Veloviews for December 16, 2022 – Cycling Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Aerial View of Shenandoah Valley by Federated Art at

Even though the Blue Ridge Parkway begins in Tennessee, it’s easy to forget the other areas it covers, specifically the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. For cyclists, the best way to ride through the valley is to visit Shenandoah National Park, then hop on Skyline Drive.

Some Background about the Shenandoah Valley

Considered part of the Great Appalachian Valley, Shenandoah Valley is a region in western Virginia. It is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and what is called the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians to the west.

The word “Shenandoah” is derived from the Iroquois tribe that settled in the valley. Historically, the tribe aided colonial soldiers at Valley Forge during the American Revolutionary War. At the end of the conflict, and to honor Chief Skenandoah, George Washington named the region the Shenandoah Valley.

One of the standout points of interest in the Shenandoah Valley is its limestone caves. They are considered both geologically and historically significant and are as follows:

Shenandoah National Park

A mere 75 miles from Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park encompasses “200,000 acres of protected lands.” 80,000 acres have been set aside as a protected wilderness area by the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Many of the rocks and formations in the park are of volcanic origin. They date back billions of years. As part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, elevations reach 3,000 to 4,000 feet.

The process to turn the area into a National Park was started in 1901 and dragged on for many years, primarily due to landowners who did not want to leave. In 1933, President Roosevelt created the Blue Ridge Parkway that would connect with Skyline Drive, which was still under construction at that point. But by 1935, Shenandoah National Park was declared and opened a year later in 1936.

Cycling Shenandoah National Park

View of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park by David Mark at

Skyline Drive is the main road that runs through Shenandoah National Park. It is 105 miles long and begins in Front Royal, VA and terminates in Luray, VA. Skyline Drive runs along the ridge of the mountains. The road itself is a “National Historic Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also designated as a National Scenic Byway.”

The characteristics of Skyline Drive are that it’s a two-lane highway. The National Park Service describes the road as having “steep hills, numerous blind curves, and frequently heavy fog. Cyclists are urged to be aware of wildlife and heavy traffic, particularly in the fall.”

Cyclists are also encouraged to have lights as there are tunnels of various lengths along Skyline Drive. It is also recommended that cyclists ride single file because Skyline Drive can get busy at times with vehicle traffic.

If you choose to not ride alone or feel unsafe doing so, the NPS website states there are guided tours cyclists can join. However, if you are riding alone, it notes there are Bike Repair stations within the park.

Last Thoughts

The Shenandoah Valley is a beautiful area to explore on foot or by bike. If you have the time, I would definitely recommend a cave tour. However, if you visit primarily to cycle, your experience will be similar to that of riding the Blue Ridge Parkway with good roads and moderate climbs.

Have you been to the Shenandoah Valley? Have you ridden Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park? If you enjoyed this post, please like, share, and comment. Have a good last weekend everyone before Christmas is upon us next week.

Author: Doug McNamee

Freelance Content Writer, Travel Writer, Editor, and poet.

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