Virginia is a state filled with history, culture, art and entertainment. If your idea of a vacation involves more time outside than inside, however, then Virginia’s National Parks are the ideal place to start. Check out the top 10 National Parks to visit in Virginia and put together a trip itinerary that kids and adults alike will remember for a lifetime.
The eastern portion of the state is home to the Shenandoah National Park, an expansive and beautiful destination that is also one of the most-visited parks on the East Coast. The combination of valleys and the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountain Range create amazing landscapes, and the most popular way to see them all is by hiking the miles of trails throughout the park.
Chincoteague and Assateague Islands are on the Atlantic Coast of Virginia, with Assateague stretching over the state border into Maryland. These barrier islands boast gorgeous white-sand beaches, and nature takes priority over mass development. You can watch the protected Chincoteague Ponies run wild on the windswept beaches, take a dip in the refreshing waters or watch migratory birds create nests on the islands. For a beach vacation, these barrier islands in Virginia are an obvious choice.
In McLean, Virginia, is Great Falls National Park. Although the park is just 15 miles from Washington, D.C., it is a natural attraction that feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the capitol. The Potomac River builds up speed and power before careening over rock formations and creating scenic waterfalls. You can hike to excellent vantage points of the falls and spot the water flowing through the Mather Gorge or the Patowmack Canal.
The Civil War officially ended when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. That historic moment shaped the history of the United States, and it took place at the Appomattox National Court House. The court house itself has been reconstructed, and you can also watch a short film and tour the exhibits at the Visitor Center Museum. During the summer, history is brought to life thanks to actors who recreate the significance of that fateful day in 1865.
England’s very first permanent colony in North America was known as Jamestowne. You can visit the restored architecture of this important landmark by heading to the Historic Jamestowne National Park. You can join a tour led by a park ranger, stand on the spot where Pocahontas married John Rolfe in 1614 and watch artisans create make glass in the traditional 17th century style. Understand America’s origins by exploring all that Jamestowne has to offer.
Along with Jamestowne, the Yorktown Battlefield makes up the Colonial National Historic Park. Yorktown was home to the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. On October 19th, 1791, the British army surrendered to General George Washington. Today at the Yorktown, you can see traditional military bands perform or watch costumed professionals fire off 18th century artillery. There is also an extensive visitor’s center that details the significance of Yorktown and the details of the historic battle.
Following the Appalachian Mountains for more than 450 miles through the states of Virginia and North Carolina is the stunning Blue Ridge Parkway. The main reason to travel this stretch of parkway is for epic scenic views. During the autumn, the foliage on both sides of the road becomes a kaleidoscope of red, yellow and orange. Every few miles along the route, there are overlooks where you can stop your car and get out for a majestic photo op of the incredible landscape.
In the years prior to the American Revolution, the vast majority of residents in North America lived agricultural lives. Farming was a way of life, and it was tough, demanding work. At the Claude Moore Colonial Farm Historic Park in McLean, you can experience that life first hand. Visitors can see homes where farmers would have lived in the 18th century, see tobacco fields and even shop for locally grown produce during the summer months. Don’t be surprised to see costumed employees regaling visitors with tales of 18th century living!
Spreading across Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky are the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Both of these protected forests are largely undeveloped, letting visitors explore the great outdoors. If you’re eager to have some adventures outside, the recreational options in the forests are plentiful. Within the park is Mount Rogers, the highest point in Virginia, as well as old-growth forest, roaring rivers, winding streams, miles of hiking trails and beautiful scenery.
The AT, or Appalachian Trail, stretches all the way from Georgia to Maine. Roughly 554 miles of the AT is located within Virginia. If you’re up for an adventure, you can hike for days and camp along the AT as you walk. The AT also crisscrosses several national parks in the state, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities for short hikes or scenic overlooks. Much of the AT runs parallel to the Blue Ridge Mountains, creating amazing views for hikers.
These top 10 National Parks to visit in Virginia showcase just how much there is to do, see and explore in the state. Whether you’re ready for miles of hiking or just a scenic drive, Virginia offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor exploration, history and views.