Virginia is known for its mountains, beaches and history, and Virginia State Parks offer all that and more. Whether you choose to spend the day on the trails, boating, fishing, learning about nature, or just enjoying a picnic, make Virginia State Parks part of your family’s healthy lifestyle. Come along with Kara Asboth of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and learn about Shenandoah Valley family fun at Virginia State Parks.
Family Fun at Virginia State Parks
There are now 41 Virginia State Parks, and four are part of the Virginia Kids Trail – Natural Bridge, Sky Meadows, Shenandoah River and Seven Bends state parks. Each offers something unique for kids and their families. Whether for a day or a week, enjoy outdoor family fun at a Virginia State Park.
Sky Meadows State Park is a day-use park and offers a Children’s Discovery Area where you can set off at your own pace to explore, create and hike your way to discovering the agriculture, nature, history and recreation of the park. The area also has a Kids in Parks TRACK Trail. The trail features ample benches, crosses streams, passes through woodlands and traverses meadows before looping back to its start. The easy, well-marked 0.7-mile trail is open from 8 a.m. to dusk and engages novice hikers, young and old.
Sky Meadows has recently been designated as an International Dark Sky Park. Though a day-use park, it offers an Astronomy for Everyone program that allows visitors in the park at night. Those evenings begin with a half-hour children’s “Junior Astronomer” program.
More Family Fun at Virginia State Parks
Well under an hour from Sky Meadows is Shenandoah River State Park where you can stay and really enjoy what the outdoors has to offer. The park’s overnight accommodations include camping, cabins, camping cabins, lodges and yurts. Recreational yurts are a modern adaptation of an ancient nomadic shelter. They’re basically a cross between a tent and a cabin.
The park offers trails, river access and programming that is great for young and old alike. Wade or float on the river on a hot day and see what creatures you can find in the river. The visitor center features local wildlife and has touch-screens for learning about the region’s history and bird species. An aquarium has fish from the Shenandoah River.
Natural Bridge State Park not only offers amazing views of the 215-foot tall bridge carved out by Cedar Creek, but beautiful forests and rolling meadows that showcase the area’s gorgeous mountain vistas. There are 7 miles of hiking trails, including the Cedar Creek Trail that takes you under the bridge and to Lace Falls with its 30-foot cascade.
Seasonal living history programs connect you to the past and cover how people once used the area’s resources for survival and inspiration. Start at the visitor center where you will find exhibits and a gift shop. Be sure to stop by the Children’s Discovery Area and enjoy just being a kid.
The Newest State Park on the Kids Trail
Seven Bends has 8 miles of hiking and biking trails. Two miles of trail lie along the “seven bends” of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. Make a day of biking or hiking along the river, or jump in your kayak and enjoy the river up close.
Another exciting opportunity at Seven Bends is to visit with the beekeepers. The park has an agreement with the Shenandoah County Beekeepers to maintain an apiary at the park in order to promote pollinators and pollinator habitat. Stop by and let us show you the ins and outs of an apiary and the vital role bees and other pollinators play in our ecosystem. Check out the dates when the beekeepers are available to chat.
State Park Programs and Helpful Tips
Each park offers its own programming, from crafts and nature walks to looking for salamanders, so make sure you check out all there is to do before you head out to the park. Kids exploration backpacks and geocaching are also available at many parks. There are also self-guided activities that you can do on your visit.
Here are some helpful tips to plan your family fun at a Virginia State Park: Camping with kids – tips, things to bring and safety; Know before you go – make sure you are aware before you head out; Recreate Responsibly – how to have a safe visit; Reservations – make plans to stay overnight. Park rangers and staff are happy to answer questions. We can’t wait to see you!
For more information on Virginia State Parks, here’s Vacation Idea’s top 25. Want free admission to your favorite Virginia State Park? Stop by your local library and check out a Nature Back Pack. You’ll find guides, maps, nets, and more – along with a free parking pass.