Great Falls National Park is just 15 miles from the nation’s capital, but feels a world away. The most elite whitewater athletes have these class V+ runs on their bucket list. If you’re one of these top-notch aquatic navigators, put in and make work. Spectators have three excellent vantage points to witness the thrills as the Potomac River pours through the Mather Gorge.
Nothing Dismal Here
The Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge is an abundant, important habitat for more than 560 species, including several endangered and threatened species. At the center of its 112,000 acres is the 3,142-acre Lake Drummond with water so shallow in places (max depth is only 6′) that amazing cypress trees emerge from the dark waters. It’s the largest natural lake in Virginia and we suggest you give your kayak oars a work out on it. If you’d rather hike or bike, there are a number of trails available. Download the Map
Dream to Reality
Virginia’s first permanent long distance backcountry trail is now a reality. The Virginia Mountain Biking Trail‘s 480 miles of continuous off-road spans Virginia’s Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains from Strasburg to Damascus. Eight major trails are linked into this one climbing 65,000 total feet.
Birds’ Eye View
Hang gliding affords an incredible adrenaline rush and unbeatable views (if you can keep your eyes open). Give it a go from the Eastern Shore Hang Gliding Center or in Amherst at High Peak Hang Gliding. Instruction is available at both centers.
Adventure on the Rocks
Southwest Virginia’s Grayson Highlands State Park offers some of the best bouldering in the state and even rents the gear. Be sure to watch out for the park’s resident wild ponies, which roam free throughout Mount Rogers Recreation Area. In the Shenandoah Valley, Old Rag is easily one of most well-known hikes in Virginia, but it also contains some of the best rock climbing routes in the state, featuring the only granite routes between the Adirondacks and Stone Mountain in North Carolina, according to SummitPost.org.
Yes, there is an undeveloped beach in Virginia that welcomes primitive camping on the Atlantic coast. False Cape State Park is accessible by foot, bicycle, beach transporter, tram or boat. The wildlife viewing is incredible, as is the sun rise over the Atlantic and the sunset over Back Bay Wildlife Refuge. Keep an eye out for loggerhead sea turtles, peregrine falcons and bald eagles.
Looking for a few more big ideas? See 30 Adventures to Experience to make your 2013 wish list.
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