Friday, March 23, 2012

Driving Shenandoah National Park's Skyline Drive

Shenandoah National Park in north-western Virginia was established in 1935 as a patchwork of over 1000 privately owned tracts of land composed of forests, fields, meadows, orchards, and home sites.  In 1976, Congress provided the highest level of protection by designating over 40% as Wilderness.   Begun in 1931 as part of the WPA, it wasn't finished until 1939.  Many of its rustic facilities were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

Skyline Drive is a narrow two-lane mountain road with amazing vistas at every turn as it traces the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains for 105 miles  At its southern terminus, the scenic roadway continues another 469 miles as the Blue Ridge parkway until it ends in the Smoky Mountains. It is not a toll road, but since it is a national park, there is a $15 entrance fee good for seven days.

The speed limit is 35mph, and the design of this road and its sister, the Blue Ridge Parkway, incorporated many design factors upon which the Interstate highway system was later based. Mary's Rock Tunnel at mile 31 is 670 feet long.

Over 500 miles of hiking trails also traverse the park, including the famed Appalachian Trail and six of its shelters are in the park.  Here you see where the AT crosses Skyline Drive...

Here's a view from one of the 75 scenic overlooks...

I used a panorama program on my iPhone to stitch together five photos from a scenic overlook to create this 180 degree shot (you can see the same parking area in both edges of the photo.)

National Park map

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