Good news for travelers to Shenandoah National Park this winter: The Harry F. Byrd Sr. Visitor Center at Big Meadows will be open weekends, weather allowing, of course.
The plan is to begin the weekend openings on January 11, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the Skyline Drive is open. Rangers will be available to answer questions and help plan your day in the park. Movies, exhibits, and the bookstore will be available. Backcountry camping permits may also be obtained during open hours.
While the bulk, far and away, of Shenandoah's visitors come during the summer months, winter can be a very special time to visit and explore the park. Landforms are revealed in the absence of leaves; trails are less crowded, and a special quiet fills the air; ice formations appear and disappear along shady springs and streams; and wildlife goes about its daily business of survival.
In addition to Byrd Visitor Center, the following picnic grounds will remain open year round, weather permitting: Elkwallow, Pinnacles, South River, and Dundo. All other facilities are closed for the season.
If you do plan a trip down Skyline Drive, winter weather can create problems. Park officials ask that you use caution when driving Skyline Drive or hiking in the park. Be prepared to encounter winter driving conditions, including snow and ice, at any time.
Winter visitors need to be self-reliant. Keep extra, warm clothing in your car and wear layers when hiking. Visitors should bring plenty of water and food, as well as a flashlight, map, and crampons or traction coils for hiking boots.
Skyline Drive is open year round; however, the Drive may be temporarily closed on short notice for indefinite periods due to winter weather conditions. For the most current Skyline Drive status, call (540) 999-3500, choose Option 1, and then Option 1 again.
There is a $10-per-vehicle entrance fee to the park from December through February, good for seven days. Rates increase to $15-per-vehicle on March 1. For more information about planning a trip to Shenandoah National Park, please see the park’s website or call the park at (540) 999-3500.