Ride Skyline Drive, a scenic 105-mile roadway through the heart of Shenandoah National Park.
Skyline Drive is a 105-mile scenic roadway spanning the entire length of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Mostly following a ridge, the roadway offers 75 spectacular overlooks and provides the perfect opportunity for road cyclists to enjoy the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. The Appalachian Trail even follows the same corridor, offering endless short day hikes or backpacking opportunities if that’s more your style.
For an experienced road cyclist, the entire 105-mile roadway could be ridden in one day. The better option, however, would be to divide the ride into two or three sections – as it’s mapped in this guidebook. It has also been mapped north to south, which leads into the northern entrance of the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway.
To turn the entire roadway into a multi-day trip, check out this list of campgrounds and cabins — all typically open late-March or early-April, and closed again in early to mid-November. Lodging opportunities, both indoor and outdoor, are typically less than 20 miles apart from each other. Backcountry camping is abundant for hikers, but bicycles are never allowed to leave the paved roadways within the park.
The road is divided into three districts: North, Central, and South. “There are four entrance points to Skyline Drive located at US 340 near I-66 in Front Royal, US 211 in Thornton Gap, US 33 in Swift Run Gap and US 250 near I-64 in Rockfish Gap,” according to Wikipedia, and the speed limit never exceeds 35 miles per hour. Laws are “strictly enforced by park rangers,” they continue.
For bicycles or walk-in visitors, there is a $15 entrance fee that is effective for one week following the purchase date. An annual pass is also available for $55, which “provides unlimited entry for one year to the pass owner and passengers in the same vehicle.” If you plan to drive into the parkway and ride on a regular basis, the latter would be the best option. For a complete list of fees, including commercial use, discounts, and exceptions, click here.
Weather can change quickly in the mountains, and sections of Skyline Drive may close due to ice, snow, fog, or even down trees. However, even when the gates are closed, cyclists and pedestrians are still able to enjoy the road. For the most up to date winter conditions, call 540-999-3500, choose option 1, then option 1 again. As of early 2020, this is the fastest and most dependable way to check for closures and other advisories on the road.
Cycling is permitted along all 105 miles of Skyline Drive, but never along trails, dirt roads, or grassy areas. The NPS urges cyclists to "use extreme caution" along the roadway due to its “many steep hills and numerous blind curves.” Both front and rear lights are only required when riding in fog, tunnels, or between sunset and sunrise. Even if the weather is sunny and clear, though, front and rear reflectors are still required.
In contrast to other states, Virginia does not have a law requiring cyclists to wear helmets. The NPS does not make mention of any local ordinances, but helmets should always be worn – no matter the situation.
The Blue Ridge Parkway lists their bicycling regulations here, all of which are excellent practices and should equally apply to Skyline Drive.