This weekend, we stayed at a campground in Luray, Virginia, a short drive from the Thornton Gap entrance to Shenandoah National Park. From here, we drove Skyline Drive down to the southern most tip of the park. Shenandoah National park was established in 1935 and it's easy to see how the Skyline Drive capitalized on the new popularity of the motor car. The drive follows the crest of the Blue Ridge mountains for a total of 105 miles, with lots of places to stop off and picnic, and offers incredible views to the west and to the east over the mountains and the Shenandoah Valley, from 75 overlooks. The photo of Shane above was taken at Stony Man Overlook at an elevation of 3,100 feet. We arrived just after the peak for fall foliage, but the luminous colors of the trees bathed in sunlight set against those still in shadow and the beautiful fall light refracting through the foliage took our breath away anyway. It took us about two hours to drive the southern-most two thirds of the Skyline Drive, but you need about three hours to drive the whole way.
Quite by chance, Shane's friends Russ and Steph and their two kids Josh and Emma were also staying in Shenandoah for the weekend. It was fantastic to see them and we all hiked together up Whiteoak Canyon, which allowed us to see six waterfalls in total and more amazing views in glorious fall weather. We didn't use any filters on any of these photos, by the way. The light and the colors were perfect. We just hiked from the bottom of the canyon to Upper Whiteoak Falls, which was about a six miles round trip, but you can also reach the Upper Whiteoak Falls in about an hour's hike off Skyline Drive. It's definitely worth the effort.
We also purchased our annual pass, which will give us free entrance to all the national parks and federal recreational lands across the US from the rest of our trip. The best thing $80 can buy, if you ask us, quite apart from the fact that it has a polar bear on the front, which made Shane happy. This is only our first national park and we've already used it three times in Shenandoah!
Kathryn Tully and Shane Sesta are a married couple, one American and one Brit, who are spending a year traveling across America and writing about their discoveries. Sonny is their rescue cat and fried chicken aficionado.