This past weekend I saw numerous tour groups and out-of-town visitors around Front Royal. It’s not an unusual site at any time of year, given that we’re at the northern entrance to the popular Skyline Drive. In October, we’re used to seeing cars lined up for quite literally a mile or two as they wait to get onto the drive and see the beautiful fall colors in the Shenandoah Valley.
Except this year, there’s that little issue of the government shutdown. That means Skyline Drive, part of Shenandoah National Park, is closed. Some people obviously got the memo, as there were no lines of traffic. Just as obviously, some had not.
So what do you do if your weekend (or weekday) plans to visit Skyline Drive have been ruined by the government shutdown? Here are a few recommendations from those of us here at Randolph-Macon Academy:
- Enjoy the drive out here. If you’re coming from DC, the drive here is half the fun once you get past the high-traffic areas. The mountains are beautiful.
- Drive just a bit further. Shenandoah River State Park is just another ten miles down the same road (Rte 340) that Skyline Drive is on. There is a look-out there that provides a gorgeous view. You can also take a hike up a small mountain or two, or along the more level areas near the river, or have a picnic. (Addendum: I'm told the zip line is open too!)
- Explore some back roads. Ever see those photos or puzzles of some country lane lined with beautiful trees? We have those all over around here. Wander a bit—just keep your GPS with you so you can find your way back! Or set your GPS for Fort Valley, VA, and drive along some of those winding country roads. It will take you through George Washington National Forest, in spite of the shut down. It’s one of our favorite drives.
- Go horseback riding. There are several stables in the area that offer guided trail rides through the woods.
- Take a plane or a balloon ride to enjoy the view! (You can't get any better than that!)
- Enjoy Front Royal. Visit the downtown area, stroll along Main Street, visit antique shops, grab a cup of coffee, and learn a little Civil War history.
- Visit one of the caverns in the area. They may not be brilliantly colored mountains, but they are breathtaking in their own way. Skyline Caverns is on Rte 340, just down the road from the entrance to Skyline Drive.
Have a suggestion? Share it in the comments!