5 Best State Parks in Virginia
Virginia is a beautiful state with 41 state parks. You can enjoy a variety of environments, from lakes to sandy beaches to wooded mountains.
Here are our five favorite state parks.
First Landing State Park
Let’s start with a very popular park in Virginia Beach. First Landing State Park is where the first English settlers to Virginia landed in 1607. You’ll find many waterways here, and during that era, the settlers sailed their boats, and the Native Americans rode their canoes here. In fact, the area is rich with boating history. During the War of 1812, military ships, merchants, and even pirates frequented the waterways. Legend says that Blackbeard used the area as a hideout. During the Civil War, the Confederacy and the Union used these lanes.
Yes, you can go boating and canoeing here, too, in this 2,888-acre park. This is a wonderful park for camping, picnics, biking, hiking, fishing, and swimming, too. First Landing State Park has excellent access to the Chesapeake Bay.
Campers can choose between cabins, yurts, and tent or RV campsites.
Kiptopeke State Park
State parks in Virginia are full of American history. For instance, Kiptopeke State Park is the area Captain John Smith, fictionally immortalized in the Disney movie Pocahontas, explored in 1608. The park is 562 acres and has access to the Chesapeake Bay.
This fun park includes tent and RV campsites, cabins with two and three bedrooms, lodges with six bedrooms, yurts, and a bunkhouse. When you’re ready to do some hiking, you can enjoy the 5.1 miles of trails. Do you want to go fishing? Head over to the pier with your fishing pole. You can also enjoy boating, swimming, and biking. Oh yes, and the beach has a playground and a beach bathhouse.
Kiptopeke is a great place to spot wildlife, including deer, foxes, and a variety of birds. Check the linked site for information on their seasonal educational programs, where you can learn about local birding and ecology.
Day use hours are 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily, and the pier is open from April 1 to Dec. 31 every year.
High Bridge Trail State Park
In Farmville, you’ll find High Bridge Trail State Park, a 1,236-acre area that gets its name from High Bridge. Yes, that’s a famous bridge in the park, the longest pedestrian bridge in Virginia. It rises 125 feet above the Appomattox River and is 2,522 feet long. On the walk across this half-mile bridge, you’ll get some magnificent views of the river and surrounding natural areas.
The High Bridge is at the site where General Lee surrendered during the civil war at the Appomattox River. This bridge is just part of the trail. In fact, the High Bridge trail is 31 miles long. It used to be a rail bed, so it’s wide and level with a crushed limestone surface. Visitors can hike, bike, or ride horses along the trail. There’s also trail access to and from downtown Farmville.
Hungry Mother State Park
How does a site get a name like Hungry Mother State Park? The story goes like this. A pioneer, Molly Marley, and her daughter were captured by a Native American tribe and eventually escaped. They wandered through the woods in the area, subsisting on berries. Because of malnutrition, Molly collapsed, and her daughter looked for help. When she found settlers, she could only say, “hungry mother,” and brought them to where she had left her mother. Sadly, the woman had died meanwhile.
Initially, settlers called the area “Molly’s Knob,” and the stream Hungry Mother Creek. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps dammed the creek and formed the lake. In time, the area became a state park and was dubbed Hungry Mother.
This is one of Virginia’s six original state parks, a 3,334-acre wooded area with a 108-acre lake in the middle. On the lake, you can enjoy canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and paddle boating. You can also rent any of these types of watercraft. If you want to go fishing, you can do that on the boat-launch pier.
Campers can stay at campsites or in a cabin, lodge, or yurt. Tired of barbecuing your food? Then head to the restaurant on site. Want to get some souvenirs? Visit the gift shop. Do you run a business and need a place for a special event? Then consider the Hemlock Haven Conference center.
If you want to visit for the day, day-use hours are 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Grayson Highlands State Park
If horseback riding is your passion, then we recommend visiting Grayson Highlands State Park. There are many horse trails, including the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail, which is open year-round. There’s also a horse camping area, which includes stables, RV hookups, and trailer parking.
Grayson Highlands State Park is near Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, the tallest mountains in Virginia. The entrance to this alpine area is at 3,698 feet. The visitor center is at 4,953 feet, and the highest point, Little Pinnacle, is at 5,089 feet.
This is a beautiful area to not only go horseback riding but hiking in the mountains. This state park has 13 trail systems. You can even hike part of the Appalachian Trail. In the winter, visitors enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Other features include a visitors’ center, waterfalls, and overlooks. Day-use hours are 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
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