After spending an entire day driving up the Blue Ridge Parkway through Virginia, Day 8 was devoted to finishing the remainder of Virginia’s mountaintop corridor. Shenandoah National Park stretches from Interstate 64 to Interstate 66, with one fantastic road running the entire length of the park: Skyline Drive.
The south entrance to Shenandoah National Park is located at Interstate 64 exit 99. There is an admission fee.
Day 7 had ended with storms, then clouds and fog drifting up from the valleys that surrounded the Blue Ridge Parkway. Some of that fog had stuck around for the start of this day, but the park ranger at the entrance station assured me that it would burn off quickly (and it did).
There are plenty of things to see and places to hike throughout Shenandoah National Park, but the first few miles at the southern end of the park consist mostly of overlooks. The really good stuff starts on the next page, but let’s review some of the scenic stops here first.
Calf Mountain Overlook
Calf Mountain Overlook wasn’t very impressive. But, I still had a lot of fog and haze to contend with. So I continued.
Sawmill Ridge Overlook
Sawmill Ridge Overlook has more mountains…
Sawmill Run Overlook
… and so does the nearby Sawmill Run Overlook.
Turk Mountain Overlook
Turk Mountain provides a good moderate-length hike (4.8 miles, according to one source). At the top of the mountain there’s a great view of the southern end of the park and the surrounding lowlands. You can hook up with the trail at the Turk Gap Parking Area.
Crimora Lake Overlook
At Crimora Lake Overlook, I was unable to see a lake…
Moormans River Overlook
… but at Moormans River Overlook, I was able to see a glimpse of Moormans River, which begins in the park and runs east.
There’s a patch of dead trees on the hillside here, but no sign to explain why.
The Riprap Overlook gives you a view of Riprap Hollow. There’s a 9-mile loop trail that can take you down into the hollow, if you’re so inclined. The trailhead is just up the road from the overlook.
At Horsehead Overlook, you’ll get a glimpse of a talus slope — a bare patch of rock on the side of a mountain where ancient rock masses have frozen, shattered, and shifted over time. They are too harsh for almost any plant life to survive. I took a hike up to a talus slope, that’s similar to the one you see here.
Finally, the clouds and fog are burning off! Unfortunately, Shenandoah National Park is fighting an ongoing battle with smog. Dirty air drifts in from northeastern cities, most days limiting the long-distance view.
Note: This trip was first published in 2008.