Skyline Drive – Sheanandoah National Park by Bike

This map is from the National Park Service website

Today is about logistics.  The actual bike riding does not begin until tomorrow but it will take a full day to get everything in place.  One lesson I have already learned is that if you’re going to one of Virginia’s most beautiful spots in the fall, reserve early!  We are riding on a Sunday/Monday because there were no rooms available in the park on Saturday night in this peak foliage season.

Skyline Drive is a 105 mile ridgeline road built during the Great Depression.  It runs the length of the Shenandoah National Park and is a gorgeous curvy, mountainous road with spectacular views and a small amount of quaint lodging.

My riding partner is my co-worker and close friend Brett Roth (@roth_brett).  We joke frequently because not only is Brett half my age but he’s about half my weight and when his energy runs out he does not have the reserves that I do.  This weekend age will triumph over youth!

Today begins with driving both our cars to the southern-most point of the ride, Rockfish Gap which is just outside of Waynesboro, VA.  This should be about a 3 1/2 hour drive across the Shenandoah Valley.  That’s if we go directly; but, on what promises to be a perfect fall day, we will no doubt stop on the way to visit apple orchards, pumpkin farms, and wineries…ok, mostly wineries.

We will leave a car at Rockfish Gap and take the other car up I-81 to the northern end of the ride.  The northern end is Front Royal, VA.

Here again, advanced planning is important because though Front Royal does not have a lot to offer (in my opinion) it is at the entrance to SNP and every hotel in that town is booked on an October Saturday night!

Elkwallow is little more than a convenience store/gift shop/snack bar but at the 25 mile mark, this oasis will be the halfway mark of day 1 and a welcome lunch spot!

Thus we will stay in the comparatively cosmopolitan Winchester, VA, birthplace of Patsy Cline.  Winchester does offer more choices for hotels and restaurants but it means in the morning we will have to begin with a 20 mile drive.

The plan is that we will leave a car near the entrance to the park and ride our bikes 52 miles to Big Meadows Lodge.  We will spend the night there and enjoy a carbohydrate-heavy meal and on Monday resume the ride covering the second 53 miles.  At that point we will retrieve the first car, drive back up I-81 to retrieve the second car and head home.

A lot more driving than bicycling, and no doubt jumping in the car for 4 hours after the ride will enable our muscles to stiffen up to concrete, but that’s how it goes on a low-budget bike trip!

Stony Man Mountain will be among the highest altitudes of our ride, which will at times take us to over 3500 feet.

The route will be mountainous…there will be no level stretches, only ascents and descents.  I can only imagine how wonderful that lodge will look when we arrive, and I really look forward to what appears to be a 5 mile descent at the very end!

Earlier this year I did a short backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail and one of the surprise highlights was an oasis called Elkwallow.  This rest-stop on Skyline Drive is at about the 25 mile marker and will be the site of our lunch break tomorrow!

So stay tuned for some great pictures, and the inevitable hijinks that result from traveling with Tony & Brett!



  1. Good luck and have fun Tony. There are only a few climbs you’ll have to deal with tomorrow. The problem of course is that they are never ending, Looking forward to the ride report.


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