Skyline Drive is a 105-mile road that runs the
entire length of the National Park Service's Shenandoah National Park
in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, generally along the ridge of
the mountains. The scenic drive is particularly popular in the
fall when the leaves are changing colors. Annually, over two million
people visit the Skyline Drive, which has been designated a National
Major entry points to Skyline Drive are as
As of June 2007, the entry fee for all vehicles
is $15 for a single car, and $10 for motorcycles. Passes, which are
valid for unlimited entries within a seven-day period, are issued.
Payment may be made with cash, credit, or debit cards. A year-long
pass can be purchased for $30 (A Season Pass will admit 2
On the west side (right when traveling from north
to south) of the drive, mileposts are present. They are numbered
from 0 to 105 (north to south). These are the reference points
to directions in the drive.
The speed limit is 35 miles per hour. The
road is very treacherous and hence such a limit is enforced. One
might see stopped vehicles in the road either enjoying the wildlife or
just turning to stop at an overlook. Bicycles, vehicles and
pedestrians share the road. This requires extra precaution.
There are also many deer, bear, and other wildlife crossing the road,
which can appear with no prior warning. The speed limit within
the park is also strictly enforced by park police.
As the name suggests, the road takes a winding
path along the mountaintops of the Blue Ridge Mountains east of the
Shenandoah River. There are nearly seventy-five overlooks
throughout the drive. Some of the most spectacular views of the valley
can be seen. During the drive (especially in early morning and late
evening) wildlife can be seen on the road. Interestingly, Shenandoah
National Park has one of the densest populations of black bears
documented within the U.S., although these bears stay deep in the
Apart from the drive, one can hike and camp.
There are numerous trails throughout, including a portion of the
Appalachian Trail, which follows the road's path. Biking and
horseback riding are other recreational activities which are allowed
on the road. There are also visitors centers, cabins for rent,
and even restaurants (the one at the Skyland Lodge gives diners a
spectacular vista of the valley south of Luray).
There is a tunnel named "Mary's Rock Tunnel" at
mile 31 of the drive. The clearance is 12'8". It is 670 feet
At Rockfish Gap, the Blue Ridge Parkway begins,
and continues a similar path along ridge tops through Virginia and
into North Carolina, terminating at Great Smoky Mountains National
Park. Though the land immediately around the parkway is protected by
the National Park Service, much of the parkway goes near private land,
but it is, nonetheless, quite rustic and charming.
Begun as a Works Progress Administration (WPA)
project during the Great Depression, construction of the Skyline Drive
was both difficult and dangerous. Huge cuts were made into the sides
of knolls and peaks to allow for a road wide enough to handle traffic.
The work began in 1931, and the final section (from Swift Run Gap to
Rockfish Gap) was completed and opened in 1939. The Civilian
Conservation Corps also had a hand in the construction of Skyline
Drive. The CCC graded the slopes on both sides of the roadway, built
guardrails, constructed overlooks, and planted thousands of trees and
shrubs along the parkway.
Since user fees are charged at entry points along
the Skyline Drive, the Drive is sometimes mistaken as a toll road. The
fee, however, is not a toll charged to drive on the road, but rather
to enter, and enjoy, the park. A $15.00 pass is valid for up to seven
days (as opposed to charging by the mile, or by the day, as toll roads
Already a National Scenic Byway, in October 2008,
it was announced that the Skyline Drive was designated a National
Historic Landmark. It was already inscribed on the National
Register of Historic Places in 1997.