east coast National Parks road trip southeast travel

Guide to the Skyline Drive

The Skyline Drive in Virginia runs 105 miles through Shenandoah National Park along the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a short drive from Washington, DC, Richmond, and even Baltimore or Philadelphia. It is one of the most scenic drives along the east coast of the United States. 

It starts off in Front Royal, VA and connects to the Blue Ridge Parkway 105 miles later near Afton, VA. Along the way you will come across many overlooks and hiking trails including the famous Appalachian Trail. There’s plenty for you to do in a day or even over a long weekend if you get out of your car. I recently did a quick trip and spent a couple hours driving along the Skyline Drive. You can read more about that here

If you are just planning on driving the 105 miles with no stops it will take you around three hours on a clear day. The posted speed limit is 35mph and for most of the drive you will want to be traveling that fast. Any faster and you might miss some of the spectacular views. Plus at that speed you have a better chance avoiding any of the wildlife that call Shenandoah National Park Home.

Below you will find our guide to the Skyline Drive. We go over notable overlooks. What wildlife you may encounter. Also where to stay the night or where some of the best hiking trails are at.

Notable overlooks

Skyline Drive, America's most scenic route, Road trip, Blue Ridge Mountains

There are many overlooks along the Skyline Drive. Some are better than others but each have an appeal to someone. My biggest complaint about the Skyline Drive is the lack of a sign at each overlook. You will see a small sign before you get to the overlook but no sign at the overlook. This is unlike what you will find along the Blue Ridge Parkway where the overlook signs are right there.

On my most recent trip I stopped at  many of the overlooks but I couldn’t tell you where most of the pictures were taken at. I was barely getting a signal on my phone so Google Maps was not loading the names of the overlooks. 

road trip, skyline drive, trayfoot mountain overlook,

Some of the notable overlooks to check out are Shenandoah Valley Overlook. This is one of the first ones you will hit when traveling from Front Royal. If you look out on clear days you can see West Virginia. The elevation here is only 1,390 ft. 

Don’t skip over No Name overlook just because it doesn’t have a name. This overlook faces west at an elevation of 1,985 ft. This is a decent spot to catch a sunset but also a nice spot to stare at the sky above on a dark cloudless night.  

Appalachian Trail, Skyline Drive, Mountains,

At little Hogback Overlook you can see a portion of the Appalachian Trail. Just a little further south you get to Hogback Overlook which is the longest overlook along the Skyline Drive at .2 miles. Both spots also have some pretty good views, especially on clear days.

Little Devils Stairs, Stony Man Mountain Overlook, Timber Hollow Overlook, Crescent Rock Overlook (Parks highest point), Old Rag View Overlook, Naked Creek Overlook, The Oaks Overlook, Bacon Hollow Overlook, Eaton Hollow Overlook, Rockytop Overlook, and Riprap Overlook. Some of those overlooks have great views. Some are good for sunset. Some are good for sunrise. Some just have a great name. 

mountain sunrise, skyline drive,

One thing to note if you are driving south on the Skyline Drive the overlooks on your right are generally good for sunsets and the ones on the left are good for sunrise. If you head north on the Skyline Drive the opposite is true. 

Just remember that the Skyline Drive is a very popular road trip for many people so some of the “best” overlooks for sunrise and sunset may fill up fast. Arrive a little early to make sure you can get a spot. Otherwise, you might be like me and trying to find a good spot as the sun is about to pop up over the horizon. 

If you stay past sunset or arrive a couple hours before sunrise, you will be greatly rewarded. The night sky along the Skyline Drive is amazing. It is some of the darkest skies you will find on the east coast. Just park your car. Turn off the lights and look up in amazement.

astrophotography, dark skies, stars, skyline drive,

Hiking

If driving really isn’t your thing but you still want to experience everything the Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park has to offer. Hiking is a must. There are numerous trails to choose from. Anything from short easy hikes to longer more difficult hikes. You can even hike a section of the Appalachian Trail. 

Traveling along the Skyline drive is a 101 mile section of the famous Appalachian Trail. There are many areas when you can park and jump right on. There’s a good chance you will find many other hikers who have been traveling the trail for days or even weeks. 

If you don’t want to hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail but still want to go on a good hike and breath in that fresh mountain air. Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive have you covered. Many of these trails take you to some of the most spectacular views you will find on the east coast of the US. Also many of them will take you to beautiful cascading waterfalls. 

Dark Hollow Falls (mile 50.7) is one of the most popular hikes along the Skyline Drive. However, it is not for everyone. While the round trip for the hike is only a mile and a half. The trail has a steep descent and you return the same way. Since you are following a stream to a waterfall. The area can be slippery when wet.  However, if you can make it down and back up you will be left with a little feeling of accomplishment and peace. I mean who doesn’t feel at peace when viewing a beautiful waterfall?

Stony Man is another short (1.6 miles) hike that gives you some great views of the Shenandoah Valley. It is considered to be one of the easiest hikes along the Skyline Drive with the best payoff. 

If you are looking for something a little more challenging but also ends with a fantastic view. Hightop Summit is for you. Start off near mile 66.7 and take this 3 mile round trip hike up to an amazing viewpoint that stands at 3,296 feet. The views just might take your breath away. This is also considered to be a moderate hike. 

A couple other moderate hikes include Jones Run Falls at mile 84.1. Doyles River Falls at 81.1 and Chimney Rock at mile 90.

Little Devil Stairs is not for the faint at heart. While you probably won’t see the devil, you will pass by an old family cemetery. This hike is considered to be strenuous and is a total of 7.4 miles. 

The most popular hike in Shenandoah National Park (other than the Appalachian Trail) is the Old Rag hike. This 9.4 mile very strenuous hike offers some pretty great rewards when finished. Get a great 360 degree view while you sit on top of the world. 

Stay the Night

Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park have a total of 626 campsites at five different campgrounds. The campgrounds are Mathews Arm (mile 22.1), Big Meadows (mile 51.2), Lewis Mountain (mile 57.5), Loft Mountain (mile 79.5), and Dundo Group (mile 83.7)  None of these sites have electric hookups and are very basic. To me that is a good thing. 

Camping, tent, outdoors

One of the great things about this area is the fact it hasn’t really been touched by modern man. Sure there is a road going through the mountain but other than that it is nature at it’s finest. You will also experience some of the Darkest Skies on the East Coast while camping along the Skyline Drive. It really is amazing. 

While you don’t need a reservation. It is highly recommended. Due to Covid, most campgrounds have seen a high increase in the demand for their sites. This goes for any campground. Public, private, State, and Federal campgrounds have been filling up much faster than they have in the past. 

If camping isn’t your thing but you still want to spend the night. You can book a cabin at one of three different locations. Skyland (mile 41.7), Big Meadows Lodge (mile 51), and Lewis Mountain Cabins (mile 57.5) have many different options to pick from.

Everything from a rustic cabin where you bring your own sheets. To rooms with king beds and everything you would expect from a mountain retreat. Your stay along the Skyline Drive can be as basic or luxurious as you want. 

Wildlife

This shouldn’t come as a surprise but you can find plenty of wildlife within Shenandoah National Park and along the Skyline Drive. You could see deer, squirrels, rabbits, skunks, bobcats, and even black bears. If you look carefully you might spot one of the 18 different species of snakes or one of the different species of turtle that call the area home. 

Most of the animals you will see will be at night time and not so much during the day. Just before and after sunrise you could spot many deer close to the road way. It’s important to remember to go the speed limit (35mph) to help avoid running into a deer. The speed limit is for your safety as well as theirs.

Park your car and sit quietly and you are bound to hear the many different chirps and songs coming from the many birds that call the area home. It’s just another one of those things that help calm your mind. 

Always remember to keep your distance from the wildlife too. Don’t try to feed them or pet them. They are wild animals and need to stay that way. 


The Skyline Drive is one of the most scenic routes you can take in the US. While I believe that the Blue Ridge Parkway just south of the Skyline Drive is a more scenic route. The Skyline drive definitely ranks second or third on the east coast for scenic drives. Nothing beats a road trip along this route.

Visit in the fall for one of the best displays of changing colors anyway in the United States. Just be prepared for tons of traffic. You will love all that you will see.

Have you driven the Skyline Drive? How about taking a hike on one of the many trails? Let us know in the comments below. If you live on the East Coast, there is no reason for you not to visit. You will see why this area is so beautiful.

Want to continue on the journey with us? Be sure to follow us on social media by clicking the icons below. We post content weekly and are always looking for fun and exciting places to visit. Just drop us a line on where we should go next or what we should do.

looking out to the mountains, Daddy and daughter, KozmoPhotos.com, Skyline Drive

Thank You everyone who has commented and followed us. It means a lot and helps us continue making post, photos, and guides for you. Till our next post….. Have a great day!

Want to continue on the journey with us? Be sure to follow us on social media by clicking the icons below. We post content weekly and are always looking for fun and exciting places to visit. Just drop us a line on where we should go next or what we should do.

Thank You everyone who has commented and followed us. It means a lot and helps us continue making post, photos, and guides for you. Till our next post….. Have a great day!

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