Image by AJ Delos Santos licensed under Creative Commons.

If you're looking for a weekend getaway, part of Skyline Drive, one of our region's great treasures, will be car-free one Sunday in April. It's part of an effort to showcase how parks and the outdoors can help make you healthier.

On Sunday, April 23, the National Park Service (NPS) plans to shut down the northern third of the road of between the entrance at Front Royal and Thornton Gap to motor vehicles, leaving the road open to anyone on foot, bike, or any non-motorized transportation. Called “Ride the Drive” and part of National Park RX Day, the event will give people around 30 miles of traffic-free road to enjoy the scenery.

Skyline Drive was built in the 1930s to give people a way to visit and travel through Shenandoah National Park and experience the beauty of Virginia's mountains. The road is still massively popular today; that's especially true in the fall when tree leaves start to change their color, but it's wonderful during the spring too.

The popularity, though, means the road can be quite crowded. Normally, NPS recommends that cyclists especially use “extreme caution” when riding on Skyline Drive even though the road is the only option for cyclists to actually see the park.

The portion of the road that will be closed is highlighted in blue. Image by Google Maps used with permission.

Ride the Drive is part of National Park Week, during which NPS is lifting entrance fees at parks around the country. National Park RX Day is meant to highlight the health benefits of parks and the outdoors in general. But to really reap the rewards, you have to get out of your car and into the fresh air. Closing part of Skyline Drive will mean people will get to see the park in a new way and get some exercise as well.

If the event is a success, maybe NPS will see the benefit in letting cyclists and pedestrians rule the road more often than once a year. Maybe that will even happen on some of the roads that NPS owns more locally, like the George Washington or Rock Creek Parkways.

Ride the Drive is free, but you need to register. That begins on March 10th. See you in Shenandoah.

Canaan Merchant was born and raised in Powhatan, Virginia and attended George Mason University where he studied English. He became interested in urban design and transportation issues when listening to a presentation by Jeff Speck while attending GMU. He lives in Reston.