This 260 mile ride includes a great section of WV 39 that was not part of other rides. It also includes a fun, curvy stretch of U.S. Route 60 leading to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The ride finishes with the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive to Front Royal in Virginia.
The ride starts by taking I-64 east to Clifton Forge. Turn left and ride some nice sweepers on VA Route 42 as it follows the Cowpasture River north to Millboro.
Turn right on VA Route 39 and ride east. We have ridden most of Route 39 during the trip, but we missed this great part. The fun starts near Hotchkiss as Route 39 runs along Mill Creek through Panther Gap. This is perfect pavement will rolling hills and pretty river views. The next great stretch is the Maurey River Valley through Goshen Pass. This is a very pretty ride with great river views on your left on a rocky tree lined canyon wall on the other.
Route 39 turns south and twists toward Lexington, VA. This is a very pretty town that is worth a small detour. Follow Buena Vista Road and Longhollow Road to U.S. 60 in Buena Vista. Turn left and enter the George Washington National Forest. The next part of Route 60 is a twisty delight as it climbs to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 8 miles of Route 60 beyond the Parkway are spectacular, but are not part of this ride. It is well worth the ride if you have the time.
Turn north on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Now comes some great riding as we follow the last 45 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the entire 105 miles of Skyline Drive. The views are great, the curves are fun, and the overlooks are great stops. The speed limit on the Parkway is 45 and the limit on Skyline Drive is only 35. This is federal land with federal law enforcement so you do not want to be ticketed. A relaxed mindset, especially on Skyline Drive, may be the way to go. Everything listed below is part of the GPS ride file and the ride map. Stop at the ones that appeal to you.
BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY
Top overlooks on this part of the Parkway are:
Raven’s Roost Overlook – The sweeping 180º view at Ravens Roost Overlook is one of the best on the extreme northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The view from the left side of the overlook peers into the valleys between the mountains, giving the scene a sense of depth. The view on the right side of the overlook is of a valley dotted with small farms 1,800 feet below. In the distance is the ubiquitous urban sprawl of Lyndhurst and Stuart’s Draft. A landmark map shows what you are looking at.
Rockfish Valley Overlook – The Rockfish Valley View overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway offers a nearly 180º view of Rockfish Valley and the surrounding mountains. It might have too much valley and not enough mountains for some people, but for me, the rural valley communities are what makes the scene so interesting. Definitely recommended for a good view and photo.
The Top 5 Overlooks on Skyline Drive are listed below with descriptions. They are listed in the order that we visit them along with other points of interest:
Crimora Lake Overlook – Facing northwest from an elevation of 2,985 ft (909 m), Crimora Lake Overlook is a good place to contemplate the industrial history of the Shenandoah Valley. Nestled between two ridges straight ahead is the location of a former manganese mine. Mining operations began in 1867 and at one point this area was home to one of the largest manganese deposits in the United States. The mine shut down in 1946, and all that is left are the small man-made lakes once constructed to process ore.
Big Run Overlook – Facing northwest from an elevation of 2,860 ft (871 m), at Big Run Overlook you will look out toward the Shenandoah Valley below. Unfortunately, the view at this overlook is obstructed by overgrowth most of the year, making it difficult to see the mountains and valley beyond.
Loft Mountain Wayside – The Loft Mountain Wayside is a great stop for a quick meal and souvenirs. Loft Mountain Wayside usually closes around the beginning of November and reopens in April. Call 877-847-1919 for exact dates. There is an orientation shelter in front of the wayside, along with a backcountry registration board, a bike repair station, and picnic tables.
Lunch stop at the Big Meadows Wayside/Spottswood Dining Room. There are 3 facilities at this stop
- Big Meadows Wayside – offers a varied menu of regional favorites available for carry-out or sit down dining. The Grab ‘n Go kiosk inside offers sandwiches, salads, pastries, snacks and drinks to go. Groceries, gifts, and camping supplies are also available.
- Byrd Visitor’s Center – Byrd Visitor Center (mile 51) is located across from Big Meadows in the center of Shenandoah National Park. Available facilities include: restrooms, information desk, ranger programs, bookstore, publications, maps, and first aid. Within close proximity to countless activities and hikes, it’s a great place to start your next trip!
- Spotswood Dining Room at BigMeadows Lodge – Located at mile 51 on Skyline Drive in the historic Big Meadows Lodge, the Spottswood Dining Room features seasonal and signature specialties – like our Blackberry Ice Cream Pie. Or, stop by the New Market Taproom for lighter fare and nightly entertainment.
Spitler Knoll Overlook – Stand atop Spitler Knoll Overlook and imagine what it would be like to watch over livestock on the mountain. Looking west-northwest and sitting at an elevation of 3,285 ft (1,001 m) Spitler Knoll Overlook was once the location of Spitler Ranch. Prior to the establishment of Shenandoah National Park, some mountain areas were used to graze cattle and other livestock, while the valley below produced more crops.
Skyland Resort – A place to stay if you wish to lodge on Skyline Drive. (The historic Skyland is located inside Shenandoah National Park in 28 separate buildings along the ridge and in the wooded areas surrounding the top of fabulous Skyline Drive at mile markers 41 and 42. Skyland was established in 1888 as the perfect spot for a vacation retreat. At 3,680 feet, Skyland provides breathtaking views of the picturesque Shenandoah Valley, as well as many hiking trails, and various other guest activities like horseback riding, and rock climbing.
Elkwallow Wayside – Elkwallow Wayside offers groceries, camping supplies, gifts, and grab ‘n go food.
Hogback Overlook – Looking north from an elevation of 3,385 ft (1031 m), Hogback Overlook extends 0.2 miles along Skyline Drive, making it the longest overlook in the Park. Straight ahead is Gimlet Ridge. Gimlet Ridge veers left and descends into the Shenandoah Valley. Veering right from Gimlet Ridge is Mathews Arm. Far in the distance, on a clear day, you may see the Allegheny Mountains.
Range View Overlook – Come to Range View Overlook for an expansive view of the mountains of Shenandoah. Looking south from an elevation of 2,810 ft (856 m), you are glimpsing into the center of Shenandoah National Park, from Keyser Mountain in front of you all the way to Old Rag and Stony Man Mountain in the distance.