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35 Reasons to Visit Virginia's State Parks

RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia State Parks are consistently rated the best in the nation and have been the backdrop for perfect family vacations for more than 75 years. Families will find that Virginia's 35 state parks are as diverse as the state itself, with parks found along the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay, on historic sites, in the Blue Ridge Mountains or just outside of major cities. To prove the point, below is a different reason to visit each and every one.    

Bear Creek Lake: Extended families can relax and reconnect at Bear Creek Lodge. The beautiful timbered lodge sleeps 16 in six bedrooms, is fully furnished and has porches on front and back.  

Belle Isle: Make an extended visit to this beautiful park by staying in Bel Air Mansion, a 1942 Colonial style furnished with Colonial reproductions. The house sleeps six while a nearby guest house sleeps eight. 

Breaks Interstate: Explore the "Grand Canyon of the South," a five-mile gorge plunging 1,650 feet.  

Caledon Natural Area: The majesty of the bald eagle is on full display here on the banks of the Potomac. Some 60 eagles call this their summer home, making it the largest concentration of bald eagles on the East Coast.  

Chippokes Plantation: The annual Pork, Peanut and Pine Festival, one of Virginia's favorite annual events, is held here on the grounds of one of the oldest working farms in the United States.  

Claytor Lake: Hold an event at the Water's Edge meeting facility. Overlooking Claytor Lake's marina, Water's Edge can accommodate up to 125 attendees auditorium style for an unforgettable gathering.  

Douthat: One of the six original parks of the Virginia State Park system opened in 1936, Douthat was named one of America's 10 Best Parks by the Outside Family Vacation Guide and is also a National Historic Landmark.  

False Cape: Get up close to the Atlantic and Back Bay ecosystem. No vehicular traffic is permitted in this park and only primitive camping is offered. See bottlenose dolphins, raptors, foxes and pelicans in the wild.  

Fairy Stone: The park's namesake, rare staurolite cross-shaped stones can be found by those with a watchful eye. The mineral crystallizes at 60- and 90-degree angles that produce the stones' shapes.  

First Landing: Enjoy a guided trail walk with a park interpreter. First Landing State Park has more than 20 miles of hiking and biking trails that cross sand dunes, ponds and wooded areas.  

Grayson Highlands: Amazing mountaintop views and glimpses of wild ponies are the reward of those who venture out on the park's nine hiking/biking trails. The park is located next to Mt. Rogers, the highest point in Virginia, and is crossed by the Appalachian Trail.  

High Bridge Trail: A magnificent pre-Civil War railroad bridge, 2,400 feet long and 160 feet above the Appomattox River, is the newest addition to Virginia's State Park system.  

Holliday Lake: It's easy to get hooked on fishing at Holliday Lake State Park. Its scenic 15-acre lake is brimming with largemouth bass, yellow perch, crappie and bluegill.  

Hungry Mother: Love the beach but also love the mountains. You don't have to choose between the two if you visit Hungry Mother State Park. The swimming beach at the park's lovely lake is clean and ample.  

James River: Rent a canoe, kayak or tube for a paddle or float down this pastoral stretch of the historic James River. The park has its own livery and shuttle/pickup service for maximum convenience and affordability.  

Kiptopeke: Spend the night in a "Yurt," the modern adaptation of an ancient nomadic shelter. Kiptopeke's Yurt - technically a cross between a tent and cabin - is the only of its kind in Virginia's State Parks. It sleeps six and has a great view of the Chesapeake Bay.  

Lake Anna: Explore the remains of a 19th century gold mining operation on a ranger-led program. A vein of gold ran through the region and the mine reached its peak in the 1870s. Today its ruins are found deep in the woods of the park.  

Leesylvania: Walk a portion of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail and explore Civil War fortifications on the banks of the Potomac.  

Mason Neck: Abundant water and wetlands make the park an active heron rookery. Rent a canoe or kayak to explore creeks and bays along the Potomac - a great chance to spot eagles.  

Natural Tunnel: Ride a chairlift from the top of the cliffs 230 feet down to the tunnel and back. The tunnel also has a practical use conveying a railroad line through the rocky ridge.  

New River Trail: Take a breathtaking bike ride along 57 miles of former railroad bed - 39 miles of which parallels the scenic New River. The trail crosses more than 30 trestles and bridges and goes through two tunnels.  

Occoneechee: Camp with your horse near the shore of Buggs Island Lake. Occoneechee State Park's equestrian camping include 100' x 24' campsites for humans and 12' x 12' covered stalls for horses. Eighteen miles of trails meander through woods and along the lakeshore.  

Pocahontas: Several of Virginia's original state parks were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Visit the CCC Museum, housed in an original CCC building, and learn about the mobilized groups of Americans in the 1930s who helped work America through its Great Depression.  

Sailor's Creek: A key Civil War battlefield is protected and interpreted by this park in South Central Virginia. Just three days before his surrender at Appomattox, Robert E. Lee lost a significant part of his army here. The Hillsman House, an original battlefield structure, can be toured.  

Shenandoah River: Pitch a tent and camp in the heart of some of Virginia's most beautiful scenery. Round grills set on cement pads make for safe grilling and firewood is for sale in the park. And for those who want a peaceful night's rest, quiet time is from 10:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.  

Shot Tower: Tour the nearly 200-year-old, 75-feet-tall stone tower used to manufacture lead shot for early muzzle-loading rifles in frontier Virginia.

Sky Meadows: The park plays host to the annual Delaplane Strawberry Festival over Memorial Day Weekend. Loads of strawberries, shortcake and whipped cream make one of Virginia's most beautiful views even better.  

Smith Mountain Lake: Launch your boat and join in the fun at one of Virginia's biggest and best recreational lakes. Watercraft from canoes to ski boats can be rented at the park during the summer.  

Southwest Virginia Museum: Visit the museum, housed in an 1880s mansion, that chronicles the history of the history and culture of Southwest Virginia including the importance of the coal industry.  

Staunton River: Stay in an original 1930s cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Cabins are fully furnished, climate controlled and ready to be enjoyed.  

Staunton River Battlefield: The site of a small Civil War battle, the park is also noted as a stop on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail. Observation points along the Staunton River allow vantage points to view native species of south-central Virginia.   Tabb Monument: In Virginia's smallest State Park view the monument to Father John Bannister Tabb, Catholic priest and noted Southern poet.  

Twin Lakes: Plan a group retreat at Cedar Crest Conference Center. It has three conference rooms, the largest seating 130 people, and overnight cottage accommodations for 48 - all in a lovely, secluded setting.  

Westmoreland: Look for fossilized pre-historic sharks' teeth along the shoreline of the Potomac River. The staff also conducts fossil hiking programs.  

Wilderness Road: Visit Martin's Station, a replica of the colonial frontier fort on the site in 1775. Costumed living history interpreters reveal the history of American westward expansion through the Cumberland Gap  

York River: Experience the environment of a coastal estuary where salt and fresh water meet, producing a rare, delicate environment teeming with marine and plant life. Look for scheduled moonlight canoe trips.   Love is at the heart of every Virginia vacation. 

Go to www.Virginia.org\outdoors  or call 1-800-VISITVA to request a free copy of the 2013 Virginia is for Lovers travel guide.  Stay connected with Virginia on Facebook atwww.Facebook.com/VirginiaisforLovers or on Twitter at @VisitVirginia.

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