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On A Clear Day You Can See Forever

by Patressa Kearns

More than a half-decade ago Barbra Streisand proclaimed to the world in song that on a clear day, you can see…well, pretty gosh-darn far. Lucky you, the Shenandoah National Park visitor, because wintertime in the Blue Ridge is filled with crystal-clear days and viewpoints that will inspire you to burst into song. (Go ahead, if you want!)

One of the best reasons to visit Shenandoah in the winter is the views. Because the air is cold and dry, views from summits, peaks, and—best of all—the 70 Skyline Drive overlooks are stunning. Most trees have let go of their leaves, sure, but this allows for a more austere panorama. You can see the Park’s bones, so to speak, and get a better feel for the lovely contours of these ancient Appalachian Mountains. Spend some time at Range View Overlook, at mile 17.1 on Skyline Drive, and take in the many ranges (hence the overlook’s name) you see to the east, south, and west. (Just as Barbra declares, you really will feel part of every mountain!)

Take a hike to Hawksbill Summit, the Park’s highest peak, from Hawksbill Gap at mile 45.5 and absorb the magnificent almost-365-degree spectacle of the Shenandoah Valley, points west, north, and south, and Old Rag Mountain to the east. Do the short rock scramble to Bearfence from the parking lot at mile 56.4 if you’re really adventurous (but not fit enough to attempt Old Rag Mountain just yet!). Pull off at Ivy Creek Overlook in the Park’s South District at mile 77.2 and revel in the crisp perspective you get of the lovely Virginia Piedmont, or take a short one-mile round trip trek over the sharp but not unfriendly gray rocks of Blackrock Summit (park at mile 84.8), which feels like an easy-ish trip along the back of a stegosaurus1

Bring plenty of water (even in winter you’ll need to hydrate) and snacks. If you have questions for a Ranger, stop by Byrd Visitor Center, at mile 51 on Skyline Drive. Byrd VC is open on winter weekends (Thursday – Sunday), 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“How it will astound you…

You’ll feel part of every mountain, sea and shore

On a clear day you can see forever and ever and ever more.”

~ Alan Jay Lerner, “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever”