Winter in Shenandoah

 
A sunrise over a mountain overlook filled with snow-covered rocks and trees
 

Learn and Explore

Winter can be a great time to visit Shenandoah National Park! While many services close during the winter, the Park is always open and there are still many ways to visit and enjoy Shenandoah in the colder months.

As leaves fall off the trees and cooler temperatures improve visibility, the valley below and mountains beyond are more spectacular than ever. When the busy fall months come to an end, you will have a better chance of finding solitude and watching animals like deer, squirrels, birds, and turkeys as they forage for food. Foxes and bobcats are active throughout the winter, and fresh snowfall makes it easier to spot tracks of mice, rabbits, and other animals.

 

Driving Skyline Drive in the Winter

Skyline Drive remains open throughout the winter, unless it is closed due to snowy or icy conditions. Because of cold mountain temperatures, it can take diligent work crews several days to reopen Skyline Drive after winter storms. If the Drive is open, however, here are a few things to keep in mind when driving through the Park in the winter:

  • Be sure your gas tank is full before entering the Park. Fuel is available through self-pay at Big Meadows, but gas pumps can be unreliable.
  • Have warm clothing and/or blankets in case your vehicle becomes disabled. You may have to wait for assistance.
  • Weather conditions may require driving under the speed limit (35 miles per hour). There may be icy patches on shaded curves that otherwise appear dry.

Hiking in the Winter

Even if Skyline Drive is closed due to inclement weather, Shenandoah National Park is still open to hiking. The Appalachian Trail (A.T.) is accessible from the Park entrance stations, and many other trails are easily accessible from the Park boundary. Whenever you're out hiking in the colder months, here a few tips to help keep yourself safe:

  • Winter weather in Shenandoah is unpredictable. Temperatures are usually 10oF to 20oF cooler than in the lowlands and weather conditions can change quickly. What comes down as rain in the valley below can be ice and snow on the mountain.
  • Wear extra clothing layers, and bring extra water, food, flashlights, and a map in case you get caught in a winter storm.
  • Cell phones do not work in many areas of the Park. Because of this, there are phones available for use at various locations along Skyline Drive (listed below).

Available Phones Along Skyline Drive

MILE LOCATION PHONE TYPE
0.6 Front Royal Entrance Station Emergency phone (auto dial)
4.6 Dickey Ridge Visitor Center Restrooms Local/calling card/collect only phone
24.1 Elkwallow Wayside Pay phone
31.5 Thornton Gap Entrance Station Emergency phone (auto dial)
51.2 Big Meadows Campground Emergency phone outside campground office
65.5 Swift Run Gap Entrance Station Pay phone
79.5 Loft Mountain Wayside Emergency phone (auto dial)
104.9 Rockfish Gap Entrance Station Emergency phone (auto dial)
Old Rag Parking Area (Rt. 600, near Nethers, VA) Emergency phone (auto dial)
Whiteoak Canyon Boundary Trailhead (Rt. 600, near Syria, VA) Emergency phone (auto dial)

Emergency phones connect directly to the Park emergency services number: (800) 732-0911

Water, Picnic, and Restroom Facilities

MILE LOCATION FACILITY
4.6 Dickey Ridge Visitor Center Flush restroom, water spigot (not frost-proof; will be turned off)
24.1 Elkwallow Picnic Ground Picnic area, vault toilets, frost-proof water spigot
31.5 Thornton Gap Entrance Station Frost-proof water spigot
31.5 Panorama Flush restroom, frost-proof water spigot
35.1 Pinnacles Picnic Grounds Picnic area, vault toilets, frost-proof water spigot
51 Byrd Visitor Center Flush restroom, water spigot (not frost-proof; will be turned off)
62.7 South River Picnic Ground Picnic area, vault toilets, water spigot (not potable; must be boiled)
65.5 Swift Run Entrance Station Water spigot (not potable; must be boiled)
83.7 Dundo Picnic Grounds Picnic area, vault toilets, frost-proof water spigot

Status from December - March. Listed geographically from north to south.

Last updated: September 25, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Shenandoah National Park
3655 U.S. Highway 211 East

Luray, VA 22835

Phone:

(540) 999-3500
Emergency Phone: 1-800-732-0911

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