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As I said at the outset of this section, I spend most if not all of my time in the Central District, between U.S. 211 at Thornton Gap and U.S. 33 at Swift Run Gap (that is, between Mile 31.5 and Mile 65.7). Although it can be more crowded than the north and south districts, it has the highest mountains, best views, nearly half of the park's 500 miles of hiking trails, and its only stables and overnight accommodations: Big Meadows and Skyland lodges. You can see the views in a day, but give it at least 2 nights if you're doing any hiking, riding, or fishing. Make your reservations for Big Meadows or Skyland as early as possible. If you can't get a room in one of them, Luray has the nearest accommodations to the Central District.

Scenic Overlooks

My favorite of the 75 designated overlooks in the Central District are Stony Man Overlook (Mile 38.6), offering panoramas of Stony Man Cliffs, the valley, and the Alleghenies; Thoroughfare Mountain Overlook (Mile 40.5; elevation 3,595 ft.), one of the highest overlooks, with views from Hogback Mountain south to cone-shaped Robertson Mountain and the rocky face of Old Rag Mountain; Old Rag View Overlook (Mile 46.5), dominated by Old Rag, sitting by itself in an eastern extremity of the park; and Franklin Cliffs Overlook (Mile 49), offering a view from atop the cliffs toward the Shenandoah Valley and Massanutten Mountain. You'll need only 10 minutes or so at each overlook, so plan to pull off at all of these. Assuming you're not smogged in, it'll be 40 minutes well spent.

If you're in the Northern District, pull off at the Shenandoah Valley Overlook (Mile 2.8), with views west to the Signal Knob of Massanutten Mountain across the south fork of the river; and Range View Overlook (Mile 17.1; elevation 2,800 ft.), providing fine views of the central section of the park, looking south. In the Southern District, Big Run Overlook (Mile 81.2) looks down on rocky peaks and the largest watershed in the park.

Waterfalls

Only one waterfall is visible from the Skyline Drive, at Mile 1.4, and it's dry part of the year. On the other hand, 15 other falls are accessible via hiking trails .

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.