Winter in Shenandoah

wide angle photo of a snowy Big Meadows with clouds on Skyline Drive
Snow and clouds at Big Meadows in winter.

NPS photo


Download the Winter Site Bulletin (1.4mb pdf) for a printer-friendly copy of this information.

Experience the solitude of winter in Shenandoah National Park. In winter you'll have a better chance of seeing woodland animals like deer, squirrels, and turkeys as they forage for food. Foxes and bobcats are active through winter. Snow on the mountains makes it easier to spot 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.

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


Picnicking and Restroom Facilities Along Skyline Drive

Status from December through March, from north to south.

Winter Picnic and Restroom Facilities





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



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, water must be boiled


Swift Run Entrance Station

water only, not potable


Dundo Picnic Grounds

picnicking, vault toilets, frost-proof hydrant


Hiking When Skyline Drive is Closed

Skyline Drive is an historic scenic byway with twists, turns, and grades designed to maximize the mountain views and the driving experience. Even with diligent work crews it can be days before Skyline Drive opens after temperatures drop and the road is icy or blanketed with snow

The road closure does not have to deter you from enjoying and exploring the Park with these tips:

  • Park at the entrances and access the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). To do this get a good, topographic map. The Shenandoah National Park Association sells Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) maps. These are a series of detailed topographic maps, one for each of the Park's districts: North, Central, and South. Using these maps you will be able to see where the A.T. intersects with the boundary and with other nearby trails.
  • Access other trails through the Park boundary. Some boundary trails are better than others, and you will still need a good topographic map. Learn about boundary access (83kb pdf). Boundary accesses can change from time to time, so be sure to check the information on this list against the alerts:
Ice storms leave behind a magical world of scenery and often a path of destruction.


Winter Safety

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.

  • 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.
  • If you plan to hike wear layers, bring extra water and food, bring a flashlight, and bring a map. Even on mild days, be prepared for unpredictable weather changes.
  • Weather conditions may require traveling at lower speeds than the 35 mile per hour limit. There may be icy patches on shaded curves that otherwise appear dry.
Phones along Skyline Drive*
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)

There are two emergency phones at popular boundary access points:
Old Rag Parking Area on VA Rt. 600, near Nethers, VA
White Oak Canyon Boundary Trailhead on VA Rt. 600, near Syria, VA

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


Last updated: March 27, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Shenandoah National Park
3655 U.S. Highway 211 East

Luray, VA 22835


(540) 999-3500

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