10 Jan Beautiful Southwest Virginia Is Home to 11 State Parks
Southwest Virginia is within a day’s drive of more than half of the United States population, giving plenty of folks the opportunity to enjoy some of the most beautiful state parks in the country.
At roughly the same size of Rhode Island, scenic Southwest Virginia, which sits among the majestic Appalachian Mountains, covers 19 counties that feature thousands of acres of public land and more outdoor recreational destinations than you can imagine. With a total of 11 state parks in the region, outdoor lovers can choose from any number of activities to enjoy, including hiking, biking, camping, kayaking, and much more.
A brief description of each park, which offer stunning views and a myriad of activities for visitors, follows:
- Breaks Interstate Park – Featuring the “Grand Canyon of the South” the 4,500- acre park also has 25 miles of hiking trails, 12 miles of biking trails, horseback riding, rock climbing, paddle boating, fishing, water park, white-water rafting, canoeing, volleyball, and hydro biking. Located in the community of Breaks in the Jefferson National Forest, the park also boasts an 82-room lodge, cottages, cabins, campground, visitor center, conference center, restaurant, and amphitheater. http://www.breakspark.com/
- Claytor Lake State Park – Located in Dublin, the park covers 4,500 acres, including the 21-mile long Claytor Lake. The park, which is easily accessible from I-81, offers a wide variety of activity for outdoor lovers, including swimming, camping, cabins, lodges, hiking trails, meeting facility, and a visitor center. The park also features a marina. http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/claytor-lake#general_information
- Cumberland Gap National Historical Park – Running along the Cumberland Mountains and located in Lee County, as well as in Tennessee and Kentucky, the park’s visitor center features a museum with interactive exhibits, an auditorium, crafts and gift shop and book store. Covering 26,000 acres, the park is one of the largest in the eastern portion of the U.S. It boasts 85 miles of hiking trails and there’s plenty of camping at nearby Wilderness Road Campground. https://www.nps.gov/cuga/index.htm
- Fairy Stone State Park – Home of the legendary fairy stones, the park is well known for its 168-acre lake adjoining Philpott Reservoir. Located in Stuart, the park encompasses 4,471 acres and is just minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Attractions include cabins, a campground, group camping, an equestrian campground, a conference center, hiking trails, lake swimming, rowboats, canoes, paddle boats, kayaks, picnicking and two playgrounds, including one in the water. http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/fairy-stone#general_information
- Grayson Highlands State Park — Near Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, Virginia’s two highest mountains, the park offers scenic views of alpine-like peaks more than 5,000 feet high. Facilities include a visitor center, campgrounds, and hiking trails leading to waterfalls and overlooks. Wild ponies inhabit the park, which boasts scenic horse trails and a horse camping area with electric and water hookups, stables and parking for trailers are available. The park stretches across 4,502 acres in Mouth of Wilson and provides year-round access to the Appalachian Trail and the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail. http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/grayson-highlands#general_information
- Hungry Mother State Park — Long a family favorite known for beautiful woodlands and a placid 108-acre lake in the heart of the mountains, the park 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 campgrounds, cabins, gift shops, visitor center, six-bedroom family lodge that sleeps 15, hiking and biking trails, and restaurant. The park covers 2,015 acres and is also home to the Hemlock Haven Conference Center. http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/hungry-mother#general_information
- Natural Tunnel State Park — More than 850 feet long and as tall as a 10-story building, Natural Tunnel in Duffield was naturally carved through a limestone ridge over thousands of years. Facilities include two campgrounds, cabins, picnic areas, amphitheater, visitor center, camp store, and a gift shop. The Wilderness Road historic area, a swimming pool with a 100-foot slide and a chairlift to the tunnel floor is also available, along with cave tours and canoe trips on the Clinch River. http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/natural-tunnel#general_information
- New River State Trail Park – A 57-mile linear park that follows an abandoned railroad right-of-way, the park parallels the scenic and historic New River for 39 miles. The trail’s gentle slope makes it great for visitors of all ages to hike, bike and ride horseback. Located in Max Meadows, the park, which encompasses 2,911 acres, offers guided horseback trips, canoe and bike rentals, fishing, camping, gift shops, and a horse arena. http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/new-river-trail#general_information
- Shot Tower State Park — Overlooking the New River, Shot Tower, which sits on 10 acres, was built more than 200 years ago to make ammunition for early settlers. Guests can still ascend the tower, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Interpretive signs provide details on the tower. The tower is open on scheduled days in the summer. Group tours are also available. http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/shot-tower#general_information
- Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park — A National Historic Landmark, the Southwest Virginia Museum is in an 1890s Victorian stone mansion with original oak interior in Big Stone Gap. The museum’s collection includes more than 25,000 pieces as well as exhibits that tell the story of the exploration and development of Southwest Virginia from the pioneer era of the 1700s to the mining era of the late 1800s. A gift shop features unique items representative of the area’s history and crafts made by regional artisans while the park offers facilities for meetings, weddings, and other special occasions.
- Wilderness Road State Park – Offering picnicking, hiking, and nature and living history programs, the park boasts a visitor center where the award-winning docudrama, “Wilderness Road, Spirit of a Nation” can be viewed, as well as a frontier museum and a gift shop. The park, located in Ewing, features the reconstructed Martin’s Station, an outdoor living history museum depicting life on Virginia’s 1775 frontier, picnic shelters, 100-seat amphitheater, nature play-scape, ADA-certified playground, sand volleyball court and horseshoe pits. Visitors can hike, bike or horseback ride on the 8.5-mile Wilderness Road Trail. http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/wilderness-road#general_information