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Situated on the Skyline Drive in the Central District, Big Meadows Lodge and Skyland Lodge are the only hotels in the park. They are 9 1/2 miles apart. Lodge reservations should be made well in advance -- up to a year ahead for the peak fall season. You can make them through Aramark Virginia Sky-Line Co. (tel. 888/896-3833; www.visitshenandoah.com), the concessionaire that operates both.

Aramark also manages Lewis Mountain Cabins, adjacent to the Lewis Mountain Campground at Mile 57.5 in the Central District. These simple abodes range from $30 for a "tent cabin" to $159 for connecting rooms. They all have private bathrooms and are supplied with towels and linens.

Although I prefer the historical ambience of Big Meadows and its convenience to many activities, I'll stay at either if it means I can get a room with a view of the Shenandoah Valley.

We also list accommodations in other Shenandoah Valley towns. Luray is nearest to the Central District.

Camping

The park has four campgrounds with tent and trailer sites (but no hookups anywhere). In the middle of the park's Central District, Big Meadows (Mile 51.2) has the best location and sites equipped for campers with disabilities. You can reserve Big Meadows sites in advance by contacting the park service's reservation system tel. 877/444-6777; www.recreation.gov). "Walk to" sites cost $20 per night; those with electric hookups are $45 per night. Big Meadows campground is open from early April to the end of October.

Sites at Mathews Arm (Mile 22.2), Lewis Mountain (Mile 57.5), and Loft Mountain (Mile 79.5) are on a first-come, first-served basis at $15 per site per night. They are open from mid-May to late October. Lewis Mountain has only 31 sites and is often full during summer and early fall. Mathews Arm and Loft Mountain have 100 and 200 sites, respectively, and usually only fill on summer and fall weekends.

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.