“Ride the Sky” through the Shenandoah National Park on this stunning, meticulously maintained National Scenic Byway. This historic mountain top ride consists of 105 mi (170 km) of scenery and twisties, running north/south along the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains. This motorcycle road makes for a fantastic day ride, ending at the northern entrance of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I explored this route on a BMW F700GS. This paved road is an ideal route for Standards & All-rounders, Cruisers, and Sport Bikes alike.
This route is a perfect destination for residents of the Northeastern States, as well as Eastern Canada. Accessing the road can be done via the 4 major access points of Front Royal VA, Thornton Gap, Swift Run Gap and Rockfish Gap. The most popular entry point and the one I used is the small, welcoming town of Front Royal, VA located in the northern reaches of the park.
- Ride Time: Day Trip
- Surface: Asphalt (excellent condition)
- Scenery: Rolling Hills and Valleys
- Distance: 105 mi (170km)
- Fee: $15 USD / Bike
Located in Warren County, VA, this quaint town with a bloody past offers bikers the opportunity to take some time off of the saddle before the ride. You are able to visit the attractions, shops, indulge in some ice cream and locally made treats, and discover the history of this town.
For those of you interested in the Civil War, you may know that Front Royal played a strategic role in the battle over the Shenandoah Valley and Massanutten Mountain. According to local tourism personnel; the Battle of Front Royal occurred in late May in 1862. Infamous General Stonewall Jackson and his troops of over 15 thousand Confederate fighters overtook Front Royal from Union control. The battle for Front Royal resulted in a great loss for the Union, including 750 prisoners taken, over 120 wounded and over 30 dead. General Stonewall Jackson’s troops celebrated a victory in this fierce battle.
Prior to entering the Skyline Drive, I encourage you to stop at the local Visitors Center, located at 414 E Main St, Front Royal, VA. Here you are able to pick up free maps and informational brochures on your ride ahead, as well as continue learning about the Civil War battle that had intense combat surrounding the town from door to door, up and down the very streets you are riding on.
Campsites are available just outside of the town, so you can stay the night in the area and be ready for the Skyline Drive the next day. I stayed at Gooney Creek Campground, which has its own swimming hole and rope swing.
As you enter the park, you will ride up to a typical park entrance booth. Here you will need to pay the Shenandoah Motorcycle Fee of $15 USD which gets you unlimited entry for one motorcycle plus pillion for seven consecutive days. Should you be lucky enough to live in the area, a Shenandoah Annual Pass for $40 is available, providing the user with unlimited entry for one year.
Not far from the park entrance, you start leaning into twisties. Before you know it, beautiful scenery of valleys and rolling hills begin. The speed limit is just 35 mph for the entire length of the ride, and from speaking with locals and frequent riders, there is at least one police officer who prides himself on ticketing bikers, and the speed limit is generally strictly enforced, so take your time and enjoy the views.
As said the road is full of twisties, however the road is not overly aggressive and you will not be sweeping around switchbacks like some of the well-known Moto Roads to the south of this location. As a result, the Skyline Drive makes for a relaxing ride, enjoyable for riders of all experience levels.
Mileposts are staked along at road for rider’s reference, increasing from 0 to 105 as you ride South. These posts make it easy to plan stops based on the maps available at the Front Royal Visitors Center. With 75 look-off locations, frequent stops offer consummate VA wilderness views of the Shenandoah National Park. Wildlife is abundant, so riders need to keep their eyes peeled for game darting into the roadway. You just might catch a glimpse of some of the native wildlife including small animals such as raccoons, skunks, and rabbits, as well as larger mammals such deer and black bear. There are over 200 species of bird in the park should you like to stop and do some bird watching along the way.
Mary’s Rock Tunnel is a nice feature of the road. It was blasted through Mary’s Rock Mountain on the Skyline Drive. The tunnel is over 600 ft long and was completed in 1932. The tunnel was one of the most difficult tasked faced during construction of the road.
“The tunnel is over 600 ft long and was completed in 1932. The tunnel was one of the most difficult tasked faced during construction of the road.”
Yes, that is a cooler on the back of my bike. It is one of the best cheap additions to your motorcycle luggage you can buy. Especially if you do a lot of camping and need to keep your food and beer cold! Held down by my trusty Rox Straps, THE BEST way to secure anything to your bike.
- Food: Elkwallow Wayside (Mile 24), Big Meadows Wayside (Mile 51), and Loft Mountain Wayside (Mile 79).
- Camping: Mathews Arm (mile 22), Big Meadows (mile 51), Lewis Mountain (mile 57), and Loft Mountain (mile 79) sites in the Park are available and vary from $15 - $20 USD / night. Backcountry camping is allowed with a free permit required.
- Lodging: Big Meadows Lodge and Lewis Mountain Cabins (mile 51) and Skyland Resort (mile 42).
- Gas: If your bike has good range, a fuel up at the beginning in Front Royal, VA will carry you through the ride. Should you have a thirsty bike or wish to fuel up on the Skyline Drive, you can do so at Big Meadows Wayside (Mile 51).
Get out and ride the Skyline Drive! Virgina is full of great twisties, scenery, and most of all friendly people and Motorcycle Friendly Businesses.