Recommend me some Shenandoah National Park sites

I plan on driving the Skyline Drive from North to South next week. What are your favorite sites there?

Any lodging suggestions…either in the park or just outside?

I can spend as much time as I like. My plan is to continue southwest to the Cumberland Gap and then either retrace my route or travel home thru Kentucky.

Well you don’t have to be a hiker, camper or fisherman to love this park. You can sit in your car and “get it” - especially in the Fall.
But I am going to assume you aren’t camping - aren’t a big hiker and don’t fish

TTD

I would not miss the Stony Man Trail on Stony Mountain at Mile 37.7 (everything in the SNP is measured by the milepost on skyline drive). At the Mountain overlook you can see what looks sort of like the side of a man’s face. The hike is easy - gravel trail not steep. At the very end there is some rocky ground - but if it is a clear day you will have one of those vistas that stays overlooking a beautiful scene of the town of Luray, a lake and Little Stony Man Cliff. [You will be standing on “Stony Man’s” forehead at this point].
You’ll also be able to hook your thumbs under your suspenders at a dinner party that you walked "the Appalachian Trail a bit"NPS link

To me Dark Hollows Trail is cool but I hesitate on it - PRO you get to see cool Waterfalls without disappearing way into the bush it is a reasonably short walk, less than a mile. CON the NPS kind of sandbags the difficulty in my opinion. If you are a healthy adult under 50 it won’t be too hard, but older folks, extremely out of shape adults, kids, handicapped people could have an unpleasant experience – they’d make it, no one is going to die, but getting to it could possibly not be worth it to them

I wouldn’t miss Luray Caverns outside the park - I would make everyone go once - it is the sort of place where you say I’m glad I went but I would never go again.

LODGE
You can Camp inside the park at a bunch of sites or at two barebones lodges: Skyland or Big Meadows Lodge. Big Meadows also has some small cabins for rent. Never been. But except for my next sentence this is the only “Lodging” per se inside the park. There are cabins at Lewis Mountain. Stayed there – cheap and good* offseason. *good if you think “I am renting a cabin in the Mountains so this will not be the Four Seasons DC” your expectations are met. There is al ot of stuff- ads look like quality stuff really close by outside the park – the area is built for “the season”

… and this is in season - or for all intents and purposes it is as it it starts Friday. I am concerned about you getting a reasonable rate and cool place to stay nearby if you don’t have reservations. Not saying “Can’t be done” but am saying “I’d get crackin’”

My reccommendations are probably tldr, I’ve been so many places in the SNP.

One thing is, if you’re driving Skyline Drive, nearly all of the hikes to points of interest will be downhill and back. Another thing is, there will usually be plenty of people at the major attractions and overlooks, but if you want relative tranquility, all you have to do is go a few hundred yards down a trail and you’re in heaven. You can do little stretches of the Appalachian Trail, as well. I think the thru hikers are pretty much gone through by now.

Here’s a link for lodging reservations. Also, if you’re thinking of visiting Luray Caverns, you might as well stay in a motel in Luray. In fact, unless you really must stay up in the park, moteling it down in the valley is probably your best bet.

There’s a good resource for places to go/things to do in the SNP, run by a non-profit organization dedicated to maintaining trails, etc. in the region (PATC):

http://potomacappalachian.org/

They also have a forum, where friendly knowledgable folks regularly post their experiences in the SNP and elsewhere and generally speaking there’s a thread about “Where should I go in the SNP” about every other week or something.

PATC Trails Forum

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the park, having done my thesis there back in the 70s. Every time I go to DC, I spend a day there. Beautiful, beautiful place.

I second the Stony Man hike. Good views with minimal difficulty. It’s quite near Skyland. I’m told the hike to Old Rag is worth it, but I’ve never done it. You can get away from the road and hang out in the woods just about anywhere; just be careful not to fall off a cliff. Also, the area was settled (and largely deforested) before it was made a national park, during the Depression. So you can stumble across old cabins (ruins, of course), old mines, abandoned orchards, and the like. I think quite a bit of archaeology is being done there nowadays. You can inquire there if you’re into that sort of thing.

Just driving the road, especially in the fall, is about as pleasant a time as one can have behind the wheel.

I’ve never gotten a room in the park, I’ve only camped. The camping facilities are first rate. You can get groceries, too. But the restaurants suck.

If you want to take pictures, you’d best have a haze filter. If you don’t have one (and I never did), most of the time you can’t get a decent picture.