How far should we expect to get?
We will be travelling from around Gettysburg, PA on Sat., Nov. 29, as far south as we can while also seeing at least some of Skyline Drive. My goal is to get within a few hours of Great Smoky Mountain NP by Saturday evening, so Sunday we can enjoy as much of GSMNP as possible (as well as all day Monday).
My thoughts are to leave the Gettysburg area early Saturday morning, drive at least some of Shenandoah NP/Skyline Drive from Front Royal, and then get on I-81 to head south. It's hard to tell from my map how many opportunities there are to bail out of the park and head west to pick up the interstate. Should we just go to Thornton Gap (around Mile 30) and take 211 via Luray? Are the caverns worth seeing? Or should we continue down to, say, Rte 33 at Swift Run Gap (around Mile 65)?
I'd like to keep our total driving time to around 7 or 8 hours. That would allow us to do some hiking, picnicking, etc. Thanksgiving weekend traffic and weather conditions notwithstanding, how far south should we expect to get? Ideally I'd like to get at least as far as Roanoke. Is this at all realistic? Any other suggestions? Thanks!
Lauray & Rt. 33
I have been to the Lauray Caverns and its worth the one time viewing. I have driven the Skyline several times, while a great ride it is time consuming. Front Royal is a main entrance and down to 33 takes a while. At 33 you decend down the mountain on mostly two lane until you come upon Elkton, Va. heading to 81. A couple great off road restaurants in that town. If you take 211 eventually get onto 340 which is quite scenic, and mostly a lightly traveled 2 lane to Elkton and 33 to 81.
There aren't many opportunities to bail out of the park to the Interstate. I'd take Swift Run Gap, that way you'll be able to see more of the Drive while still being able to get along to I-81. That will take a little more than two hours (weather and rest stop permitting, of course). Roanoke is only about 2 1/2 hours from that point. Your driving expectations are realistic, provided you leave home early enough, and you'll be able to take in the scenery as well. Take it easy on those hills coming out of the park!
I really love that area...it's my home away from home! Enjoy!
weather permitting you may want to try another route. take I-81 instead of Skyline Drive for the first part of your route. it isnt as off the beat as Skyline but still gives great views. at I-77 conjuntion take 77 South and get off at Fancy Gap, VA and pick up the second half of the Blue Ridge Parkway. that will let you travel the higher altitude half of the drive. awesome mountain views. plus you can ride the BRP right into GSMNP. ive done it before and its well worth the ride. you could always spend the night around Asheville, NC if you cant make the whole trip Saturday. all this depends on weather conditions on the BRP so if you decide to try this route call 828-298-0398, option 1 then 2 for BRP road closures.