A trip down Skyline Drive

Perfect scenic drive in Charlottesville

As I have mentioned ad nauseam, I’m from Atlanta. I have a lot of Georgia pride for a lot of really solid reasons: we have amazing Southern food, a rich urban culture, warm weather and a rollercoaster of sports teams. But besides the biggest repository of granite in the country — shout out to Stone Mountain — we don’t really have access to the kind of breathtaking nature available in Charlottesville.

Shenandoah National Park is home to the Blue Ridge Mountains towering over 4,000 feet and also nearly 80,000 acres of protected wilderness. It also claims 236 miles of roads, 105.5 of which belong to Skyline Drive. This road runs through the park, winding around mountainsides and making your ears pop with every mile. I’d heard about the undeniably beautiful views and the feeling that you were worlds away from the city. So, when I had a special visitor this past weekend, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to check it out.

Some pro-tips I was not previously aware of: the park closes at 5 p.m., which means the road closes at 5 p.m. It costs $25 for a seven-day pass. The nearest lunch stop (which I assume either means picnic tables or restaurants) is 55 miles away in Warrenton, Va. The entrance to the park is about 20 miles from Grounds so make sure to budget your time!

We arrived to the park around 1 p.m. with a bag full of PB&Js, chocolate chip cookies and apple slices, ready for a picnic on a beautifully sunny, 70 degree Saturday. When we found out there was no standard place to eat, we just kept driving in the hope of a clearing or a pull-off point to look over the incredible mountains that frame our city. Luckily, Skyline Drive is full of different overlooks — little areas to stand and take in the beauty, we hit three in the first five or so miles of driving.

The views are really indescribable — royal blue mountains, patchwork farmland and dark green forests that stretch out from the peak that you’re standing on. Each overlook offers a different perspective, and I wish we could’ve driven for hours.

When we decided we wanted to eat, we realized that 70 degrees at 500-foot altitudes (roughly Charlottesville) doesn’t translate when you’re 2,400 feet above sea-level. The wind was intense and chilly, so we gladly ate in the car and looked out over the mountains.

Would I recommend a Skyline Drive day trip? Without a doubt. Would I pick a warmer day and budget for more time to explore? Also, yes. Taking a trip to a national park requires ample planning so I encourage you to be more organized than I was and take full advantage of the experience.

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