No matter where you are in Virginia, you’re less than an hour’s drive from a Virginia State Park. From the Atlantic Coast and Eastern Shore through Northern and Central Virginia to the Blue Ridge and beyond, 38 parks (and counting) blanket the state. Virginia State Parks manage more than 73,000 acres ideal for hiking, biking, paddling, climbing and more.
Grab your gear and tag along as we string together a tour of three parks on this Southwest Virginia adventure.
Cruise the New
New River Trail State Park is a great jumping off point. Whether you ride, paddle or hike, you’ll find your niche near the trail.
A dozen convenient access points over 57 miles of linear trail from Pulaski to Galax make planning a big day—or even an overnight—a breeze.
First-time visitors should swing by the Foster Falls area near the trail’s mid-point to get the lay of the land and to take advantage of the park’s gift shop and rental center. Bikes and boats are available daily at the Boat & Bike Livery Memorial Day through Labor Day. The livery also offers a shuttle so, if you a float’s in order, you won’t be left high and dry. Call the livery at 276-699-1034 for more info.
Hike and Climb the Highest Points in Virginia
Just 90 minutes from Foster Falls is Grayson Highlands State Park. Home to the third highest point in the state (Pinnacle Peak) and a quick hike away from the second highest (Whitetop 5,525 feet) and highest (Rodgers 5,279 feet), Grayson Highlands is considered by many to be the backpacker’s crown jewel of Virginia. It’s also a gateway to the Appalachian Trail and a great place to get introduced to hiking and backpacking.
Climbers, on the other hand, revel in Grayson’s spoils for a different reason: It has some of the best bouldering in the state… more than 1,000 climbs, in fact.
Set up camp at Hickory Ridge Campground and explore various bouldering areas on day trips. The most popular is the Listening Rock Trial loop with hundreds of problems. Be sure to stop by the picnic area for lunch and take in the enormous Olympus and Rock House boulders.
New to bouldering and want to give it a shot? The park has four crash pads for rent for only $10 a day.
Unwind at Hungry Mother
Once you’ve wrapped up your stay at Grayson, a well-deserved rest is in order. An hour north, next to the Jefferson National Forest and surrounded by abrupt peaks and long spines of the Appalachian Mountains, lies Hungry Mother State Park.
The Creek Side Campsite offers a perfect retreat and tranquil place to recharge after a long trek in the mountains. Sling up your hammock and break out the slack line for a little R & R and enjoy the shaded camp and gentle sounds of running water. The park also has cabins and yurts if you need something a little cozier.
Take Vista Trail and catch sunrise at Molly’s Knob, which affords a 180 degree view. On a clear day, you might be able to catch Mount Rodgers in the distance. The Lake Trail is also worth exploring. The relaxing 5.7-mile loop follows the shoreline of Hungry Mother Lake—perfect for an evening stroll or bike ride.
And don’t forget a victory burger at “The Restaurant,” the park’s locally famous eatery and event venue (vegetarian and vegan options available). Enjoy watching the beach, boaters and swimmers while dining.
If you still haven’t had your adrenaline fix, fear not. Hungry Mother boasts a dozen miles of mountain bike trails carved into the hills.