There are many reasons to love Virginia State Parks.I compiled 10 reasons of my own personal favorites
You will find more than one Virginia State Park per reason on my list, for example geology can be found at all state parks, as can water and fun, my list highlights just a few:
1. Geology – Visit Natural Tunnel State Park
More than 850 feet long and as tall as a 10-story building, Natural Tunnel was naturally carved through a limestone ridge over thousands of years. William Jennings Bryan called it the "Eighth Wonder of the World." Other scenic features include a wide chasm between steep stone walls surrounded by several pinnacles, or "chimneys." Facilities include two campgrounds, cabins, picnic areas, an amphitheater, a visitor center, a camp store and a gift shop. You'll also find the Wilderness Road historic area, a swimming pool with a 100-foot slide and a chairlift to the tunnel floor. Guests enjoy cave tours and canoe trips on the Clinch River, as well as the Cove Ridge Center, which offers environmental education, conference facilities and overnight dorm accommodations. A camp store and kayak programs are new this year.
2. History – Visit Sailor's Creek Historical Battlefield State Park
On April 6, 1865, nearly a quarter of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's army, more than 7,700 men, were killed, wounded or captured here. Lee surrendered 72 hours later at Appomattox Court House. Historical interpreters present various programs and living history events take place at various times throughout the year. Motorists traveling along Lee's Retreat can learn more about the battle by tuning their radios to AM 1610. For more information about seasonal tours of the Hillsman House, call 804-561-7510.
Visit the Virginia's Civil War Trails website or call 888-CIVIL-WAR to learn more about this site. Trail travel packages are available as well; call 1-800-769-5912 for details.
3. Fishing – Visit Kiptopeke State Park
On Virginia's beautiful Eastern Shore, explored by Capt. John Smith in 1608, Kiptopeke offers recreational access to the Chesapeake Bay. It's also a great place to explore unique migratory bird habitat along the Atlantic flyway. The park has six-bedroom lodges, RV and tent camping, a yurt (part cabin-part tent) and camping trailers. Guests also enjoy the park's boat ramp, lighted fishing pier, picnic areas, 5.1 miles of hiking and biking trails, playground, beach bathhouse and swimming beach. Seasonal interpretive and educational programs focus on natural history, birding and bay ecology.
4. Paddling – Visit Belle Isle State Park
Belle Isle has seven miles of shoreline on the Northern Neck's Rappahannock River and provides access to Mulberry and Deep creeks. The park lets visitors explore a wide variety of tidal wetlands interspersed with farmland and upland forests. It has a campground, three picnic shelters, hiking, biking and bridle trails, and motor boat and car-top launches. Belle Isle also offers overnight lodging at Bel Air and the Bel Air Guest House. Bicycle, canoe, kayak and motorboat rentals are available. Guests also enjoy the park's universal access playground, boardwalk and fishing pier, and educational programs.
The diverse habitats found in the park provide homes to many predator birds, such as blue herons, osprey, hawks and bald eagles. White-tailed deer, turkeys, groundhogs, rabbits, squirrels, moles, reptiles and amphibians are also common. There are eight distinct types of wetlands within the park. These diverse ecosystems make Belle Isle an excellent outdoor laboratory for environmental education.
5. Hiking – Visit Douthat State Park
A traditional family park for 75 years, Douthat is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for the role its design played in the development of parks nationwide. Amid some of Virginia's most breathtaking mountain scenery, visitors enjoy interpretive programs, four miles of stream fishing, a 50-acre lake stocked with trout, a sandy swimming beach with snack bar, boat rentals, a gift shop and camp store, cabins, and more than 43 miles of hiking, mountain biking and bridle trails. Plus, there are playgrounds, an amphitheater, picnic areas, tent and trailer camping, and a restaurant overlooking the lake. The park also has 32 cabins and three lodges that accommodate 15, 16 and 18 guests each.
6. Family Time – Visit Twin Lakes State Park
In the heart of central Virginia, this 495-acre, historic park offers many cultural, environmental and recreational activities. Overnight accommodations include a campground and climate-controlled cabins. Visitors enjoy swimming, fishing, boating and lakefront picnicking at Goodwin Lake. Cedar Crest Conference Center on Prince Edward Lake is available for weddings, family gatherings, retreats and business meetings.
7. Water – Visit Claytor Lake State Park
Ideal for swimming, camping, hiking and picnicking, Claytor Lake is known for sport fishing and boating. The park has a full-service marina with docking slips, supplies, fuel, boat rentals and refreshments. The Water's Edge Meeting Facility is perfect for weddings, receptions and reunions, and wedding packages are available. There's also a gift shop. Three lodges and 13 cabins overlook the 4,500-acre lake, offering visitors a scenic retreat. The historic Howe House has interactive exhibits describing the ecology of the lake and the surrounding areas.
8. Fun – Visit James River State Park
Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the park features rolling grasslands, quiet forests and beautiful views, as well as 3 miles of shoreline along the James River. Visitors can hike, bike, canoe, kayak, fish or tent camp on the banks of the historic river or at Branch Pond. Facilities include cabins, a nature center, a gift shop, picnic shelters, multi-use trails, boat launches, water/electric campgrounds and equestrian camping. The park also has a universally accessible fishing pier and a .25-mile-long wheelchair accessible trail around Green Hill Pond. James River State Park Outdoor Adventures, a full-service canoe livery, provides canoe, kayak and tube rentals as well as shuttle services. For more information about the livery (open seasonally), call 434-933-8682. The park is also a great place to view the annual James River Batteau Festival. A replica of one of the unusual vessels is on display at the visitor center.
9. Camping – Visit Occoneechee State Park
Named for Native Americans who lived in the area for hundreds of years, Occoneechee is on the John H. Kerr Reservoir, better known as Buggs Island Lake, and is popular with anglers and boaters. Facilities include cabins, campsites, an equestrian campground, picnic shelters, an amphitheater, a playground, boat ramps, and a private concession offering boat rentals and snacks. Occoneechee Marina offers a fuel dock and boat slips with water and electric service for annual rentals. Six slips are available for rent to overnight camping and cabin guests. The park also has 20 miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. The visitor center and museum introduce visitors to Native American history and the indigenous Occoneechee people.
Providing 24-hour access Virginia’s largest lake, three boat ramps open the door to 48,000 acres of fishing, boating and aquatic recreation. Forty-eight campsites are available for tent and RV campers. Some sites are right on the shoreline, providing easy fishing and boating access. The park also has 13 cabins that allow guests to enjoy the comforts of home as well as beautiful views of the lake. An equestrian campground with 11 sites and 11 covered horse stalls offers easy access to the park’s trail system. Occoneechee also has picnic areas near the lake, a playground, boat rentals and a lakefront amphitheater.
10. Wildlife – Visit First Landing State Park
The park is the site of the first landing of the Jamestown colonists in 1607. Native American canoes, colonial settlers, 20th century schooners and modern cargo ships have navigated the park's waterways. During the War of 1812, its Cypress swamps were a source of fresh water for merchant mariners, pirates and military ships. According to local legend, Blackbeard hid in the Narrows area of the park, and interior waterways served as landing sites for Union and Confederate patrols and blockade-runners during the Civil War. Built, in part by an all African-American Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933-1940, the park is a National Natural Landmark and National Historic Landmark. Now, as Virginia's most-visited state park, it's a natural oasis in Virginia Beach's urban oceanfront area. The park has 20 miles of trails and 1.5 miles of sandy Chesapeake Bay beach frontage. Offering many recreational and educational activities, it's a great place to explore unusual habitats featuring bald cypress trees, lagoons, rare plants and wildlife, and maritime forest ecology. Cabins, water and electric hook-up campsites, picnic areas, boat ramps and a camp store with bicycle rentals are also available. The Chesapeake Bay Center houses historical and educational exhibits. The Trail Center, outdoor courtyard, pavilion and amphitheater can be rented for special events and weddings.