22 Best State Parks in Virginia for Hiking, Sightseeing, Swimming & Camping

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Nestled in the heart of the East Coast, Virginia is a state blessed with breathtaking landscapes, rich history, and diverse ecosystems. 

From the rolling peaks of the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains to the tranquil shores of the Chesapeake Bay, the Old Dominion boasts an impressive collection of state parks that offer endless opportunities for adventure, relaxation, and remarkable experiences.

To inspire your visit, we curated a list of the best state parks in Virginia that are worth visiting for a variety of reasons.

No matter if you’re into exciting escapades in the wild, love finding quiet moments alone in nature, or dream of exploring the state’s beautiful scenery, these destinations guarantee you’ll have an amazing time. 

We’ll guide you through the lush forests, winding trails, and pristine lakes that make these VA state parks a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

Love a mix of nature and adventure? Explore the national parks on the East Coast or check out our favorite state parks in Massachusetts.

For more places to visit in VA, read our guide VA bucket list and things to do in Roanoke.

The Best Virginia State Parks

For easier navigation, the following list is organized geographically, along the North Carolina border near Mt. Rogers — the highest point in the state.

From there, our VA state parks continue throughout the mountains before heading east to the beautiful Chesapeake Bay area.

And then, we wrap up with the parks in Northern Virginia, which can be great options for day trips from DC!

Grayson Highlands State Park

Grayson Highlands State Park (829 Grayson Highland Ln., Mouth of Wilson) is located on the far southwest corner of Virginia.

At about 4,500 acres, there is certainly a lot to do here!

If you’re looking for the ​​best Virginia state parks for hiking, this place is home to over fifteen miles of hiking trails, some of which lead to the state’s highest peak, Mount Rogers, which stands 5,729 feet above sea level.

A niche activity, bouldering, is also something that can be done at this park.

The park has seven boulder fields with over seven hundred climbing routes in total amongst them.

You will find that the wildlife here is also unique, with a herd of wild ponies being kept in the park to keep the ecosystem in check.

These ponies have been in this park for almost fifty years and eat vegetation from the mountaintops.

Mountain view from Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia

Natural Tunnel State Park

Natural Tunnel State Park (1420 Natural Tunnel Pkwy., Duffield) includes 909 acres centered around an 850-foot-long tunnel that visitors can explore.

Other geological features and more caves can be found in the park as well.

The park has four miles of trails through the rocky forests and also has cabins and yurts for those looking to stay overnight.

Lover's Leap -- a towering stone wall located in the Natural Tunnel State Park of Virginia

Clinch River State Park

For those looking for a lesser-known destination, Clinch River State Park (P.O. Box 67, Saint Paul) is just outside of the city of St. Paul in southwestern Virginia.

The park is small at 640 acres, and it has nine miles of trails.

It opened just recently in 2017 and puts an emphasis on hiking and biking.

Fishing is also encouraged along the Clinch River with a Virginia license.

Breaks Interstate Park

Breaks Interstate Park (627 Commission Cir, Breaks) is one of the only interstate parks in the entire United States, straddling the border of Virginia and Kentucky.

At 4,500 acres, it is one of Virginia’s largest state parks nestled deep in the mountains of southwestern Virginia.

Breaks Interstate is located on the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River, and the steep breaks down to the river are what give the park its name.

It is also one of Virginia’s most developed state parks; it offers lots of amenities including a restaurant and many lodging options.

For those looking for a longer visit, the park has cabins, yurts, and a lodge.

Aside from hiking the breaks, the park has a number of other opportunities for visitors to have fun outside.

These include rock climbing, kayaking (both on the lake and the river), fishing, and a zipline.

It also has a full waterpark near the lake if the temperature gets too high and you need to cool off.

Hungry Mother State Park

Virginia’s mountains make for great parkland.

Hungry Mother State Park (2854 Park Blvd, Marion) is yet another one of those state parks in the Virginia mountains that you won’t want to skip.

The park is over 3,300 acres and has seventeen miles of trails through the mountains that flank both sides of Hungry Mother Lake.

It also has several lodging options, including camping, cabins, yurts, and a lodge that can be reserved through the reservation system.

Note that about 800 acres on the north side of the park are open for small game hunting as long as visitors have a license — but it’s always best to check with the park office beforehand regarding specific areas for the activity so you can plan carefully.

Claytor Lake State Park

A smaller location in southwestern Virginia is Claytor Lake State Park (6620 Ben H Bolen Dr, Dublin), just southwest of Radford.

Claytor Lake doesn’t have as many amenities as Breaks Interstate, but they have far more cabins, at eighteen — so if you’re looking for Virginia state parks with cabins, this is the destination for you!

The park is a great place for hikers looking for a more casual experience, with seven miles of relatively flat trails.

It also is home to a marina, which rents canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, and gear for getting larger boats into the water.

The lake, made by the damming of the New River, is a great place to test out watercraft, whether it be kayaking in the bays or launching a large boat for a ride.

Fairy Stone State Park

Fairy Stone State Park (967 Fairystone Lake Dr., Stuart) is located in the foothills of the Appalachians just northwest of Martinsville.

The park is Virginia’s second largest at over 4,700 acres.

For those taking a trip up the Blue Ridge Parkway, the park is just a short drive off the parkway and is a perfect stop if tourists are trying to see nature outside of the car.

The park is located on Philpott Lake, made by the damming of the Smith River, and offers plenty of small or large boating opportunities, as well as fishing.

If you’re looking to spend the night, there are cabins, yurts, a bunkhouse, and a lodge that sleeps sixteen people in five bedrooms.

Note that like Hungry Mother, part of that land is open to hunting.

Smith Mountain Lake State Park

Smith Mountain Lake State Park (1235 State Park Rd., Huddleston) is located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains just southeast of Roanoke.

The 1,248-acre park is similar to Claytor Lake in terms of geography: a park on the shoreline of a man-made lake, this time made out of the Roanoke River.

Many of the activities that could be done at Claytor Lake could also be done here, from hiking on the thirteen miles of trails to kayaking in the bays within the park.

Smith Mountain Lake is also a much larger lake than Claytor Lake, so exploring the shoreline via the hiking trails will be more exciting due to the number of different views of the lake visitors can get.

This is one of the state parks in Virginia with swimming, featuring a 500-foot public beach on the lake.

Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day are the only periods that guarded swimming is available, the rest of the time you can swim in designated areas at your own risk. 

Just be sure to call the park ahead of time to find out the open beach hours.

You might also like our guide to the best campgrounds on the East Coast for Memorial Day Weekend.

Natural Bridge State Park

Natural Bridge State Park (6477 South Lee Highway, Natural Bridge), as revealed by the name, is home to one of the most impressive natural formations in all of Virginia.

The natural bridge in question is 215 feet tall and was carved by the relatively small Cedar Creek over a long period of time.

Hiking is obviously a highlight at this 1540-acre park with seven miles of trails weaving under the bridge, along the creek, to waterfalls, and through caves.

If you’re on the hunt for state parks in Virginia with waterfalls, you can seek out the stunning 30ft Lace Falls in the area if you take the Cedar Creek Trail.

The park is also great for families, with it being home to the Children’s Discovery Area, which specializes in teaching kids about nature through brochures and classes.

Anyone younger than fifteen is also welcome to fish in Cedar Creek within the park, however, the park is day use only, so those looking for lodging options will have to look outside the park.

Natural bridge in the Virginia state reserve. Natural Bridge State Park Virginia

Douthat State Park

Continuing back through the mountains, Douthat State Park (14239 Douthat State Park Rd., Millboro) is Virginia’s third largest at just over 4,500 acres.

The park is home to mountain scenery, as well as Lake Douthat, a great place for those looking to get out on the water or catch something out of it.

This park is also home to over forty miles of hiking trails, weaving up and down through the mountains of western Virginia.

Because of the park’s size, it not only has cabins and camping but also three different lodges that visitors can reserve.

One is the Douthat Lodge atop the mountain, which has six bedrooms and a patio.

Another is the Creasey Lodge, which is behind the park office and has five bedrooms and a deck; Beards Mountain Lodge is located between the two and has six bedrooms.

Staunton River State Park

Staunton River State Park (1170 Staunton Trail, Scottsburg) is also located near the North Carolina border.

The park itself is small but has great opportunities in terms of exploring, especially with a motorized watercraft.

It is located on the massive John H Kerr Reservoir which is shared with North Carolina.

Those who have a motorized watercraft can launch at Staunton River and boat up to forty miles before having to turn around if they desire.

Apart from traditional camping, the park also offers a robust trail system and cabins and bunkhouses for lodging.

There are nineteen miles of trails in the park, most of which follow the lake but also meander through the woods, offering a range of hiking options for visitors.

Pocahontas State Park

Pocahontas State Park (10301 State Park Rd., Chesterfield) is Virginia’s largest state park by a long shot.

At 7,919 acres, it has over 3,000 acres more than Virginia’s second-largest park.

Because of this, the park has ninety miles of trails, all relatively flat, but still having a range of difficulties.

The park is also a prime place for Richmond residents and visitors to spend time outdoors.

Aside from camping, the park also has three large (three-bedroom) cabins and a six-bedroom lodge open to reserve as well.

The park is a popular place and has something to offer for nearly everybody.

Powhatan State Park

For those looking for Virginia state parks in Richmond, Powhatan State Park (4616 Powhatan State Park Rd., Powhatan) is the outdoor destination for you.

The park is relatively flat with it mainly serving as a place for Richmond residents to get away for a weekend or day.

Because of this, it has the standard park amenities, with twelve miles of hiking trails and a campground.

This destination also has three miles of shoreline on the James River for those looking to interact with the water in whichever way suits them.

False Cape State Park

A great option for those looking for state parks near Virginia Beach is False Cape State Park (4001 Sandpiper Rd., Virginia Beach), located just south of town on the North Carolina border.

The park is over 3,800 acres and has plenty of places to explore.

For hikers, there are fifteen miles of trails, both through the woods and on the beach.

With over six miles of beachfront area, the park offers ample room for relaxation and finding a secluded spot to unwind by the water.

Offering a range of camping options, False Cape provides various sites to choose from, including multiple hike-in spots, for those seeking an overnight adventure.

Kiptopeke State Park

Kiptopeke State Park (3540 Kiptopeke Dr, Cape Charles) is Virginia’s only state park located in its eastern shore region.

The park in Northampton County is 562 acres and contains a beach, five miles of trails, and a variety of lodging options from camping to cabins to yurts or a bunkhouse.

And this is one of the best Virginia state parks for camping, offering picturesque coastal settings where you can pitch your tent and enjoy the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay.

For those interested in fishing, this place also has a massive 480-foot fishing pier.

This is perfect for those who are staying in Virginia Beach and want an excuse to drive over the area.

Machicomoco State Park

Machicomoco State Park (3601 Timberneck Farm Road, Hayes) lies in Virginia’s eastern lowlands on the wide York River.

This 645-acre park was just established in 2019 and contains yurts as a lodging option.

There are three yurts in the park, as well as campsites that can be reserved through VA’s reservation system.

With approximately five miles of trails available — the primary one being a three-mile paved trail encircling the park’s road loop — visitors can explore Machicomoco, renowned as one of the most accessible Virginia state parks hiking trails.

A change of scenery from the trees that dot the east coast is provided by the park’s predominant grassland setting.

Belle Isle State Park

Belle Isle State Park (1632 Belle Isle Rd., Lancaster) is a large flat park located on the wide Rappahannock River.

The park has many options for activities from hiking to kayaking to fishing.

Amenities include ten miles of trails, a visitor center, and a camp store as well.

Belle Isle also has two unique locations within the park.

First, they have a campground that is canoe-in or hike-in: the Brewers Point campground.

Note that Brewers Point has no potable water and has four campsites.

Belle Isle also has a unique lodging option for groups of up to six called the Bel Air house or The Mansion.

The Bel Air house has two floors fully furnished, and a library inside it, it also has a guesthouse and bunkhouse that can be rented separately.

Caledon State Park

Similar to Belle Isle, Caledon State Park (911617 Caledon Rd., King George) is just under ninety minutes from the D.C. area on the wide Potomac River.

The park contains over ten miles of hiking trails with more than five places to access the river and is also home to a small campground on the river at the northeast end of the park.

This campground is for tents only, which is great for those looking for a more traditional camping experience.

The park also frequently hosts kayaking excursions on the Potomac with an emphasis on birding.

Widewater State Park State Park

Widewater State Park (101 Widewater State Park Road, Stafford) is on a peninsula between Aquia Creek and the wide Potomac River.

Widewater is a small park and does not have many amenities, but is a great place for D.C. visitors to get out of town for the day and enjoy nature.

The park has two one-mile hiking trails and fishing is a popular activity there.

And like Belle Isle, it has tent camping and paddle-in camping.

Sky Meadows State Park

Sky Meadows State Park (11012 Edmonds Ln., Delaplane) is a large park located not too far from D.C. at the base of the Appalachians.

The park has a strong trail system with a combined trail mileage total of over forty miles split between hiking, biking, and equestrian,

In addition, this park is also located on the Appalachian Trail, which might be convenient for tourists that will frequently be interacting with the trail, whether thru-hiking or just doing a segment.

As far as overnight use goes, the park only has camping, but mainly prides itself on being a hiker’s paradise.

View of farms and hills from Sky Meadows State Park, in rural Virginia

Shenandoah River State Park

On the other side of one of Virginia’s many ridges, you’ll find the beautiful Shenandoah River State Park (350 Daughter of Stars Dr., Bentonville).

Another good day trip park for D.C. visitors, the park also offers a campground if visitors wish to reserve a night.

Shenandoah River also has 24 miles of hiking trails, which are all much flatter than the trail system at Seven Bends (see below).

Waterfalls in white oak canyon in Shenandoah national park near Front Royal, Virginia.

Seven Bends State Park

Seven Bends State Park (2111 South Hollingsworth Road, Woodstock) is a relatively new state park to Virginia’s system and is similar to Shenandoah River in terms of location and natural features.

Established in 2004, the park highlights the unique U-shaped bend in the Shenandoah River in Shenandoah County.

The park has great views from its eight miles of hiking trails, with elevation differences of up to 1000 feet.

Note that the park is day use only, so it makes a great day trip for visitors to the D.C. area, with it being less than two hours one way.

Seven Bends also gets far fewer visitors than Shenandoah River, so the location is less well-known, making it a good stop for tourists looking for quiet hiking.

So if you’re looking to enjoy one of the state parks in northern Virginia, this is the place to be.

Final Thoughts

Did you enjoy exploring our list of Virginia state parks?

Start planning your next trip and share your experience in the comments below.

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