Sunday, July 31, 2016

Great day trips from DC: Spotting wildlife along Skyline Drive

On Friday morning we decided we would spend the weekend as an "adventure" and just kind of see where the days would lead us. We left mid-morning on Friday and headed to Orange, Virginia to visit Montpelier, but then on a whim decided to continue along I-66 west (and decided we'd go to Montpelier on Saturday instead). What we ended up doing was stopping at Aldi in Front Royal to pick up some things for lunch and then drove to the entrance of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.

Couldn't have picked a better day! We started off at mile marker one, stopping at many overlooks and other spaces along the way. Before we even got to the entrance, we spotted a turtle around the bend. It was trying to cross the road, so we waited to warn other motorists until it made its way safely. 

This was one fast-moving turtle! It only took a couple of minutes to cross to safety

As soon as we entered the actual park we spotted many different birds, all of them, big and small, were too quick for me to catch a photo. I did spot one large bird that I managed to snag a pic, but I couldn't say what type it is (if anyone knows, please do let me know in the comments, thank you!)

Not the clearest photo as this bird was moving along quickly at a distance, but it was fascinating to watch

What amazed us was the number of butterflies fluttering about; we literally saw dozens in any given spot, even during the times we didn't stop the car. They, along with bees, beetles and other small flying critters, were sharing the abundant wildflower space throughout the ride along the mountain road. We stopped often to take photos of them.

Butterfly duo spotted 

Speaking of wildflowers, it seems July is a pretty stellar month for views. I've only made this trip during the fall, so now I'm intrigued to see what spring would have in store.

We saw purples, pinks, whites, orange, yellow and many other shades during our ride along the mountain road.
I even spotted a black bear! Unfortunately, I didn't get a pic. This is the spot where I saw him.

Where I saw the bear was off in the distance to the right. We were in a parking lot at the time. I opened my door so I could get the pic without the tree in the way, but the bear must of heard the click. He quickly took off.

When we reached Big Meadows (mile marker 51), we were happily surprised. We had been trying to spot a monarch butterfly all day with no luck, but we were rewarded at this stop. She was pretty elusive, but after about 15 minutes she stopped and sat on the pathway for a good five minutes. Our patience paid off. As a bonus, some other butterflies joined her.

I think the next time I write about things to do with the kids on hot summer days, I think I'm going to include some outdoor things too. While it was 87ish degrees at home, according to what my phone said, we enjoyed temperatures in the 73 to 75 degree range all day. We spent hours in the park and drove as far as Swift Run Gap (this around mile marker 62) and exited at Route 33 to take the highway home.

All in all, this was a fabulous day trip.  Fall foliage here is spectacular, but the summer is pretty stunning too.

[ Related Reading: 10 Fun Facts About Skyline Drive ]


  1. Sounds like a great way to spend the day with kids and the difference in the temperature is amazing. Beautiful pictures.

    1. Thank you. Definitely a great place to spend a summer day out. Thanks for stopping by!