40 or More Free Travels: The Great Outdoors

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    Crabtree Falls FootbridgeFishing at Pony PastureThe Roanoke Star
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    Jump in with both feet!

    Virginia's outdoors beckon couples and families to splurge on fun for free.

    Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail – Statewide. Virginia has some 400 species of birds, 250 species of fish and 150 species of terrestrial and marine animals. Most can be found along the 65 trail loops Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail, the first such in America. From Atlantic seashore to Appalachian mountains, and in urban and rural settings, the trail brings visitors up close and personal with Virginia's abundant wildlife treasures.

    Virginia's Bicycling Trails – Statewide. Virginia is home to 838 miles of the U.S. Bicycle Route System, more than any other state, and is the only state with stretches of both official U.S. Bicycle Routes. Bikers also find outstanding "Rail Trails" throughout the Commonwealth – former railroad beds turned into scenic biking trails. Bring a bike or rent one from a local outfitter.

    Crabtree Falls – Nelson County. Called "Virginia's Best Kept Secret", Crabtree Falls features a series of five major cascades and a number of smaller ones that fall a total distance of 1,200 feet. The more daring hiker may continue along the 3-mile trail to four other overlooks offering stunning views of the falls and outlooks of the Tye River Valley.

    Flag Rock Recreation Area - Norton. Take a climb 1,000 feet above the city of Norton to a rock that does, in fact, boast an American flag at the top. With 25 acres of recreational opportunity, your family is sure to fall in love with the natural fun that surrounds them. Hiking, fishing, playground, and paid camping available.

    Pony Pasture Rapids – Richmond. The breath-taking scenery along the James River is so enticing and the vast array of outdoor activities will be addictive. The area is perfect for swimming, hiking, tubing, snorkeling, fishing, bird watching, biking and canoeing.

    Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge – Chincoteague. More than 14,000 acres of beach, dunes, marsh and maritime forest is a haven for nature enthusiasts. The wild herds of "Chincoteague Ponies" are the highlight of this refuge which also provides environmental education and recreational activities such as fishing, hunting, wildlife observation, interpretation, and wildlife photography. Free for those who walk or bicycle in. Small fee for cars.

    Wild ponies on Mount Rogers. Photo by CameronDavidson@CameronDavidson.com

    Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge – Suffolk. Several poets and history writers have viewed this place as either a peaceful paradise or a strangely mysterious setting. With a vast assortment of trails to discover visitors can enjoy bird watching, hiking, biking, boating, fishing, and hunting.

    Virginia Creeper Trail - Abingdon to Whitetop Station. Choose what you want to do along this renowned rails-to-trails attraction. Hike, bike, or ride horses. Do just a few miles or all 34.3. You'll love the wildlife, the views, and the serenity a day on the trail offers.

    Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge – Woodbridge. The Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge was created to protect vital bald eagle nesting, feeding, and roosting habitats along the Potomac River. Along with active eagle nesting, the refuge is a breeding ground for great blue herons with more than 1,200 nests occupied there. Visitors also can view the refuge along two trails, one through woods and one in Great Marsh.

    Virginia Beach and Boardwalk – America's longest commercial beach is also one of America's favorite. The three-mile concrete boardwalk is full of activity with bicyclists, strollers, roller bladders and people-watchers. During the summer three oceanfront stages offer nightly entertainment. This vibrant attraction features family activities, outdoor recreational facilities, year-round events and a diverse selection of restaurants and shopping opportunities.

    Powell Valley Overlook - Norton. The Powell Valley Overlook is an amazing stopping point that offers an unsurpassed view of the expansive Powell Valley. Great for birding, wildlife, and photography.

    Mount Rogers National Recreation Area – Southwest Virginia. The 115,000 acre mountain recreation wonderland includes hiking trails, lakes, streams, historic sites and wildlife viewing. Put on hiking shoes and hoof it to the top of Mt. Rogers for a bird's eye view from the highest point in Virginia.

    Roanoke Star - Roanoke is know as the Star City, so what better way to represent than with an illuminated 100-foot star? The Roanoke Star sits atop Mill Mountain, and was built in 1949. It's lit nightly until midnight and features several color combinations, including a patriotic red, white and blue.

    Natural Tunnel State Park - Duffield. William Jennings Bryan called it, "the eighth wonder of the world," but what will you think when you see this natural stone bridge as high as a 10-story building and 850-feet long? It's not the only natural wonder you'll find in this state park!

    Edith J. Carrier Arboretum & Botanical Gardens - Harrisonburg. Beautiful any season, this 125-acre botanical paradise at James Madison University is perfect for the nature photographer and is often the site of engagements and weddings. Find inner peace as you walk and meditate in the labyrinth. Many events are free, but for a nominal fee, you and your loved ones can enjoy a carriage ride to take in the beauty.

    Wait! There are more free things to do in Virginia! 

Last Updated: 5/30/2012 11:47 AM
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