Spanning more than 100 miles, Skyline Drive is a scenic driving route that traverses Shenandoah National Park from north to south. Along the way, you can stop and explore dozens of campgrounds, picnic areas, hiking trails and scenic overlooks and waterfalls. Skyline Drive is divided into three districts -- North, Central and South -- and each section provides access to waterfalls, many of them in the 50-foot class.
Tall and Dramatic
The North District of Skyline Drive extends 31.5 miles from the Front Royal entrance to Thornton Gap. Overall Run Falls is the only major waterfall in this section, but it has the distinction of being the tallest in the park. The waterfall tumbles 93 feet over a rocky ledge into a deep pool along Overall Run, a tributary of the Shenandoah River. Overall Run Falls is accessible from mile 21.1 along Skyline Drive, and getting there requires a moderately difficult 6.4-mile round-trip hike. The trail is shady and secluded, and you will pass an additional 29-foot cascade along the way.
Stretching 34 miles from Thornton Gap to Swift Run Gap, the Central District is home to several striking waterfalls. Rose River Falls is one of the easiest to reach, and you can get there by taking a 2.6-mile round-trip hike from mile 49.4 of Skyline Drive. The waterfall spills down a craggy 67-foot rock face, and can expand to four linked cascades during the spring rainy season. At mile 62.8, South River falls is similarly accessible, tumbling 83 feet at the midpoint of a 2.7-mile round-trip hike. Other waterfalls in the Central District include Whiteoak Canyon Falls at mile 42.6, Cedar Run Falls at mile 45.6 and Dark Hollow Falls at mile 50.7.
Moss and Lichen
The 39.1-mile South District offers two waterfalls along the Doyles River, both accessible from a trailhead at mile 81.1. The moderately difficult trail makes it possible to travel a 2.7-mile round-trip hike to the upper falls or a 3.2-mile hike that includes both the upper and lower falls. The Upper Doyles River Falls is the more impressive of the two, falling 63 feet over moss- and lichen-covered rocks. You can also take a 3.4-mile round-trip hike to the 42-foot Jones Run Falls at mile 84.1. Flat rocks right in front of the waterfall along the trail provide a perfect vantage point.
Lovely in Spring
Most of the waterfalls along Skyline Drive are at their most impressive during spring, and the hot summer months can cause many of them to dry up to little more than a trickle. Trail maps are available for free through the National Park Service website, and more detailed guides are available for purchase. The speed limit on Skyline Drive is 35 miles per hour, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time if you plan to explore the entire area. Several national park campgrounds and cabins provide accommodations along the way.
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