The Skyline Drive – Blue Ridge Parkway together form an historic scenic drive that runs 574 miles through Virginia and North Carolina through the Blue Ridge Mountains and Appalachia.
|That time I almost lost my phone hanging out the window taking a photo along Skyline Drive.|
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a National Parkway and All-American Road in the United States, noted for its scenic beauty.
|A view from the Blue Ridge Parkway of Humpback Rocks.|
The parkway, which is America’s longest linear park, runs for 469 miles through the southern and central Appalachian Mountains (the Blue Ridge Mountains), linking Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
|View from an overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway.|
And that’s fitting, because the Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park are national park sisters, so to speak, having been designated as national parks at the same time.
|When I almost lost my phone hanging out the window taking
photos of the passing scenery, along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The parkway has been the most visited unit of the National Park System every year since 1946 except four. Land on either side of the road is owned and maintained by the National Park Service, and in many places parkway land is bordered by United States Forest Service property.
|A 360-degree view of the Spy Mountain Overlook, along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Did you know that originally the road was called Appalachian Scenic Highway?
|Hickory Spring Overlook, along the Blue Ridge Parkway.|
We only drove a few small portions of the Blue Ridge Parkway, on our way to a hike (White Rock Falls) or other places, and then we drove a portion of the Skyline Drive (the continuation of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Shenandoah National Park), also on our way to a hike (the popular Dark Hollow Falls), and then on our way home from our house rental in West Augusta, VA.
|The view from Crescent Rock Overlook, along the Skyline Drive.|
Skyline Drive extends 105 miles north of the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, running the entire length of the Shenandoah National Park. Offering astounding views and some 81 overlooks, the aptly named Skyline Drive carries you along the mountain ridges. The northernmost point of the Skyline Drive is just 75 minutes from Washington DC.
|The view at the Slacks Overlook, along the Blue Ridge Parkway.|
As we drove through Shenandoah National Park, I pointed out the campgrounds where my parents had taken my sister and I camping when we were kids: Matthew’s Arm and Big Meadows. I don’t remember ever camping in Elkswallow.
|There was more autumn leaf color at the lower elevations along the Skyline Drive.|
The memories of going to ranger talks and sitting around a campfire in the evening, when my uncle would put a piece of cut up rubber hose into a copper tube and throw it into the flames to make different colors to entertain us kids.
|A portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway.|
We always had sticks which we’d poke into the fire, until the tips caught fire, then we’d mash it out against the rocks or the fire ring. Inevitably, on the camping trip, one of my parents would end up melting their sneaker sole against the fire-ring.
I shared the funny story of another uncle, who accidentally let a chipmonk steal his contacts. In the 1970s, that was no laughing matter! It was easier then to get a camping spot in Shenandoah!
|Twenty-Minute Cliff Overlook, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, so named because the
cliffs served the people of White Rock, below, as a sort of clock. Once the sun hit
the cliffs in June and July, they had 20 minutes before dusk fell in the valley below.
Skyline Drive is a road meant NOT to be driven quickly. Developed in the euphoria of a newly mobile society, the whole point of it is not to get you from point a to point b, but to allow you to be able to enjoy the scenery of the park by presenting different vistas during what is meant to be a leisurely drive: the speed limit is posted at 35 mph, and that’s not a joke. Park police are out in abundance, stationed around various curves awaiting speeding drivers.
|The view from Spitler Knoll Overlook on the Skyline Drive.|
|There’s history in them thar hills. See the stone fence?
That’s a reminder that enslaved individuals were forced to work in the winter months
building and repairing “pig fences” for the feral pigs that ranged in the mountains.
We vowed to come back next year, plan a week a bit earlier in the fall so we’d catch the full effect of the leaves, and in the middle of the week, to avoid the crowds. I have my work cut out for me over the next few months to plan it, find dog-friendly accommodations, figure out what hikes we want to go on, and other interesting things to do.
|The view from Spy Mountain Overlook on the BLue Ridge Parkway. Kinda like the name!|
Know before you go: Neither roadway is maintained in the winter, and sections that pass over especially high elevations and through tunnels are often impassable and frequently closed from late fall through early spring. Weather is extremely variable in the mountains, so conditions and closures often change rapidly. The speed limit is never higher than 45 mph and lower in some sections.
Websites: Blue Ridge Parkway — https://www.blueridgeparkway.org/ Shenandoah National Park/Skyline Drive — https://www.nps.gov/shen/index.htm