Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

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Daylight hours are fewer, breezes chillier, and the sun doesn’t pack the warmth it did a few months ago. Time to head to the beach! However, I’m not talking about some sand you can drive to. No, you’re going to tramp miles, but once you reach this place you’ll enjoy a solitude that is almost impossible to find on any other Blue Ridge region coastline.

Virginia’s Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park are akin to the barrier islands of North Carolina—scrubby woodlands, marshes, dunes, and a beach devoid of development.

Campers must obtain a permit by calling 1-800-933-7275 at least two weeks in advance.

The journey begins by walking through the 7,732-acre wildlife refuge, established to provide habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl. The first designated campsite in the state park, Barbour Hill, is reached after 5.6 miles. Be prepared. There is no shade, which is why you came here in winter.

After setting up camp, dipping your feet into the cold Atlantic, and having dinner, walk the 3-mile roundtrip journey to the Barbour Hill Boat Dock to watch the sun set over Back Bay. Have an extra day? Walk inland through loblolly pines, watch for resident feral pigs, and maybe sight the bow of the Clythia, a wrecked from an 1894 storm.

As you enjoy your rambles, you will notice one other reason to visit in December instead of summer—very few, if any, mosquitoes or other irritating insects.

“50 Hikes in Southern Virginia” has a map and details of the outing.

A REMINDER: Don’t forget my invitation for you to submit your favorite hikes. Send the information to and provide me with enough details so that others will know where it is and what makes it special. If I use your hike, you’ll be entered into a drawing (to be done within the next six months) to receive a copy of my newest book, “Images of America: Along Virginia’s Appalachian Trail,” which was just released on December 7. I’ve only received a few responses so far, so the odds are good that you may be the winner.

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