Jewell Hollow Overlook - Shenandoah National Park

The Best of Skyline Drive (Scenic Overlooks, Hiking, and More)

Skyline Drive is a 105-mile byway that runs through Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Located in the mountains (literally), the highest point reaches an altitude of 3,680 feet, and leads to hiking trails that soar even higher. Over the course of this drive you’ll view some of the most breathtaking scenery in the United States — from waterfalls to mountaintops — all from the comfort of your car. Skyline Drive overlooks are plentiful, and you’ll stop at them frequently to take the scenery in.

105 miles of twisty-turny road, 500 miles of hiking, 75 scenic overlooks, and plenty of other scenery can seem overwhelming, so I pulled together my favorite stops — perfect for a weekend getaway. If you are unable to drive the entirety of Skyline Drive, the best portion runs from Thornton Gap (Milepost 31.5) to Swift Run Gap (Milepost 62.7), which is where these activities can be found (34 miles total).

The Best Skyline Drive Overlooks

To get amazing views, the park provides numerous scenic overlooks accessible from the road. There are 75 overlooks on Skyline Drive, so unless you have a lot of time on your hands (or you enjoy stoping every 3 miles), you probably don’t want to hit at all of them.

Here are my top 3:

Jewell Hollow Overlook (Milepost 36.5)

If you are lucky like we were, you can catch this overlook on a day where the clouds have settled into the valley (your best shot of this is after it rains). Regardless of rain or shine, the view from this Skyline Drive overlook is gorgeous. If you’re feeling adventurous, there’s access to a short walking path just steps from the road.

Jewell Hollow Overlook (Milepost 36.5) in Skyline Drive
Jewell Hollow Overlook with fog and mist from the valley.  (Milepost 36.5)

Hazel Mountain Overlook (Milepost 33)

This Skyline Drive overlook is fun because there are rocks you can climb and settle on to take in the view. Perfect for a snack break, it is one of the first overlooks you will run across if you are entering from Thornton Gap. Don’t pass it up, you’ll see an incredible view of the Shenandoah Valley below, plus, look at that lighting!

Hazel Mountain Overlook (Milepost 33) at Skyline Drive
Hazel Mountain Overlook provides great views of the valley below (Milepost 33)

Tunnel Parking Overlook (Milepost 32.5)

Just before the Hazel Mountain Overlook is the Tunnel Parking Overlook. Yes, there is an overlook here, but that is not why it made my list. The overlook is nice, but the main attraction is Mary’s Rock Tunnel. Built in 1932, and taking more than 3 months to complete, the tunnel is a testament to the challenge engineers faced — building a road in a place no road belongs!

Tunnel Parking Overlook (Milepost 32.5) in Skyline Drive
Tunnel Parking Overlook is sight worth seeing (Milepost 32.5)

Hiking (beginner)

Dark Hollow Falls (Milepost 50.7)

1.4 miles, out and back

This hike took a little over an hour, and that was with plenty of photos and even a snack break at the bottom. Almost the entire trail follows the beautiful rushing water that gets better and better as you descend. The only issue with the descent is the climb that it requires to go back up, however I have seen both kids and seniors do it without a problem.

Hiking (moderate)

Bearfence Mountain (Milepost 56.4)

1 mile, loop

This hike is an absolute must do. It’s a bit tougher with a fair amount of rock scrambling along a steep slope. However the view is absolutely worth the trek, and it is 1 of 3 viewpoints in which you can get a 360-degree view of the park.  To finish off the hike you can connect on to the Appalachian Trail, which will return you to start of the trail about an hour later.

Big Meadows (Milepost 51.2)

A personal favorite for photography opportunities is Big Meadows. During the winter and fall this surprisingly flat terrain is a vibrant red color, making it a must stop for any Instagram junkie.

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