Immersed in Blue Ridge Beauty: A Spacious Skies Shenandoah Views Adventure

Trip Dates: May 11 – 13

The Blue Ridge Mountains, intertwined with the Appalachian Mountains and Great Smokey Mountains, extends for 550 miles through eight states in the eastern United States. The highest point at 6,684 feet is Mount Mitchell in North Carolina. The Blue Ridge of Virginia has been the subject of many books, movies, and songs. But was this stretch of forest along an exceedingly high ridge worth the hoopla? Finally, this trip gave me the opportunity to see for myself.

Crossing the Virginia border was not too exciting, but as our vagabond duo aimed for the Spacious Skies Shenandoah Views campground, the Blue Ridge slowly showed is beauty.

Our first stop, the SSC campground is also beautiful, set on top of a hill surrounded by dairy farms. This may not sound too exciting, but the amazing benefit is the peace and quiet atmosphere with almost no traffic noise. The campsites surround a large open mowed square with playground equipment, a gigantic jumping pillow, swimming pool and shelter for larger group events. I was thrilled when I checked in to learn my spot had an open view of the ridge.

My favorite aspect was the lack of a forest to block the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains seen in the distance. Each campsite has a nice patio table with chairs, and two colorful Adirondack chairs perfect for watching the sun set every night. Every night I joined others who stepped outside at dusk, turned their chairs westward, and enjoyed the sunset – sometimes with a glass of wine.

A stone wall overlooks a lush, green mountain landscape under the spacious skies of Shenandoah Views. Sparse trees are visible in the foreground, all framed by a clear blue sky.

The next morning it was raining, so I headed to the much-acclaimed Luray Cavern a few miles from SSC Shenandoah Views. I am sometimes leery of privately owned places that market their place heavily. I once lived in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and soon learned that many of the places are simply tourist traps. But I was impressed with this cavern. In fact, it probably would have been a national park if possible. Luray Caverns are spectacular, and well worth a visit. Be sure to be near the stunning organ when staff turns it on to play a song using the cavern as the pipes.

Visitors walk along a pathway inside a large cave with illuminated stalactites and stalagmites, reminiscent of the awe-inspiring wonder found in the Shenandoah Views.

Later that afternoon, my goal was to drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway but found myself weaving on and off the famous route to venture into the little mountain towns scattered along the ridge. Somehow, I found myself on the Virginia Artisan Trail and learned about the Round The Mountain, Virgina’s Artisan Network of artisan studios, galleries, craft venues, farms, vineyards, and other creative points of interest to support the local products that make Virgina great. One of the places I stopped was owned by a fourth-generation family who sold handmade quilts, and honey and jams from their own farm. Merrium-Webster defines an artist as “a person who creates art using conscious skill and creative imagination.” An artisan is described as “a worker who practices a trade or handicraft,” which could also be artistic. More information about these amazing places tucked into the mountains can be found at

A person browsing quilts in a store filled with shelves of diverse patterns, quaint baskets, and a colorful "QUILTS" sign on the wall. One quilt features stunning Shenandoah Views while another captures the essence of Blue Ridge Beauty.
A small roadside stand with signs for "Beech Spring Farm," "fresh eggs," and "Virginia peanuts" stands proudly against the backdrop of Shenandoah Views. Decorated with an American flag, wreaths, and pink flamingo lawn ornaments, it captures the charm of Blue Ridge beauty.
A garden with wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) and yellow flowers is labeled with a sign, offering a touch of Blue Ridge Beauty.

The next day was sunny and perfect for a full day at Shenandoah National Park. With over 200,000 acres protecting wildlife from songbirds to black bears, it was hard to believe I was only seventy-five miles from Washington, DC. Known for appearing to be blue when seen from a distance is not magic. Trees that release isoprene into the atmosphere contribute to the bluish haze.

Do stop at the Harry F. Byrd Visitor Center to gather information about the park. I loved the little wildflower garden near the center that marked the names of the flowers. Be sure to drive down the road a mile or so and see the historic Big Meadows Lodge. Serious backpackers roamed the park on dusty boots carrying packs that a donkey would dispute. A short portion of the 2000-mile Appalachian Trail crosses a high point at the Shenandoah National Park. Marked by a concrete milestone at one of the overlooks at an elevation of 3,400 feet, I could hear hikers talking from below, but rarely seen due to the thick forest.

Visitors stroll through a museum exhibit featuring historical photographs, text panels, and artifacts. Shenandoah Views and USA-themed decorations hang from the ceiling.
The image shows the Harry F. Byrd Sr. Visitor Center, with a stone exterior and a pathway in front. A person walks towards the entrance on a sunny day, surrounded by the Blue Ridge Beauty and under Spacious Skies Shenandoah Views.

Near the Byrd Visitor Center is a way station designed just for these hearty hikers. They were mainly young and determined – filling water bottles and fulfilling a dream. I once had the fever to hike this famous trail, until I read A Walk In the Woods by Bill Bryson which cured me. So, I happily got back into my car and spent the rest of the day exploring the park on wheels.

However, hiking one of the trails was on my to do list, but I just did not have time. The park is not large, but I must have stopped at every viewpoint overlook, and there are many! I should have planned more time in this part of Virginia, and now have Spacious Skies Shenandoah Views on my list for a month-long stay next year. The Shenandoah National Park plus all the cool mountain villages surround the campground and dazzling sunsets will keep me busy.

A stone marker with the Appalachian Trail logo stands beside a narrow dirt path, offering captivating Shenandoah Views with lush green hills and distant mountains in the background.

Tip: Take a day to roam the hills on US Highway 211 near Luray and stop at the 90-year-old Brookside Restaurant for an excellent Virginian lunch or a homemade pie break.

Image of a rustic brick building with a metal roof housing a restaurant. Two people sit on a bench near the entrance, surrounded by greenery and parked cars. Trees are visible in the background, enhancing the Blue Ridge Beauty of this charming location.
A plate on a wooden table with a grilled sandwich and sweet potato fries, next to a glass of water and an open brochure displaying images and text about the beautiful Shenandoah region.

Ann Bush

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