July 28, 2023 Our plan was to leave at 9:30 and drive a stretch of the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. (Skyline Drive follows the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains for 105 miles. In the south, it joins the Blue Ridge Parkway for 469 miles.) Unfortunately, we overslept and we had to rush around to get ready. We packed a lunch of lobsters rolls, picked up Mary and John, and were on the road at 9:45. The thermometer in the truck said 89 degrees. The highway took us into the town of New Market. It was a quaint little town with a lot of historical buildings. After New Market, we drove through Luray, where the Luray Caverns can be found. We have visited the Caverns on a past trip and it is a remarkable place, but we decided to skip it on this trip. We continued on to the Thornton Gap Entrance Station of Shenandoah National Park where we would start our trip on the Skyline Drive.
We pulled up to the ranger station and showed our Senior Lifetime Pass to enter. We picked up a map of the park and went on our way.
Our drive today would begin at Mile Marker #31. I did some research and read that the best, most scenic area of Skyline Drive to see is between Thornton Gap and Swift Run Gap, so that is why we chose to start here. The park map does a great job of pointing out all the best spots to stop. The road is winding and forested. There are many overlooks with gorgeous vistas and other areas of interest.
Our first overlook was at the tunnel where the clearance was 12′ 8″. You don’t want to bring your RV up here.
From there, we proceeded down the road to each of the overlooks where we stopped and got out to see what there was to see. Unfortunately, the view was hampered by the smoky haze in the air. The different shades of blue were beautiful. On a clear day, I bet you can see forever.
The Pinnacles Overlook was interesting. Every view was amazing!
Stony Man Overlook got us to use our imagination. Looking at this hillside from a distance, see if you can imagine the rocky outcroppings to be the profile of a man’s face with a brow at the top and the man’s sharp, pointed nose as the larger one. Can you see it? Stony Man, the man of the mountain.
We came upon the highest point on the drive with this marker near the Skyland Lodge area.
At most of the overlooks on this drive, there were flowers and plants that were attracting bees and all different varieties of butterflies. My plant guru, Bridget, told me some of them are milkweed plants, That makes a lot of sense! The butterflies were everywhere and they loved it!
We read on the map that the Appalachian Trail crisscrosses the Skyline Drive and runs parallel to it in many areas. Actually, Shenandoah National Park includes a 101-mile portion of the Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail, or AT, is generally considered a challenging route in Shenandoah National Park. It is estimated to take a little over 54 hours to complete this portion of it. They say the best times to visit this trail are March through October and is a very popular trail. Mary and I were on a mission to locate the trail at some of the overlooks and once we were told what to look for, we saw the AT markers in many places. They are marked with a cement post and a metal plate that has the location of where you are and other places around you. At first, we thought the marking at the top of the post was an arrow, but on closer inspection it was the AT mark for Appalachian Trail.
Someone even left their walking stick next to one of the markers on the trail.
We had to get our pictures taken while standing on the trail by one of the markers. At one point, the trail crossed Skyline Drive, so you could say that Mary and I actually walked on 30 feet of the trail as we walked across the road.
At some of the overlooks, there were signs that explained the history or significance of what we were looking at. The guys stopped to learn about some things in the area.
The views were amazing of the valley and the mountains surrounding us. It was a beautiful day with mostly sunny skies and the temperature was not too bad, even though the skies were hazy in the distance.
We did see some wildlife on our drive today. Bob saw a deer along the road that nobody else saw, but Mary pointed out one walking along the road that we all saw.
We had to slow down so we didn’t hit this wild turkey in the road. It did make it back to the woods safety.
We actually took a side trip into the Big Meadows Campground to check it out. At the entrance, there was this warning to watch out for bears in the area. The campground had bear boxes at the campsites for campers to store their food.
There were a few larger RVs in the campground, but mostly tents. This was an unusual looking one.
As we neared the end of our drive today, we got our final glimpse of Swift Run Gap. We thought the tan area might have been a mine in the foreground.
Our trip today on Skyline Drive was about 35 miles long and it took us a little over 3 hours to do with all our stops at the overlooks and a brief stop to eat our lunches. There are also many hikes to take and waterfalls to search out if you have the time. We left Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park at the Swift Run Gap Entrance.
We had a great day in Shenandoah National Park on the Skyline Drive. We got back to the campground about 2:30 and hung out. Bob worked on his satellite receiver again, but with no luck. Too many trees! Auggie got to spend some time outdoors. We had pizza for dinner and Auggie got his walk in before it started to rain. We actually had to run back to the campsite as the rain started. We watched another movie as it rained off and on. Tomorrow we bid farewell to Mary and John who will be moving on to other places on their way home.