Where Does Skyline Drive Start and End?

Skyline Drive
© zrfphoto/ via Getty Images

Written by Allison Young

Published: December 21, 2023

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Skyline Dive might be the ultimate scenic route. The winding country road meanders through dense forests and along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. With a speed limit of 35 mph and 75 overlooks to enjoy, all signs point to a leisurely drive where you can savor the wildlife and natural beauty of the Shenandoah National Park. But to enjoy the whole 105-mile length of Skyline Drive, where do you start? Where does it end? Read on to discover Skyline Drive’s start and finish!

What Is Skyline Drive?

Skyline Drive runs through the Shenandoah National Park, which is about 198,000 acres.

©jack looney/ via Getty Images

Skyline Drive is a national parkway, a roadway (and its surrounding land) that is protected by the U.S. It’s also a national scenic byway. This means that Skyline Drive is recognized by the U.S. Department of Transportation for one or more of the following traits: archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic. To possess one or more of these qualities means the government will provide funding to help preserve and maintain the road and its surroundings. The road runs the length of the Shenandoah National Park where there’s plenty of hiking, bicycling, camping, and horseback riding. It also offers access to the Appalachian Trail.

Where Skyline Drive Starts and Ends

Overall Run Waterfall, the highest waterfall in Virginia, is a couple of miles off Skyline Drive.

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To start driving the Skyline Drive depends on whether you start at the northern end or the southern. At the northern end, you enter the roadway through the Front Royal Entrance Station. This entrance is located on the southern outskirts of Front Royal, VA, the only incorporated town in Warren County. The town prides itself on being the gateway to Skyline Drive, the Shenandoah National Park, and the Blue Ridge Mountains. And within three miles of your Skyline journey, you’ll reach the first outlook, the Shenandoah Valley Outlook.

The roadway winds and curves southward, hiking trails weaving around the road and picturesque outlooks dotting the route every few miles.

The southern end of Skyline Drive is located at Rockfish Gap Entrance Station. Highway routes 340 and 64 intersect near Rockfish Gap in the town of Waynesboro, VA. It’s about a half-hour drive to Charlottesville and the historic Monticello estate.

While Front Royal and Rockfish Gap are at either end of Skyline Drive, travelers can also access the roadway at Thornton Gap, near Luray, VA. Swift Run Gap is another entry point in the thick of the stunning east-coast wilderness.

Wildlife Along Skyline Drive

The big brown bat is one type of mammal you might see along Skyline Drive. They are an important part of the ecosystem for their ability to eat large quantities of pests.

©JasonOndreicka/ via Getty Images

Skyline Drive offers dozens of breathtaking vistas of the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains. For those with some patience and a keen eye, there’s plenty of wildlife to observe too! While travelers are likely to spot more common animals, like deer and squirrels, there are about 50 mammals that populate the forests of Skyline Drive. There are also about 190 species of birds, 20 species of reptiles and amphibians, and over 40 types of fish! Among these diverse animals, you might spot black bears through dense vegetation, or big brown bats flitting through the sky at sunset. When planning your Skyline Drive trip, make sure to bring proper clothing and a pair of binoculars to catch a glimpse of the diverse wildlife of Shenandoah!

Other Skyline Drive Landmarks and Facts

Marys Rock Tunnel is an iconic landmark along Skyline Drive. Because it’s only 12 ft. high travelers have to make sure they drive vehicles that will fit.

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Following the curves of Skyline Drive and savoring its surrounding landscape can be enough to enjoy the historic roadway. Here are a few more noteworthy facts and landmarks that can enrich your Skyline Drive adventure:

  • Skyline Drive was built in 1939 after the Southern Appalachian National Park Committee chose the Shenandoah Valley as an east-coast national park in 1924.
  • There are entrance fees at the four main entrances of Skyline Drive, ranging from $15.00 to $200.00. A pass with unlimited access within seven days of purchase costs $30.00.
  • European settlers of the 1700s spotted different wildlife in the Shenandoah Valley than what lives along Skyline Drive today. American bison, beavers, and river otters are among the species that have disappeared.
  • The Thornton Gap Station Entrance is about eleven miles from Luray Caverns, another natural landmark in Virginia.
  • One noteworthy landmark along Skyline Drive is Marys Rock Tunnel. The vehicular tunnel is 670 ft. long and about 12 ft. high.

Skyline Drive: Conclusion

Skyline Drive ends at Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro, VA. At its southern end, it becomes the Blue Ridge Parkway, another scenic roadway that continues into North Carolina.

©Aschen/ via Getty Images

Whether you hope to drive the full length of Skyline Drive or enjoy a few miles to the nearest outlook, the scenic byway offers several entrances from Front Royal, VA, to Waynesboro, VA. However long your trip, you’ll enjoy incredible views, striking wildlife, and even the engineering feat of a vehicular tunnel.

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About the Author

Allison Young is a professional and creative writer, podcaster, and designer. She is always looking for ways to weave words, flowers, and art together. Since reading James Herriot and "Watership Down" as a child, she believes the best stories are stories with animals, for they illuminate our humanity in all its complexity. When she's not writing, she's working as a floral designer, gardening, or hanging out with the family pets.

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