Winter in Shenandoah

A scenic winter view with Old Rag Mountain in the background and trees and foothills in the foreground.

NPS photo


Shenandoah National Park is always open. However, the lodging and food services, campgrounds, and most other facilities are closed from December - March, with the exception of Byrd Visitor Center at mile 51 which is open weekends (Fridays through Sundays) and holiday Mondays (January 19 and February 16).

Click here for more information about what's open. Portions of Skyline Drive, the only public road through the park, are periodically closed during inclement weather and at night during deer hunting season. Visitors can still enter the park on foot for hiking or backcountry camping even when Skyline Drive is closed.

Scroll down for tips to help you enjoy Shenandoah National Park in the winter months and for winter safety tips. Please call the park's recorded information line: (540) 999-3500, 1, 1 for the most current Skyline Drive status.

Visitor Facilities Along Skyline Drive
December through March, from north to south. See park map (pdf, 480 kb).


Dickey Ridge Visitor Center

flush restroom; hydrant not frost-proof - will be turned off


Elkwallow Picnic Grounds

picnicking, vault toilets, frost-proof hydrant


Thornton Gap Entrance Station

water only; frost-proof hydrant
31.5 Panorama flush restroom; frost-proof hydrant

Pinnacles Picnic Grounds

picnicking, vault toilets, frost-proof hydrant


Byrd Visitor Center

flush restroom; hydrant not frost-proof - will be turned off

South River Picnic Grounds

picnicking, vault toilets, frost-proof hydrant


Swift Run Entrance Station

water only, not potable

Dundo Picnic Grounds

picniking, vault toilets, frost-proof hydrant

Click here for 2015 opening dates.
Tracks in the snow lead up a hill and into the forest...

NPS photo

Winter Experiences

Experience the quiet solitude of winter in Shenandoah National Park.

As the leaves fall from the trees and cooler temperatures improve visibility, valleys below and mountains beyond are more spectacular than ever.

You'll also have a better chance of seeing woodland animals like deer, squirrels, and turkeys as they forage for food. Foxes and bobcats are also active through winter. Snow in the mountains makes it fun and easy to see who's out and about. Look for tracks of mice, rabbits, and other animals.

Listen and look for Shenandoah's winter birdlife. Chickadees, nuthatches, and a host of woodpeckers will be searching for seeds and berries or peeking under bark for hard-to-find insects.

A crisp, winter visit is just one more way to experience Shenandoah.

Ice storms leave behind a magical world of scenery and often a path of destruction.

NPS photo

Winter Safety

Be Prepared!

Winter in Shenandoah is unpredictable. Temperatures are usually 10 to 20oF cooler than in the lowlands and weather conditions can change quickly. What comes down as rain below can be ice and snow on the mountain.

Park Emergency Number:
(800) 732-0911

No visitor facilities are staffed on the mountain from December until early April. Although Skyline Drive is normally open 24 hours a day, severe weather may necessitate closure at any time. Skyline Drive is also closed from dusk to dawn during deer hunting season, mid-November to early January.

  • Be sure your gas tank is full before you enter the park.
  • Have warm clothing and/or blankets in case your vehicle becomes disabled. You may have to wait for assistance.
  • Cell phones do not work from many areas in the park. Leave an itinerary with someone at home.

Telephones are located along Skyline Drive at the following locations. Emergency phones connect directly to park emergency services.

0.6 Front Royal Entrance Station emergency phone
4.6 Dickey Ridge Restrooms local/credit card/collect call only phone
22.2 Mathews Arm Campground emergency phone outside campground office
24.1 Elkwallow Wayside pay phone
31.5 Thornton Gap Entrance Station emergency phone
51.2 Big Meadows Campground emergency phone outside campground office
57.6 Lewis Mountain Campground emergency phone at self-registration kiosk (not accessible by car in winter, short walk from Skyline Drive.)
65.5 Swift Run Gap Entrance Station pay phone
79.5 Loft Mountain Wayside local/credit card/collect call only phone
104.9 Rockfish Gap Entrance Station emergency phone

There are also emergency phones at two popular access points along the park boundary:

  • Old Rag Parking Area on VA Rt. 600, near Nethers, VA
  • White Oak Canyon Boundary Trailhead on VA Rt. 600, near Syria, VA

If you plan to hike, wear layers and take a flashlight and a map. Even on mild days, be prepared for unpredictable weather changes. Bring more water and food than you think you will need.

Although the speed limit on Skyline Drive is 35 mph, weather conditions may require lower speeds. Even when the pavement appears to be dry, there may be icy patches on shaded curves.

Did You Know?