Shenandoah National Park encompasses part of the Blue Ridge Mountains in northern Virginia. The park is long and narrow, with the winding Shenandoah River and broad Shenandoah Valley on the west side, and the rolling hills of the Virginia Piedmont on the east.
The park is best known for the Skyline Drive, a 105-mile road that runs the entire length of the park along the ridge of the mountains. The drive is particularly popular in the fall when the leaves are changing colors.
On the day we were there, the traffic was fairly heavy. It was the third week of October, which is supposed to be peak leaf peeping time. But sadly, we saw very little color. There was a general sense of disappointment in the air.
We only drove the northernmost section, which was about 35 miles from Front Royal to Thornton Gap. The truth is that while the drive is certainly scenic, we found it a bit boring. This is similar to our experience driving the Blue Ridge Parkway in southern Virginia. It’s a long slow drive (25-35 MPH) through the trees with overlooks every few miles, the view from each one much the same as the last.
If the leaves had been turning color, it would have made all the difference. Our neighbor at the campground comes this same week every year to see the leaves. He said that this year the foliage is about two weeks behind. He was disappointed, too.