Front Royal, Virginia is one of the most popular starting points for extended tours of the Blue Ridge. The closest airports to Front Royal are approximately 70 miles away in Washington, D.C. You can cycle out of either Dulles International Airport or Washington National Airport to Front Royal.
When you enter Shenandoah National Park on a bicycle, you experience the sensation of being transported into a separate world. At the height of the summer the vegetation is thick and alive with secrets, as if you were traveling through an enchanted forest. The deeper in you go the more entranced you become. Kudzu climbs greedily in the lower elevations. On hot days there is steamy humidity. Slowly, you climb from Front Royal to the higher elevations.
The fact is, you have to do some work to reach the Blue Ridge proper. The first ten miles of the Skyline Drive climb Dickey Ridge before connecting with the Blue Ridge mountain range at Compton Gap (Milepost 10.4). You climb 2,000 feet in this 22-mile stretch up to 3,385 feet at Hogback Overlook.
There are numerous overlooks in this section. At most of these overlooks the Shenandoah River is visible. Take note of the Massanutten ridge which divides the Shenandoah Valley for nearly fifty miles. When you study the rock along the Skyline Drive you are looking at molten lava flows called the Catoctin formation.
Matthews Arm is the first campground on the Skyline Drive as you travel south. There is no food here, but Elkwallow Wayside is just 2 miles south with a restaurant and camp store. There are three hikes which originate from the campground: Traces Trail, Knob Mountain, and Overall Run Falls.
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