Meandering along Skyline Drive – Northern VA

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Skyline Drive

Driving through the state of Virginia, we learned quickly that it is not only steeped with history but also rich in natural beauty.  This was very evident as we drove north along country roads to our next destination.  We were  graced with the green lushness of the countryside dotted with wildflowers, the beautiful farms and the small charming towns.  Our last stop in Virginia was at Luray in scenic Page County.

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On our first day at Shenandoah National Park we headed south and were met with heavy fog at the higher elevations.  We drove slowly, but because we were unfamiliar with the curves of Skyline Drive we turned around as soon as we saw a safe place to do so.  We did not intend to leave the park empty-handed; instead we looked for a place where we could wait out the fog.  We learned later on that it was at Mile 35 near the Pinnacles Overlook where we made our u-turn.

Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park follows the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains for 105 miles.  At its southern end it joins the Blue Ridge Parkway, where we were a few days ago.  Unlike the Blue Ridge Parkway where most of the scenic overlooks have overgrown trees blocking the view, Skyline Drive has beautiful and plentiful overlooks.

Shenandoah Valley

Shenandoah Valley viewed from Stony Man Overlook

Once we got back below the fog, we stumbled onto a gorgeous hiking trail, Buck Hollow.  This is the  3-mile portion of a longer trail, and it’s pretty much a constant descent and rather steep in several sections.  We were paralleling the Buck Hollow stream and at some points made a few rock-hops across the water.  The constant descent going in let us know we’d get a good workout on the way back.  Steve saw a black bear cub, but it smelled him quickly and ran away.  This is really bear and deer country.

We saw these colorful critters and some mushrooms or fungi.

The fog had lifted after our hike , so we continued on to the highest point of the park at the Skyland area.  We stopped first at the Stony Man overlook and took a picture of Stony mountain, where we could follow a trail that led to Stony Man Summit.

Stony Man Overlook

Stony Man Overlook, viewed from the summit…

Stony Man summit

…and Stony Man summit viewed from the overlook

The trail to the summit was an easy 1.6 mile hike, ending with excellent panoramic views.  Unfortunately, some patches of fog were still there and partially obscured our view on this day.

Stony Man Summit

We made it to the Stony Man Summit

The next day was sunny, and we wanted to make use of our 7-day, $15 entrance fee.  This time we headed north and pulled off at many of the over 75 scenic overlooks to see the views.  We went almost all the way to the north entrance and stopped at Mile 5, the Dicky Ridge Visitor Center.

On this drive we met some of the frequent visitors cruising along Skyline, motorcyclists of all shapes and kinds and colors.  It was wonderful to see the wildflowers blooming and wild animals running away from us as we cruised along.

Skyline Drive

Bikers of all colors, brands and sizes

Blooming Wildflowers

Blooming wildflowers along overlooks

There are over 500 hiking trails to explore in the park, and on this day we tackled the Compton Peak Trail, a steady elevation increase of about 835 feet to the summit of Compton Mountain.  There were some steep spots, but the 2.4 mile hike was fairly easy.  At the summit were two side trails, one leading to broad mountain views…

Compton Peak

A pose at Compton Peak

…and the other to an interesting rocky outcrop with columnar joints.

Columnar Joints at Compton Mountain

Looking up at the rocky columnar joints

And along the way we saw more interesting mushrooms or fungi.

There are many more hiking trails and miles for us to explore along the Skyline Drive, we’ll just have to come back to experience more of the Shenandoah National Park.

Finally during this stop, we took a quick side trip for a tour of the Route 11 brand potato chip factory.  We had never heard of the wheat and gluten-free Route 11 brand of chips until Steve stumbled on it while searching for an RV park in Luray.  The Mama Zumma’s flavor, packed with Habanero pepper seasoning, set our mouths on fire and had us grabbing for a cold beer.  Several flavors of these yummy chips are sold at Whole Foods and other stores.

Our base camp was at Outlanders River Camp and we chose it for its proximity to the Shenandoah National Park.  We loved it, for we were surrounded by beautiful greenery and all of the nearby mountains.  You can see Steve’s review here, if you’re interested.

Outlanders River Camp

Panoramic view of Outlanders River Camp

And when the sun came out we enjoyed it to the fullest, with a campfire – even on a hot and humid day.

Outlanders River Camp

Enjoying the sunset

And these lovely duckies were fun to watch!

Ducks

These guys were checking us out as we approached on our evening walk

Green Bee

Green bee – see the ant looking at him?

Next up:  Blackwater beauty, WV

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18 thoughts on “Meandering along Skyline Drive – Northern VA

  1. I just love the posts and photos from one of my favorite areas… the green bee and ant photo is amazing!

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  2. What beautiful country and amazing photos Mona. You are giving us some great ideas for when we head to Shenandoah NP in September. BTW, a little birdie told me you two may be in FL this winter. Is there any truth to that? We were planning to head overseas but with the uncertainty of the folks’ situation, we are planning to head south to FL instead.

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  3. I love that last flower shot with the bee and the ant. It’s like the ant is patiently waiting for the bee to move off so he can move in. Sounds like you had a great time on Skyline Drive. The fog can make it eerie and scary if you’re not familiar with the roads, but I’m glad you waited it out and returned to enjoy the overlooks and drive. I’ll have to take a look at the campground you stayed at for a future trip as I am sure we will be back that way at some point.

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  4. Great images……I love how you found all the color and textures while hiking the woods. Great shots!!!!

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  5. Loved your hiking pictures…what beauty! Sounds like a really good workout. But the green bee and the ant are priceless! So glad you are having fun and sharing it all with us!

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  6. Somehow I closed out my previous comment prematurely as snybe.

    As I was saying you are very close to WV, where all of us with LivelyRV was born and raised.

    When driving to DC from WV I always went through the mountains rather than the interstates due to the beautiful scenery. It took me anywhere from thirty to forty-five minutes longer to drive that route, but it was well worth it.

    I would drive home to WV every weekend, so I have a lot of miles between VA and WV.

    The only time I would stick to the interstates was in the winter, because you do not want to be on top of the mountains during a bad snow storm, not that I have not done that too.

    Thanks!
    Don
    LivelyRV

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  7. You are getting close to our old stomping grounds in West Virginia.

    When I worked in DC for two years we would come through Front Royal, VA, where it starts, and then hit 55 off of I81 at Strasburg, VA towards Moorefield, WV along the Devils’ Backbone and the South Branch Potomac River.

    It has been years since we drove on the actual Skyline Drive though.

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    • We were at Moorefield, WV for three nights and we drove along Devil’s Backbone and South Branch Potomac River.

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  8. What a wonderful drive! We loved riding Skyline Drive. We never camped only drove it as part of motorcycle trips. We only hiked once in our motorcycle boots to a waterfall. It was well worth it. The fall is an especially beautiful time as you can imagine. Great photos of the fungus. It sure is colorful and interesting. I always have to stop to check it out. I find it very fascinating. You captured it perfectly.

    I love the columnar rocks. I’ve never seen anything like that. Did they explain why they are that way? Great find.

    What a perfect end to a perfect day!

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    • The columnar joints are a result of a well-preserved cooling columns from ancient meta-lava flows. We did not have enough time,it was really beautiful out there when the fog lifted.

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