If a menu offering “Shrimp & Scallop Ceviche, Prince Edward Island Mussels, and Twin Cornbread & Andouille Stuffed Quail” sounds good—it is. If it sounds like an A-list, uptown restaurant—it isn’t. It’s Skyland, in the heart of Shenandoah National Park.
That particular feast is offered May 17th, at one of several Shenandoah Seasonings Vintner Dinners to be held this season. Each is paired with an enticing local wine. Such dinners are just one of many forms of delight that can be experienced in Shenandoah National Park lodging. Other activities might include clogging, various types of live music and dancing, Night Skies viewing, wine tastings, horseback riding, and of course all the hiking you could ask for. (Night sky viewing has become so popular in the Park there are now a number of different astronomy events held at Big Meadows and Skyland, to enable visitors to learn about and enjoy the heavens after dark.)
Skyland, at MP 41.7 and 42.5 on Skyline Drive, is one of three accommodations in Shenandoah National Park, the others being Big Meadows (MP 51) and Lewis Mountain Cabins (MP 57.5) These, and all the concessions in the park such as “waysides” where quick food, gas (at Big Meadows) and camp supplies may be bought, are managed by Delaware North, a hospitality management firm with operations all over the world, (Peaks of Otter near Bedford among them) — under authorization of the National Park Service.
“This is such a special destination,” said General Manager Wayne Soard, Delaware North at Shenandoah National Park. “We are excited to welcome guests and show them our commitment to improving their experience with additional renovations along with regional menu items and a talented team. We look forward to providing a memorial getaway whether they are overnighting with us, visiting the restaurant for a meal, or joining us at one of our special culinary events.”
Skyland, originally called Stony Man Camp, connects visitors to resort life before the area became a national park. While some of its historic roots may still be seen, Skyland today is the modern traveler’s perfect blend of comfort, amenities, natural beauty and escape. More than 30 rooms are now being renovated and upgraded to “Premium” status, plus the main dining room is getting new floors and furniture. Some rooms have suites and fireplaces, and recent renovations both interior and exterior have updated the lodge’s appearance. A full service restaurant (wheelchair-accessible) offers spectacular views of the Shenandoah Valley.
Big Meadows includes not only a lodge as well as rustic mountain cabins, but an amphitheater (for Park Ranger programs), camp store, Wayside and Restaurant, the Spottswood Dining Room, New Market Taproom, a Craft Shop, and the Harry F. Byrd Visitor Center. The Visitor Center houses displays, photos and exhibits telling the story of the region, both before and after the establishment of the park. Directly across Skyline Drive from the Visitor Center is the “Big Meadow” for which the lodge complex is named. Once used by Native Americans for camping and hunting, the picturesque fields are often visited by whitetail deer, affording great opportunities for wildlife photography.
Moving south down the Drive a bit are the Lewis Mountain Cabins, which provide the best opportunity to disconnect electronically. While the cabins have bathrooms, electric lighting, ceiling fans and heat, their no-frills authenticity honors the area’s Appalachian roots. Visitors should bring their own food, cooking utensils, ice and coolers, and plan to cook on the outdoor grill at each cabin.
If you prefer to camp out, you have several options. Big Meadows and Lewis Mountain Campgrounds opened March 30; Loft Mountain, Mathews Arm and Dundo Group campgrounds will open May 2.
Skyland, Big Meadows and Lewis Mountain Cabins are all in the heart of Shenandoah National Park’s most popular hiking trails and afford some of the best views along the entire 105-mile Skyline Drive.
Getting there: There are four highway entrances to Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park: through Front Royal on U.S. Route 340; near Luray at Thornton Gap on U.S. Route 211; via Swift Run Gap on U.S. Route 33; and through Rockfish Gap and I-64 and U.S. Route 250 (also the northern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway—where Peaks of Otter, another Delaware North property—is located).
Special Note: Various entry fees apply to Shenandoah National Park, most commonly $25 per vehicle, including passengers, good for seven days. April 21st is a “Fee Free Day,” however, in honor of National Park Week.