Saturday, May 26, 2012

Memorial Day weekend along Skyline Drive

Stepping away from the rest of the world, it's therapeutic to slow down, take a deep breath of mountain air, and feast your eyes on the mountain laurel and other wildflowers that are blooming in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park. The trees have completely leafed out and the familiar "Blue Ridge Mountain" haze is beginning to settle on the ridges as temperatures and humidity rise.

The Skyline Drive, constructed in the 1930s, still provides a relaxing drive along the mountain tops just as it has for generations of visitors for the past 75 years. Stone walls and log railings line the roadway with vistas of valleys and mountains and nature.

Loft Mountain Campground, at milepost 79.5, opened in the 1960s, is the only area for campers on the southern end of the Drive. It, along with all facilities in the park, usually book up on weekend especially when there's a holiday. Besides camping and campfire programs, it offers a camp store, showers, and guided hikes. Hiking trails surround the area, and it's not uncommon to see deer, black bears, and we even spotted a bobcat a few years ago.

The Loft Mountain Wayside, located at the entrance to Loft Mountain Campground, offers souvenirs, restroom facilities, and a place to grab a burger or sandwich.

Inside tables at the Wayside provide air conditioned comfort away from the gnats, or step onto the deck and enjoy a mountain view from the outside picnic tables.

Blackberry vines were in full bloom over Memorial Day weekend. These were seen at the amphitheater area of Loft Mountain. Campfire programs are held nightly with a ranger and bonfire with lights visible in the Valley below.

The grass was tall on Friday and mowers were in the campground trying to make it a little more comfortable for campers. It's May ... gnats were swarming, and the weekend weather was expected to have highs in the 80s with a slight chance of thunderstorms.

The wildflowers were gorgeous ...

When we arrived at 9:00 on Friday morning of the holiday weekend, Lewis Mountain Campground was already full, an indication of a busy weekend in SNP. Information about lodges and dining can be found at

Facilities at the Park:  

Skyland Resort (Milepost 41.7)
Open through November 25, 2012
Skyland is on the National Register of Historic Places and is located at the highest point of the of elevation along the Skyline Drive at 3,680 feet. The resort is made up of 179 units including traditional rooms and suites a well as cabins. The Pollock Dining Room, Mountain Taproom, and gift shop are located in the dining room building (breakfast, lunch, and dinner are available). Free nightly entertainment.

Horseback Rides
Guides horseback rides available daily from the Skyland stables. Cost is $42.50 for one hour ... crosses Skyline Drive and travels through an old apple orchard int he Limberlost area while. The 2.5-hour Whiteoak Canyon ride costs $80 per person and takes in the beauty of a cascading waterfall.

Big Meadows Lodge (Milepost 51.2)
Open through November 4, 2012. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Big Meadows features 25 rooms int he main lodge plus 72 additional units in traditional rooms and suite as well as cabins. The restaurant, New Market Taproom, and gift shop are located in the main lodge building (breakfast, lunch, and dinner available).

Lewis Mountain Cabins (Milepost 57.5)
Open through November 4, 2012. Historic rustic cabins first used by the CCC during construction of the Park, they are furnished with private baths, electric lights, towels, linens, and an outdoor pit grill for cooking.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
May 25, 2012

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