Winter in Shenandoah

Download the Winter Site Bulletin (1.6mb 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.

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

NPS photo

 
 

Picnicking and Restroom Facilities Along Skyline Drive

Status from December through March, from north to south.

Winter Picnic and Restroom Facilities

MILE

SITE

FACILITY

4.6

Dickey Ridge Visitor Center

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

24.1

Elkwallow Picnic Grounds

picnicking, vault toilets, frost-proof hydrant

31.5

Thornton Gap Entrance Station

water only; frost-proof hydrant

31.5

Panorama

flush restroom; frost-proof hydrant

35.1

Pinnacles Picnic Grounds

picnicking, vault toilets, frost-proof hydrant

51

Byrd Visitor Center

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

62.7

South River Picnic Grounds

picnicking, vault toilets, water must be boiled

65.5

Swift Run Entrance Station

water only, not potable

83.7

Dundo Picnic Grounds

picnicking, vault toilets, frost-proof hydrant, water must be boiled

 

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

NPS photo

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*
MILE LOCATION PHONE TYPE
0.6 Front Royal Entrance Station emergency phone (auto dial)
4.6 Dickey Ridge Visitor Center Restrooms local/ calling card/ emergency
22.2 Mathews Arm Campground emergency phone outside campground office
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
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 emergency phone (auto dial)
79.5 Loft Mountain Wayside emergency phone (auto dial)
79.5 Loft Mountain Campground 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: November 17, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Shenandoah National Park
3655 U.S. Highway 211 East

Luray, VA 22835

Phone:

(540) 999-3500

Contact Us