hollow Overlook (mile 27.5), and the Crimora Lake Overlook (mile 92.6). And even if you are looking to breeze through it, the 35-mile-per-hour speed limit will set your pace.

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