40+ Stunningly Beautiful Virginia State Parks to Explore This Year

Come along as we explore the best Virginia state parks, where outdoor enthusiasts will love being in the fresh air surrounded by nature, history, and ecology through interactive programs, nature trails, scenic overlooks, fishing from the streams, lakes, and rivers, or camping under the stars.

Natural Bridge State Park in Virginia - VA State Parks

While national parks get a lot of the attention, Virginia has 40 State Parks in their state park system, most managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

You can spend the night at state parks in Virginia in everything from a cabin to a primitive campsite, hike over 500 miles of trails, discover local historic sites, take part in festivals, special events and nature programs, pick up a few souvenirs in the gift shops or relax after lunch in one of the picnic shelters on the sandy beaches of Virginia’s state parks in the United States.

Table of Contents

VA State Parks near D.C.

The following parks are those closest of state parks to Washington, D.C., mostly in Northern Virginia, and a scattering of others that we highly recommend you plan to visit. 

From Mason Neck and False Cape State Park to First Landing and Grayson Highlands, there is so much to do and explore as you get back to nature for a day, weekend, or a weeklong vacation.

Mason Neck State Park

Mason Neck State Park

  • Address: 7301 High Point Rd., Lorton, VA 22079
  • Distance from Washington, D.C.: 30 miles / 45 minutes

Mason Neck state park is less than an hour from Washington, D.C., and offers so much to do on a day trip. 

Hiking in Mason Neck

Begin your day by exploring the nine miles (three paved and six unpaved) of hiking and multi-use trails. Some of the paths are elevated boardwalks where you can look out over the marsh for waterfowl.

Then rent or unload the bikes or kayaks and explore the area while looking for bald eagles. 

Boating and Fishing

Canoe and kayak rentals are available between April and October at the Visitor Center. For those who bring their canoe or kayak, there is a public boat launch. However, there are no trailer boat ramps available in the park. 

While on the water, if you have a MD or VA fishing license, you can enjoy catching lunch or dinner in the fresh and brackish bay and creek waters.

Mason Neck Visitor Center

The Visitor Center, a cool place to explore and get out of the humid summer air, also offers guided canoe trips through Belmont Bay and Kane’s Creek. There are also a few interactive exhibits with natural habitat displays and a small gift shop.

Leesylvania State Park in Virginia

Leesylvania State Park

  • Address: 2001 Daniel K. Ludwig Dr., Woodbridge, VA 22191
  • Distance from Washington, D.C.: 30 miles / 45 minutes

Leesylvania State Park is just a hop, skip, and jump from Washington, D.C., along the historic Potomac River’s tidal shores.

Hiking in Leesylvania State Park

Spend a day or weekend in the park hiking the five trails along the Potomac River and a section of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail. There are various scenic overlooks along the trails or make Freestone Point your destination to see the remains of the Confederate gun battery from the Civil War.

There is also a fitness trail with 20 stations to test out.

Boating and Fishing

For the fishermen, head to the 300-foot fishing pier or boat launch with your freshwater fishing license and enjoy the day searching for largemouth bass, perch, and catfish. No boat, no problem since the park rents sailboats.

Leesylvania Visitor Center

There is also a Visitor Center, playground, snack bar, and picnic areas within the park. Those wishing to spend the night can head to one of the four primitive tent sites accessible only by kayak or canoe.

Sky Meadows State Park in Virginia

Sky Meadows State Park

  • Address: 11012 Edmonds Lane, Delaplane, VA
  • Distance from Washington, D.C.: 60 miles / 1 hour 10 minutes

Sky Meadows State Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains is the perfect place to reconnect with nature and explore the area’s history at the Mount Bleak Farm House.

Hiking in Sky Meadows

To explore the 1,860-acre park, choose some trails that include 22 miles for hiking, 10 miles for horseback riding, and 9 miles for biking. Sky Meadows is also a great spot to begin your journey or get a taste of hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Boating and Fishing

The park also offers visitors a place to fish and picnic tables. 

Camping in Sky Meadows

For those who wish to spend the night, primitive campsites accessed by hiking 1 mile along the Hadow Trail from the parking area is an option.

Shenandoah River State Park in Virginia

Shenandoah River State Park

  • Address: 350 Daughter of Stars Drive, Bentonville, VA 22610
  • Distance from Washington, D.C.: 78 miles / 1 hour 30 minutes

Along the Shenandoah River’s South Fork, the 1,600-acre park offers visitors over five miles of shoreline and a magnificent view of Massanutten Mountain and Shenandoah National Park.

Boating and Fishing

Spend the day floating or wading in the Shenandoah River. There isn’t a swimming area, but you can explore the 24 miles of trails, fish from the river near Shelter 3, or put in your canoe or kayak from the three car-top launch sites near the park.

Camping in Shenandoah River State Park

After exploring, enjoy dinner at the riverside picnic area or choose a campsite for the night. Here you have a choice between 12 tent sites along the river, 32 campsites with electric and water hookups, three yurts, four bunkhouse camping cabins, or ten 2-, 3-, or 6-bedroom cabins that are open year-round in the state of Virginia.

Seven Bends State Park

  • Address: 2111 South Hollingsworth Road, Woodstock, VA 22664
  • Distance from Washington, D.C.: 100 miles / 1 hour 45 minutes

On the Shenandoah River’s North Fork, Seven Bends State Park is a day-use only park with two boat launches for kayaks, canoes, or inner tubes.

Hiking in Seven Bends

A perfect day here means floating the river for an hour or two between the two launch sites, and hiking or biking the eight miles of trails. 

For those wishing to walk further, head to the Talus Trail, which connects to the George Washington-Jefferson National Forest’s Massanutten Trail.

Boating and Fishing

This section of the Shenandoah River is an excellent spot for smallmouth bass fishing on the East Coast, from the river or boat, if you have a V.A. freshwater fishing license.

The park has a scattering of picnic tables and one small picnic shelter along with vault restrooms.

Bonus tip: Muse Vineyards is super close to the state park, so plan on stopping for a tasting and a few nibbles if you didn’t pack a meal.

Widewater State Park

  • Address: 101 Widewater State Park Road, Stafford, VA 22554
  • Distance from Washington, D.C.: 45 miles / 1 hour 10 minutes

Boating and Fishing

A day at Widewater State Park should be enjoyed both on the water as you canoe or kayak through Aquia Creek, around Long Pond, or along the tidal Potomac River. The park has two launch areas and offers boat rentals, including stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes. 

If you plan a day of fishing for largemouth bass, catfish, and perch, then a freshwater fishing license is required in Virginia’s state parks.

Hiking in Widewater

You can enjoy the playground and picnic area along with the Visitors’ Center and two mile long hiking trails if you wish to stay on dry land.

The popular Long Pond Trail loops around the Visitors’ Center and by the water. Holly Marsh Trail is a woodsy hike with great views of the Potomac.

Camping in Widewater State Park

Primitive campsites are available for tenters who wish to paddle into the site.

Caledon State Park

  • Address: 11617 Caledon Rd., King George, VA 22485
  • Distance from Washington, D.C.: 60 miles / 1 hour 30 minutes

Just 60 miles from Washington, D.C., Caledon State Park’s old-growth forest attracts both bald eagles and bird watchers.

Hiking in Caledon

The park offers 14 trails to explore the marshes and scenic woodlands, including the popular 2-mile Boyd’s Hole Trail that provides access to the Potomac River. 

The park also has several picnic areas and bald eagle exhibits within the Visitors’ Center.

Camping in Caledon State Park

There are six hike or paddle-in primitive campsites at Stuart’s Wharf available for an overnight stay. It is a 3-mile hike to the site from the Visitors’ Center for those wishing to hike in to this great place for camping.

Westmoreland State Park along the Potomac in Virginia

Westmoreland State Park

  • Address: 145 Cliff Road, Montross, VA 22520
  • Distance from Washington, D.C.: 75 miles / 1 hour 45 minutes

For 1½ miles along the Potomac River, this popular state park in the Northern Neck is a haven of family fun. Spend the day hiking the six miles of trail that include seven fitness stations and a beach trail with great Potomac River views.

Boating and Fishing

The park offers excellent year-round fishing opportunities from either the pier or the offshore breakwaters. You will need a saltwater fishing license to fish the Potomac or a freshwater license for the Rock Spring Pond, which you can fish for bass, crappies, and catfish.

Rentals

To get on the water, the park rents standup paddleboards, kayaks, and paddleboats from Memorial Day through Labor Day and for several weekends before and after the summer season. If you have your own boat, there is a boat ramp to use.

Enjoy a refreshing swim in the Olympic-sized pool or lounge on the swimming beach. Be sure to spend some time walking along the Potomac, looking for ancient shark teeth and other fossils that show off American history in a whole new way.

Birding

While in the park, keep your eyes peeled for American bald eagles, great blue herons, and ospreys. To get a panoramic view of the Potomac River, head up to the Horsehead Cliffs.

Camping in Westmoreland State Park

Those wishing to extend their stay in the park to enjoy all of the recreational activities, you can rent a cabin or a site at the park’s campground, which is open from the first Friday of March through the first Monday of December.

133 campsites include electric and water hookups, no hookups, buddy, and group sites. There are also 23 efficiencies, 1-and 2-bedroom cabins, and a retreat center.

Beaches in Virginia - Lake Anna

Lake Anna State Park

  • Address: 6800 Lawyers Rd., Spotsylvania, VA 22551
  • Distance from Washington, D.C.: 80 miles / 2 hours

Lake Anna State Park is the home to a top-rated Virginia lake. Here nature lovers will wish to spend a day or even an entire week relaxing on the beach, fishing, biking, horseback riding, or hiking the 15 miles of trails. Eight of the 11 trails are rates as easy to walk.

During the summer, from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, the beach at Lake Anna has lifeguards, a bathhouse, and a snack bar at the public beach.

Visitors’ Center

When you need a cool place to chill, head to the Visitors’ Center (a family favorite with plenty of programs), where you can learn more about gold mining and schedule a guided tour of the Goodwin Gold Mine.

Fishing is available along the banks or on the water that is accessible from the public boat ramp. The Largemouth bass, bream, and crappie are the sot after fish in the lake. You will need a VA fishing license.

Camping in Lake Anna State Park

With so much to do and explore, plan on spending a night or two. You can reserve one of the 46 campsites or stay in one of the 6-bedroom lodges, 2-bedroom cabins, a bunkhouse, or yurts.

Some of the cabins even have water views. Electric and water hookups are available at some of the campsites as well.

Richmond Virginia State Parks- Pocahontas State Park
credit Richmond Region Tourism

State Parks in Virginia within 6 Hours of D.C.

Pocahontas State Park

  • Address: 10301 State Park Rd., Chesterfield, VA 23832
  • Distance from Washington, D.C.:  125 miles / 2 hours 15 minutes

Just south of Richmond,Pocahontas State Park is a beautiful place to spend a relaxing week fishing for bass, bluegill, or catfish or lounging around the AquaticCenter’s pools and water slides.

Hiking in Pocahontas

You can explore the Nature and Heritage Centers, walk or bike the 80 miles of trails, or rent a paddleboat, kayak, paddle board, or rowboat for a day on the water.

The amphitheater offers a variety of nature programs and entertainment options throughout the summer. For a quiet spot to sit and enjoy the scenery, take a walk to the spillway.

Camping in Pocahontas State Park

Choose between staying at one of the 129 campsites with water and electric hookups or making a reservation at one of the four yurts or six cabins.

The campground also welcomes your pets for an additional fee.

Surry VA- Chippokes Plantation State Park

Chippokes Plantation State Park

  • Address: 695 Chippokes Park Rd., Surry, VA 23883
  • Distance from Washington, D.C.: 170 miles / 3 hours

The antebellum Chippokes Plantations sits across the James River from Historic Jamestowne. Here you can explore the mansion, meander through the gardens and the surrounding area near the visitors and activities center, as well as check out the antique plantation equipment.

Hiking and Swimming in Chippokes

During your stay, you will want to take advantage of the swimming pool or beach area, 12 miles of hiking trails, Chippokes Farm and Forestry Museum, a visitor center that offers educational events throughout the season. 

Be sure to hike the 1.2-mile College Run Trail that leads to the Visitors’ Center’s historic area. Sport fishing in the freshwater James River can be done from the College Run Creek bridge or along the banks.

Camping in Chippokes Plantation State Park

This working farm along is one of Virginia’s top camping locations. At Chippokes Plantation, the living history site has 49 sites with water and electric hookups and a group site for four tents. There are also three yurts and four cabins that you can rent.

Natural Bridge State Park in Virginia - VA State Parks

Natural Bridge State Park

  • Address: 6477 South Lee Highway, Natural Bridge, VA 24578
  • Distance from Washington, D.C.: 200 miles / 3 hours 10 minutes

As one of the newest state parks in Virginia, Natural Bridge State Park has a lot to see, along with an exciting litany of history.

History of Natural Bridge

George Washington surveyed the area. Thomas Jefferson and other private citizens owned the land over the years until 2016, when it became a National Historic Landmark (part of the national park service) and the 37th Virginia State Park.

Even though most people visit the area to see the inspiring naturally sculpted land bridge 215 feet above Cedar Creek, there is much more to see and do in the park.

Hiking in Natural Bridge

As you walk along the 8/10-mile Cedar Creek Trail, you will pass under the natural bridge.

Monacan Indian Living History Village

Continue along the trail and visit the Monacan Indian Living History Village, one of the many tribes of Native Americans who called Virginia home. You can get a peek into Native American life by exploring the garden and listening to interpreters share how the Monacans produced tools, wove baskets, and made pottery. The exhibit is open April – Thanksgiving weekend.

Visitor Center

If you visit during the off-season, stop in the Visitor Center, where they have a room on the first floor with a wigwam replica and Monacan historical information.

Waterfalls

Continue past the village to the end of the trail, where you will find the beautiful 30-foot cascading waterfall known as Lace Falls in front of you. Besides the Cedar Creek Trail, there are also over six more miles of trails.

More Virginia waterfalls to explore

Douthat State Park - Virginia State Parks and Virginia Campgrounds and Campsites
credit Virginia State Parks

Douthat State Park

  • Address: 14239 Douthat State Park Rd., Millboro, VA 24460
  • Distance from Washington, D.C.: 220 miles / 3 hours 30 minutes

Within the Allegheny Mountains, Douthat State Park, one of Virginia’s six original state parks and on the National Register of Historic Places, offers campers a scenic mountain landscape with a 50-acre lake where you can spend time doing popular activities like fishing, boating, and swimming.

Hiking in Douthat

When not at the lake, enjoy hiking, biking, horseback riding on the 40 miles of trails, visiting the interpretive center, or participating in nature programs.

Waterfalls

Waterfall enthusiasts will need to take the three-mile hike to the stunning Blue Suck Falls and Falling Spring Falls, which is the Allegheny Highland’s most photographed spot. This 80-foot waterfall sits beside Highway 220 outside Covington, VA.

The kids will love fishing just downstream of the spillway in the “Kids’ Fishing Area.” Be sure to look over the side of the spillway to find all the bullfrogs hiding on the creek banks.

Camping in Douthat State Park

The campground offers 87 campsites, some even with lake views, and best of all, bathhouses with hot showers. The campsites each have a grill, fire pit, picnic table, water, and lantern post.

For those who want to enjoy the campground but do not have a tent or camper, you can rent one of the 35 rustic cabins or three lodges.

More to do in Douthat State Park

While staying here, you may want also to visit the beautiful scenic features around Natural Bridge, soak in the Warm Spring baths, or walk across Humpback Bridge, Virginia’s oldest covered bridge.

Feel free to bring your dogs with you since Douthat State Park is pet-friendly.

Virginia - First Landing State Park

First Landing State Park

  • Address: 2500 Shore Dr., Virginia Beach, VA 23451
  • Distance from Washington, D.C.: 220 miles / 3 hours 30 minutes

With more than a million visitors annually, this is Virginia’s most popular State Park. The 2,888-acre park on Virginia Beach’s northeast corner offers 19 miles of hiking and biking trails, beautiful unguarded beaches, and an educational center with activities throughout the day.

Boating and Fishing

There is a boat launch area inland that has access to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

Hiking in First Landing

The 64th Street entrance connects to the 6-mile Cape Henry Trail that meanders through the woods and the 5-mile Long Creek Trail, where you can stroll along the back bay and salt marshes.  

This area of First Landing also has a little beach called “The Narrows.” It is also a terrific place to paddle board since it is usually pretty flat water.  

First Landing State Park Camping

On the Chesapeake Bay shores, First Landing State Park offers 205 campsites, 20 cabins, and four yurts along 1.25 miles of beautiful shoreline where the English colonists first arrived in 1607.

Some of the 205 campsites have both electric and water hookups, while others have no hookups. There are several group sites for up to three tents.

The four yurts sites are located in full sun, have a large deck, picnic tables, fire ring, and pedestal grill. They do not have water, electricity, or a heating/ac unit. Each yurt can accommodate four people.  

The rustic cabins have a kitchen, rustic furniture, ac/heat, a bathroom with a shower, and a fireplace. They do not come with linens.

Pets are welcome to join you during your stay at First Landing.

Kiptopeke State Park - Virginia State Parks and Virginia Campgrounds and Campsites
credit Virginia State Parks

Kiptopeke State Park

  • Address: 3540 Kiptopeke Dr., Cape Charles, VA 23310
  • Distance from Washington, D.C.: 220 miles / 3 hours 45 minutes with Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel toll or 4 hours 10 minutes without toll

You will find the delightful Kiptopeke State Park and about 400 species of birds on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. With the marshes, saltwater, and maritime forests, this is a birder’s paradise in the fall as many different types of birds migrate through the area. The hawk observatory at Kiptopeke is also one of the nation’s top 15 places to view hawks.

Kiptopeke State Park Beaches

When not looking for birds, spend time at the two unguarded Chesapeake Bay beaches, explore the five miles of hiking trails, including the Baywoods Trail, or head to the fishing pier to try your luck at catching dinner.

Camping in Kiptopeke State Park

The park has a variety of options on how to camp along the Chesapeake Bay.  Choose between staying in one of four cabins with 2- or 3-bedrooms, seven 6-bedroom lodges, or the 161 campsites that range from full hookups to tent sites with no hookups. There are also group tent sites available.

For an additional fee, pets can stay at any of the lodging areas.

Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia

Grayson Highlands State Park

  • Address: 829 Grayson Highland Ln., Mouth of Wilson, VA 24363
  • Distance from Washington, D.C.: 350 miles / 5 hours 40 minutes

The beautiful views from nearly 3,700 feet to over 5,000 feet in elevation in Grayson Highlands State Park are among the many reasons to make the treat from DC to Grayson Highlands State Park.

A stay here means access to the Appalachian Trail, Mount Rogers (the state’s highest peak) trails for biking, hiking, horseback riding, and a chance to see various wildlife and mountain streams to trout fish.

Grayson Highlands State Park is also known for the herd of wild horses that roam the area.

Waterfalls

A hike to Lower Cabin Creek and Wilson Creek Waterfalls will be on the waterfall lover’s to-do list.

Grayson Highlands State Park Camping

The 89 dirt and gravel campsites vary from those with water and electric hookups to no hookups. Each site has a picnic table and grill, and some have horse stalls (AKA an equestrian campground for horse lovers).

There is also a group campsite with five large tent pads. However, this site has no electricity or water hookups. You can purchase firewood and ice within the campground.

Those without a camper or tent rent one of the four yurts or the two-room bunkhouse.

Belle Isle State Park •credit Richmond Region Tourism

More Virginia State Parks to Explore

  • Bear Creek Lake State Park
  • Belle Isle State Park
  • Breaks Interstate Park
  • Claytor Lake State Park
  • Clinch River State Park
  • Fairy Stone State Park
  • False Cape State Park
  • High Bridge Trail State Park
  • Holliday Lake State Park
  • Hungry Mother State Park (+ 108-acre reservoir)
  • James River State Park
  • Machicomoco State Park
  • Natural Tunnel State Park
  • New River Trail State Park
  • Occoneechee State Park
  • Powhatan State Park
  • Sailor’s Creek Battlefield Historic State Park
  • Shot Tower State Park
  • Smith Mountain Lake State Park
  • Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park
  • Staunton River State Park
  • Staunton River Battlefield State Park
  • Twin Lakes State Park
  • Wilderness Road State Park
  • York River State Park

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