Friday, July 24, 2009

Shenandoah National Park....Skyline Drive

When leaving Salem, Virginia on Wednesday morning, we drove north on I-81 for about 150 miles to the town of Front Royal. This small Virginia town is at the entrance to Shenandoah National Park. We planned on a 2-night stay in this area.

Shenandoah Nat'l. Park extends about 105 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains between Front Royal and Waynesboro, at the south. The park consists of 197,412 acres and hundreds of miles of hiking trails. The park is also a wildlife sanctuary. The park is open all year, but camping facilities close during winter. We got to enter the park "free" by using Bruce's America the Beautiful Senior Pass. Finally.... getting old has some benefits. We have used the Senior Pass 3 times on this trip. It cost us $10.00 to purchase the card down in the Everglades Nat'l. Park and we have used it 2 more times since then. The card never expires.

The Skyline Drive is the only access to the park by vehicle. In 1999 we traversed the entire Skyline Drive with our RV and stayed at all the campgrounds. On this trip, we are just going into the park with our car for a partial drive to enjoy the beautiful scenery. This scenic highway is one of the most spectacular in the East.

Here is the entrance sign announcing your arrival.

The Skyline Drive is a narrow 2-lane road that winds along the crest of the Blue Ridge. There are 75 lookout areas for scenic views.

The sky is often hazy up in the Blue Ridge, but today was more so as thunderstorms were brewing off in the distance. This haze is what gives the Blue Ridge Mountains their name since it makes the mountain range appear bluish. This view is from one of the lookout points toward the East.

This tunnel on the Skyline Drive is 610 feet long and goes through solid granodiorite of Marys Rock.

Summer wildflowers were still blooming throughout the park.

Another field of beautiful wildflowers.

Here is the entrance to Big Meadows, the most popular campground on the Skyline Drive. There are individual campsites and group sites, as well. We stayed here in 1999 with our 30 footer and wondered if our 40 footer could fit in here. We drove in to check it out.
We found several large pull-through sites that would accommodate our motorhome if we ever want to come back up here for a few days. There are no hook-ups, but a dump station and fresh water are available. We did find the campground to only be about 25% occupied. On our previous stay in '99 it was completely full. Could it be the recession? Big Meadows does take reservations (877) 444-6777 if you are interested.

More spacious, empty campsites.

The famed Appalachian Trail goes right through Big Meadows. Hikers can come off the trail here for a hot meal at the cafe and a nice hot shower, as well. Showers cost $1.00 for 5 minutes. Better scrub fast in that shower!
Big Meadows is named after the big expanse of meadow grass you can see from the Wayside area and from the Skyline Drive. The Wayside has a cafe, gift shop, gas station, and camp store. This is the view from the Wayside looking East at the meadow.

This is the cafe at the Wayside. You can see all the backpacks lined up against the wall. The hikers come off the Appalachian Trail to get some hot food.

We did not see any of the Black Bear that inhabit this national park. We did see a lot of deer. Many of them were right inside the Big Meadows Campground and some were along the side of the Skyline Drive.
A mother and her fawn in the campground.

We did see this solitary wild turkey as we were heading back North on the drive to Front Royal.
We enjoyed our afternoon and evening here on the Skyline Drive. We have great memories from our trip on 1999 and when we come back to the East again, we may come up here and "camp" for a week or so.

Shenandoah is one of over 390 parks in the National Park System. If you want further information on this park, or any other park, visit
Until next long for now!

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