If you love the outdoors, a few days along the 110-mile Shenandoah Skyline Drive will be a match made in heaven for you. With over 70 overlooks, 500 miles of hiking trails, and waterfalls, the sightseeing never ends when you hit the Blue Ridge Parkway’s most scenic drive.
Choose to lodge in Luray’s Mimslyn Inn’s guest rooms, suites, and cottage or choose to stay within the Shenandoah National Park boundaries. You can also break up your hotel stays along the beautiful drive with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Below you will find my recommendations for where to stay, what to do, and a few side trips in this weekend guide to Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive.
NOTE: Be aware that the Skyline Drive and the facilities along it are closed from late November through February.
Directions from Washington D. C.
- Travel west from Washington, D.C. on I-66 to Front Royal.
- Take exit 13 onto Route 55 – John Marshall Highway West and drive for 5 miles.
- At the end of Route 55, turn south on to Route 340 for a half-mile, where you will see the entrance to the Skyline Drive on your left.
Special Events in Shenandoah National Park
Blackberry Delight – Skyland
- Blackberry Delight is an annual event that happens each July when the blackberry thickets are ripe with juicy berries. Visit the Skyland area for live music, dancing, crafts, activities, and all things blackberry.
Night Sky Festival
- The Night Sky Festival, held in August each year, offers guests a chance to learn a little more about stargazing through ranger talks and special guests, along with opportunities to view the moon and some planets through various telescopes.
Apple Butter Celebration
- In September, Skyland becomes an apple haven. Watch apples cook and turn into apple butter. During the Apple Butter Celebration, there will be live entertainment and children’s activities throughout the day. For lunch, choose from a special “apple” menu prepared by the Skyland chefs.
Plan ahead and grab your hotel room to see fall foliage mid-to-late October (sometimes into early November). Keep in mind that on peak fall foliage weekends, there may be a several hour wait to get onto Skyline drive.
Day 1: Skyline Drive from Front Royal to Thornton Gap
Spend the morning enjoying the overlooks along Skyline Drive, the national scenic byway between Front Royal and Luray. The western facing viewpoints offer legendary views of the Shenandoah Valley, and the eastern vistas showcase the Virginia piedmont region’s rolling hills.
With a speed limit of 35 MPH, there is no need to hurry. Take your time and enjoy the drive.
Stop 1: Dickey Ridge Visitor Center
Stop at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center to visit the information desk, find out the schedule for ranger talk and hikes, visit the gift shop, and use the restrooms.
There is a scattering of benches around and a lovely green lawn that is perfect for a breakfast picnic or to take in the view.
Stop 2: Fox Hollow Trail
Fox Hollow Trail is a short 1.2-mile hike that is perfect for getting your legs warmed up. It features a field of wildflowers and only a 200-foot elevation change.
Stop 3: Signal Knob Overlook
Signal knob Overlook offers a stunning panorama view of both the Shenandoah River and Shenandoah Valley.
Stop 4: Compton Peak
Compton Peak is a 2.4-mile easy to moderate loop hike with an 835-foot change in elevation, offering grand views.
For those who always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail, this hike follows two miles of the trail before branching off to the peak.
Stop 5: Little Devils Stairs Overlook
A picture of the landscape at Little Devils Stair Overlook with the iconic dead tree in the foreground is a must.
Stop 6: Hogback Overlook
Hogback Overlook faces mostly north and offers one of the broadest panorama views in the park. See if you can spot the Shenandoah River.
Stop 7: Elkwallow
If it is lunchtime, this area offers a lovely spot to enjoy a picnic lunch. Find a picnic table and spread out your food from home, or stop in the Elkwallow Wayside and pick up some carry-out or groceries.
The wayside is open from June 11 through mid-November from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM.
Thornton Gap Entrance Station
When you get to the Thornton Gap Entrance Station, take Route 211 into Luray for a couple of stops and lodging if you want to stay outside the park.
Stops outside the Shenandoah National Park
- Address: 101 Cave Hill Road, Luray, VA 22835
- Hours: Open year-round 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM with extended afternoon hours on weekends and summer.
When in the area, a visit to Luray Caverns, eastern America’s biggest cavern, and a U.S. National Landmark, should not be missed.
Take the hour-long journey through cathedral-sized rooms filled with stone columns, stalactites and stalagmites. You will definitely want to stop to listen to the sounds of the Stalacpipe Organ.
- Address: 4768 US-211, Luray, VA 22835.
- Hours: Sunday -Friday 9 AM – 5 PM and Saturday 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
For anyone who grew up watching The Dukes of Hazzard, this Dukes museum is full of show memorabilia, including props, vehicles, and costumes. If your timing is right, you may even meet one of the visiting cast members.
Luray Zoo A Rescue Zoo
- Address: 1087 Us Highway 211 West * Luray, Virginia 22835
- Hours: During EST – 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM, During daylight savings time – 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
If you are traveling with children, they will enjoy this privately owned 3-acre rescue zoo. There are 80+ exhibits featuring primates, mammals, birds, felines and venomous snakes. They have a petting zoo where you can feed and pet the animals.
Sunset on the Drive
If you are staying overnight on the drive, head to either Buck Hollow Overlook at milepost 32.8 or Range View Overlook at milepost 17 for a terrific sunset view.
Overnight accommodations within the park
- Open May – October
The 166 campsites can accommodate either RVs, trailers or tents and provide a fire ring and picnic table at each site. The Mathews Arm campground has flush toilets, drinking water and a dump station. Please note that there are no showers.
- Open Mid-April to Late November
Choose to say in one of Skyland’s 178 guest rooms, suites or rustic cabins founded in 1888, that overlooks the picturesque Shenandoah Valley from 3,680 feet. Most rooms are pet friendly.
Enjoy a nightcap at the Mountain Taproom or a meal of regional fare in the Pollock Dining Room.
TIP: Book your hotel room as far in advance as possible. The Shenandoah National Park lodges book up very quickly, and aren’t always cheap. For the best dates and rates, do some advance planning.
Overnight accommodations in Luray:
- Address: 401 W. Main Street, Luray, VA 22835
Stay in the 45-room antebellum-era hotel where you can dine in the Speakeasy Tavern or the elegant Circa ’31.
- Address: 2 S Court St, Luray, VA 22835-1001
Enjoy a luxurious stay at this 12-bedroom boutique hotel with full kitchens in each suite, and an easy walk to the shops and restaurants of downtown Luray.
Days Inn by Wyndham Luray Shenandoah
- Address: 138 Whispering Hill Road, Luray, Virginia 22835
The Days Inn is a perfect option for families. The hotel is pet friendly, has a free breakfast, and has an outdoor pool.
Day 2: Thornton Gap to Rockfish Gap
Stop 1: Mary’s Rock Tunnel
This 1932 tunnel through Mary’s Rock Mountain is 600-feet long and has a terrific overlook on the southside.
Stop 2: Hazel Mountain Overlook
The kids will enjoy carefully climbing on the rocks at this overlook. If you follow the path around, there is an outcropping on which to sit (take a chair) and take in the scenery.
Stop 3: Stony Man Summits and Lower Cliffs Hike
Today’s first hike has a 500-foot elevation change and is an easy 3½ mile hike with some of the park’s best vistas. Plan on spending 3 – 3½ hours here at Stony Man Summits and Lower Cliffs Hike.
Stop 4: Old Rag View Overlook
The Old Rag View Overlook is the starting point for the park’s most dangerous 10-mile hike that ascends the 2,500-foot exposed mountain. For those who are not up for the challenge, enjoy the scenic overlook with views of Old Rag Mountain.
Stop 5: Spitler Knoll Overlook
At Spitler Knoll, stretch out on the grassy field and take a nap, throw the frisbee, or have a picnic as you take in the panoramic views.
Stop 6: Lewis Springs Fall Loop
The Lewis Springs Fall Loop is a great family hike that is rated moderate. The 3.6-mile trail descends 950 feet to the Lewis Springs Fall and takes between 1½-2 hours to hike.
Read about more Shenandoah waterfalls in the park
Stop 7: Two Mile Run Overlook
From the Two-Mile Run Overlook, view the sweeping views and the southern end of Massanutten Mountain.
Stop 8: Dundo Overlook
A stop at Dundo Overlook offers a view across the Shenandoah Valley and information about Stonewall Jackson’s Civil War Valley Campaign.
Overnight Accommodations within the park
Loft Mountain Campground
- Open early spring through late October
Loft Mountain is the largest campground along Skyline Drive. The 200 campsites sit atop the Big Flat Mountain and offer campers flush toilets, coin-operated showers, water and a dump station. Each site comes with tent pads, fire rings and picnic tables.
These sites are great for stargazers and the ideal location to start your day with beautiful sunrises or waterfall hikes.
Lodging outside the park
Residence Inn Waynesboro
- Address: 44 Windigrove Dr, Waynesboro, VA
This hotel is relatively new and offers guests 90 spacious studio, 1- and 2-bedroom suites with full kitchens. Begin your day with a free complimentary breakfast before heading back on the drive or home. They also offer social events three nights a week.
Afton Mountain Vineyards
- Address: 234 Vineyard Lane, Afton, Virginia 22920
For those who would like to combine a scenic trip across the Skyline Drive with some wine tasting, a stay at Afton Mountain Vineyard would be the perfect ending to a perfect day.
Stay in either the guest house that offers views of the mountains and grapevines or one of the one-bedroom vineyard cottages.
The Vineyard’s tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday and is just a short walk away.
Day 3: Return trip along Skyline Drive
For the return trip to Washington, D.C, you have several options:
If you stayed in the park, continue south on the Skyline Drive to the Rockfish Gap Entrance Station. From here, take the 3-hour drive back to Washington D.C.
1. Head east on I-64, then north on Route 29, and east on I-66.
2. Head west on I-64, then north on I-81 and east on I-66.
For those who would like to explore more on the drive, take the 4 ½ hour drive from Rockfish Gap or 3¾ hour drive from Loft Mountain northbound on the Skyline Drive to Washington D.C.
Below are a couple of additional stops you can make on your return.
Stop 1: Moormans River Overlook
This overlooks’ southeasterly vista is a perfect place to watch the sunrise. If you are not up that early, it is a lovely sight during the day as well, where you can see the river wind through the valley.
Stop 2: South River Falls
The South River Falls 4.7-mile round trip hike descends 1,300 feet from the South River Picnic Area to one of Virginia’s most remarkable waterfalls.
The 83-foot waterfall’s first overlook is 1.3-miles into the hike. However, continue hiking another hour down to the base of the falls.
This hike takes between 2½ – 4 hours and begins from the picnic area’s southeast corner beside the bathrooms.
Stop 3: Big Meadows – Spottswood Dining Room
Stop for lunch or dinner at the Spottswood Dining Room for the Signature Turkey Dinner, Roosevelt’s roasted or fried chicken, and a piece of their homemade blackberry ice cream pie.
For an outdoor, pet-friendly option, sit on the terrace. Here you will be able to enjoy the fresh air and take in a stunning mountain view while you dine.