Tomorrow is the autumnal equinox, meaning it’s officially acceptable to stock up on pumpkin spice-flavored everything and pull out the cable-knit sweaters. Once you’ve gotten that taken care of, you’ll want to turn your attention to the plethora of fall activities, from pumpkin patch visits to apple picking excursions. On the very top of your list should be peeping the vivid foliage, which is best done from the sky-high vantage points on Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Valley.
Perched at the highest point on Skyline Drive is Skyland, a rustic lodge offering sweeping vistas and a cozy place to rest your head after a day of trekking up mountains or strolling through meadows. The property was first established as Stony Man Camp in 1888, and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
It’s a significant upgrade from tent camping in the backcountry—complete with heating, hot showers, flat-screen TVs, and a full-service restaurant—but you still get that off-the-grid feeling of sleeping amidst the trees thanks to huge windows that overlook the Valley.
The property has 178 guestrooms, ranging from simple cabins to more elaborate suites, some of which are pet-friendly. The rooms are grouped in clusters throughout the property and are designed to blend into the landscape. Suites come decked out with fireplaces to really amp up the hygge factor. While wi-fi isn’t available in all the rooms, you can get online at the main office or in the dining room lobby. Rooms rates run from $120 to $210.
The Pollock Dining Room, the Mountain Taproom, and the gift shop are all just a short walk or drive from the rooms. Here you can sit down for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or grab a sandwich or snack to take with you on an excursion into the park. You can also enjoy free nightly entertainment in the taproom.
There’s plenty to do in Shenandoah National Park and beyond.
- Hiking: Of course, the 500+ miles of trails through the Blue Ridge Mountains are the park’s main attraction. The hikes that are most easily accessible from Skyland are Stony Man Summit, Millers Head Lookout, Limberlost Trail, and White Oak Canyon. One of the park’s most challenging and rewarding hikes, Old Rag, is just a 30-minute drive away. Trail maps can be found online or picked up at one of the Visitor Centers.
- Rock Climbing: For those who are looking for even more of an adrenaline rush than the rock scrambles on Old Rag, take a rock climbing or rappelling class and learn how to scale rock faces.
- Horseback Riding: If you don’t feel like walking, consider a guided horseback ride through the park. The tours depart from the Skyland Stables.
- Ranger Programs: National Park Rangers are incredibly knowledgeable about Shenandoah’s wildlife, ecosystems, and more. Check out one of the many programs to learn something new about nature.
- Apple Butter Festival: The 18th Annual Apple Butter Festival is happening this weekend, so now is a great time to make the trip out to Skyland. On Saturday, apple butter will be bubbling in copper kettles all day, and there will be hard cider tastings, pony rides, crafts, and live entertainment. The restaurant will also offer special apple-themed menu items at the restaurant.
- Other Special Events: Events like the Apple Butter Festival are offered throughout the year, including basket weaving classes, clogging performances, stargazing presentations, wine tastings, and special dinners. Check the calendar for the full schedule.
- Nearby Towns: On the drive to or from Skyland, be sure to make a pit stop in one of the charming small towns along your route. Marshall offers cute little boutiques and top-notch culinary destinations like Field & Main, Red Truck Bakery, Gentle Harvest, and The Whole Ox, while Sperryville has local booze and other goodies from Copper Fox Distillery, Pen Druid Brewing Company, and the Heritage Hollow Farm Store.
Skyland is open through late November.
Thank you to Delaware North for hosting us!