Opening day, October 23, 1932
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

The Skyline Drive runs 105 miles north and south along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park and is the only public road through the park. You can enter at four places:

1. Front Royal near Rt. 66 and 340
2. Thornton Gap at Rt. 211
3. Swift Run Gap at Rt. 33
4. Rockfish Gap at Rt. 64 and Rt. 250
(which is also the northern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway)

It takes about three hours to travel the entire length of the park on a clear day. Annually, over two million people visit the Skyline Drive, which has been designated a National Scenic Byway and a National Historic Landmark. There are 75 overlooks that offer stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley to the west or the rolling piedmont to the east.

As you travel along Skyline Drive you will notice mileposts along the way. These posts help you locate areas of interest. The mileposts begin with 0.0 at Front Royal and continue to 105 at the southern end of the park. At Rockfish Gap, the Blue Ridge Parkway begins, and continues a similar path along ridge tops through Virginia and into North Carolina, terminating at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Autumn Colors Along Skyline Drive
Photo taken by Larry W. Brown

The maximum speed limit is 35 mph. In certain populated areas it is even lower (e.g. near facilities such as visitor centers, lodging, campgrounds, and restaurants). One might see stopped vehicles in the road either enjoying the wildlife or just turning to stop at an overlook. Motorcycles, bicycles, vehicles and occasionally pedestrians share the road. This requires extra precaution. There are also many deer, bear and other wildlife crossing the road, particularly during early morning and late evening, which can appear with no prior warning. The speed limit within the park is strictly enforced by park rangers.

The construction of the Skyline Drive began before the park was born, supported as a drought relief measure by President Herbert Hoover, who had a fishing camp in the area. On July 18, 1931, construction began. Huge cuts were made into the sides of knolls and peaks to allow for a road wide enough to handle traffic. The road was first built by local farmers who, due to crop failures, needed the work. Later, it was undertaken by contract.

The Civilian Conservation Corps also had a hand in the construction of Skyline Drive, but did not construct the roadbed of the Drive as at times has been suggested. The CCC graded the slopes on both sides of the roadway, built guardrails, constructed overlooks, and planted thousands of trees and shrubs.

A Bear Crossing Skyline Drive
Photo taken by Larry W. Brown

In 1934, the central section of the Skyline Drive opened to long lines of eager and curious visitors. The road was essentially finished on August 29, 1939, during the Roosevelt administration. Most of the picnic areas, comfort stations, overlooks and landscaping were built by the CCC. The cost of this important roadway was approximately $5 million.

For complete historical details and timelines of Skyline Drive, click here to download a Park Service archive.

Access to Skyline Drive requires entrance passes. View the complete list of entrance fees here.


View Skyline Drive Construction photos at this National Park Service page.