Many believe Virginia State Parks offers some of the prettiest scenery around. And most would agree that they are the perfect destination for a road trip. With fuel prices low it seems like just about wants to hit the road and explore Virginia.
I would like to share what I think are the most beautiful roads at Virginia State Parks. These also include routes and highways that may cut through a state park. Let’s get this road trip started and see the top 12 scenic roads.
1. HUNGRY MOTHER STATE PARK
Long a family favorite known for beautiful woodlands and a placid 108-acre lake in the heart of the mountains, Hungry Mother has a sandy beach with bathhouse, boat rentals (fishing, canoe, kayak and paddle), a boat launch and a universally accessible fishing pier.
Guests also enjoy its gift shops, visitor center, hiking and biking trails, and seasonal restaurant.
2. CHIPPOKES PLANTATION STATE PARK
Just across the James River from historic Jamestown in beautiful Surry County, Chippokes Plantation is one of the oldest continually farmed plantations in the country. A working farm since 1619, the park offers modern recreational activities and a glimpse of life in a bygone era.
Visitors tour the historic area with its antebellum mansion and outbuildings, stroll through formal gardens, and view antique equipment at the Chippokes Farm and Forestry Museum. The park has a seasonal Olympic-sized swimming pool and a visitor center with a gift shop. It also provides opportunities to bike, hike, ride horseback and picnic.
3. FIRST LANDING STATE PARK
The park is where English colonists first landed in 1607. Native American canoes, Colonial settlers, 20th century schooners and modern cargo ships have navigated the park’s waterways. Its cypress swamps were a source of fresh water for merchant mariners, pirates and military ships during the War of 1812.
Legend has it that Blackbeard hid in the Narrows area of the park, and interior waterways were used by Union and Confederate patrols during the Civil War.
As one of Virginia’s most-visited state park, it’s an oasis within urban Virginia Beach. The park has 20 miles of trails and 1.5 miles of sandy Chesapeake Bay beach frontage. First Landing offers many recreational and educational activities and has many unusual habitats including bald cypress swamps, lagoons and maritime forest, as well as rare plants and wildlife.
4. BEAR CREEK LAKE STATE PARK
Nestled in the heart of the Cumberland State Forest in central Virginia, Bear Creek Lake is less than an hour west of Richmond. It’s the perfect getaway for the outdoor enthusiast. Activities center on the 40-acre lake with a boat launch, fishing pier, boat rentals and a swimming beach. Other attractions include a camping, picnicking, an archery range and playgrounds.
Guests also enjoy the park’s trails and access to the adjoining 16,000-acre Cumberland State Forest, including the 14-mile Cumberland Multi-use Trail, which is available for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
5. GRAYSON HIGHLANDS STATE PARK
Near Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, Virginia’s two highest mountains, Grayson Highlands offers scenic views of alpine-like peaks more than 5,000 feet high. Hiking trails leading to waterfalls and overlooks and the very popular Wild Ponies.
Scenic horse trails and a horse camping area with electric and water hookups, stables and parking for trailers are available. The park provides year-round access to the Appalachian Trail and the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail.
6. WESTMORELAND STATE PARK
On the Potomac River’s Northern Neck, this park offers many opportunities for family fun. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has an Olympic-sized swimming pool and an adjacent bathhouse, meeting area, snack bar, camp store and power-boat ramp. You’ll also find a visitor center, a playground, a fishing pier, boat rentals and 6 miles of trails.
Fossil collectors enjoy hunting for ancient shark teeth along the Potomac.
Offshore breakwaters are great for fishing. Birding enthusiasts find the park an excellent site for spotting American bald eagles, ospreys, kingfishers, great blue herons, common terns, green herons and gulls, as well as wintering waterfowl.
7. SKY MEADOWS STATE PARK
Rich in history, this 1,864-acre park has scenic views, woodlands and the rolling pastures of a historic farm that captures the colonial through post-Civil War life of the Crooked Run Valley. Nature and history programs are offered year-round. Hiking, picnicking, fishing and festivals are favorite activities in this peaceful getaway on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The park has 10.5 miles of bridle trails, 24 miles of hiking trails, 9 miles of bike trials and Appalachian Trail access.
8. DOUTHAT STATE PARK
A traditional family park since 1936, 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 summertime sandy swimming beach with snack bar, boat rentals, a gift shop and camp store, and more than 43 miles of hiking, and is known as a mecca for mountain biking.
Plus, there are playgrounds, an amphitheater, picnic areas, tent and trailer camping, and a seasonal restaurant overlooking the lake.
9. STAUNTON RIVER STATE PARK
Tucked neatly into the heart of Virginia, about 25 miles from the North Carolina border, Staunton River offers much to families and outdoor enthusiasts. The 2,400-acre park offers woodlands, meadows and shoreline along the Dan and Staunton rivers.
Access to Virginia’s largest lake, Buggs Island Lake, offers freshwater fishing and boating, along with water skiing and many other aquatic activities. The park also has Olympic-sized and wading pools, picnic shelters, three playgrounds, tennis and volleyball courts, several boat launches and more than 17 miles of multi-use trails. River Traders, just outside the park entrance, rents canoes and kayaks.
This park is the first state park in Virginia to be designated an International Dark Sky Park and is ideal for stargazing. Park staff conducts associated interpretive programs and rents telescopes.
10. LEESYLVANIA STATE PARK
Leesylvania is nestled along the tidal shores of the historic Potomac River. Native Americans lived on this land for thousands of years. Capt. John Smith visited the area in 1608 on his voyage of discovery. It’s also the ancestral home of Virginia’s legendary Lee and Fairfax families.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks, Leesylvania offers many land and water activities, including hiking, picnicking, fishing and boating.
A universally accessible fishing pier, playground, boat launch, boat storage area, snack bar and store, visitor center and gift shop are available. A 20-station fitness trail and canoe and kayak rentals also are available.
11. SHENANDOAH RIVER STATE PARK
This park is on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River and has more than 1,600 acres along 5.2 miles of shoreline. The park opened in June 1999. In addition to meandering river frontage, the park offers scenic views of Massanutten Mountain to the west and Shenandoah National Park to the east.
A large riverside picnic area, picnic shelters, trails, river access and a car-top boat launch make this a popular destination for families, anglers and canoeists.
With more than 24 miles of trails and a zipline, the park has plenty of options for hiking, biking, horseback riding and adventure.
12. POCAHONTAS STATE PARK
Just 20 miles from Richmond, Pocahontas offers boating, picnicking, camping, camping cabins, 64-plus miles of trails, and nature and history programs. The Aquatic Center affords seasonal water-based activities for all. Three lakes offer plenty of fishing. Boat rentals are available seasonally by the 225-acre Swift Creek Lake.
The Civilian Conservation Corps Museum, dedicated to Depression-era workers who helped build the state park system, is one of a handful in the nation.
Pocahontas State Park’s location and 64 miles of trails make it particularly popular for mountain biking.
Cabins are available at Hungry Mother, Chippokes, First Landing, Bear Creek Lake, Westmoreland, Douthat, Staunton River, and Shenandoah River State Parks.
For overnight accommodations, click here or call 800-933-7275.
Now it’s your turn, what are your thoughts, do you have a favorite scenic road not on this list? If you have a photo maybe we can include it next time.
Written by Shellie Anne for Virginia State Parks.
Images provided by Courtesy of Virginia State Parks
Virginia’s 38 state parks are as diverse as the state itself, with parks along the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay, on historic sites, in the Blue Ridge Mountains and just outside of major cities. The parks have thousands of campsites, hundreds of cabins, more than 600 miles of trails and convenient access to Virginia’s major waterways.