Climbing the Skyline Drive


Over 10,660 feet of climbing doesn’t seem that tough over 100 miles, but it more than I had anticipated.  The ride was a 100 mile (see ride profile below) out and back starting in Front Royal. I parked below the toll gate (cyclists must pay fee) at the entrance to the Skyline Drive and I was immediately greeted with a 6.1 mile climb of 1571 feet. What a way to warm up. The average grade was about 5%, with a few sections with 6-7%, so it wasn’t too bad. Immediately following the climb, you are rewarded with a nice 2 mile descent, which allows the legs to recover a bit. On to climb #2, which is much shorter, 2.5 miles, with the gradient ranging between 5-7%. The road leveled out for the next 2.5 miles, again allowing the lactic acid to escape some already tiring legs. On to climb #3, another 3.5 mile jaunt with 700 feet more of elevation gain. A quick descent and onto climb #4.  This climb seemed much easier, it must have been the legs being really warmed up. This climb was another 3 miler with an elevation gain of 800 feet. If you have made it this far the reward awaits in the 3.8 mile descent into the Elk Wallow Picnic Grove. You can fill up your water bottles here and grab a snack or if you missed breakfast they have a little café where they will make you a delicious egg sandwich.  Hey I deserved it. At this point if you haven’t being doing the math the 4 climbs so far covered 15 miles with an elevation gain of over 3700 feet. Not bad for the first 21 miles. After a quick recharge at Elk Wallow, your legs can get loosened up on a nice 7 mile false flat and then the climbing begins again. Climb #5 is a 4 miler with 1200 feet of elevation gain. Most of the grade is not too bad, but after the first few miles there is one section that jumps up to 15%. A real leg screamer!!! After another recovery descent, you face climb #7, 3.4 miles and 700 feet of elevation gain. The roller coaster continues all the way to mile 50 with 2 more short, but daunting climbs. The final climb into the Big Meadows Visitor center is a real grind, as the wind was blowing off the meadow directly into my face. After a second break to grab fresh water, it was time for the return leg. the first 50 miles generally has much more gain than loss, so the return leg is much easier and definitely much faster. By the last descent, I was very thankful for a nice 6 mile descent back to the car at 40+ mph. All in all it is a great ride, but will have to say that is by far was one of the more challenging rides I have accomplished.  I met a rider who was doing the Sky Mass loop (80 miles with on 6085 feet of climbing) I think I will try that one next.