Summer Fun in Virginia State Parks

Family near beachSummer's the best time of the year to get outdoors. Luckily for you, no matter where you are in Virginia, there's a state park within an hour's drive. That means that your visit, whether for a week or just the day, won't break the bank or drain the tank. Plus, if you're looking for a place to cool off, state parks are great places to swim, tube, boat and fish.

Water, water everywhere

Family in canoeVirginia State Parks have small (50- to 170-acre) man-made lakes at Bear Creek Lake (Cumberland County), Douthat (Clifton Forge), Fairy Stone (Patrick County), Holliday Lake (Appomattox County), Hungry Mother (Marion), Pocahontas (Chesterfield County) and Twin Lakes (Prince Edward County). Each offers sandy swimming beaches with lifeguards from Memorial Day to Labor. Gas-powered boats are not allowed at those lakes. All are regularly stocked by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

You'll find guarded swimming beaches at Smith Mountain Lake, Claytor Lake and Lake Anna state parks as well. These lakes allow gas-powered boats. First Landing and Kiptopeke have unguarded swimming beaches on the Chesapeake Bay.

There are also great swimming pools at:

The aquatic center at Pocahontas State Park is especially chock-full of fun features that no youngster can resist.

Pools are great, but let's say you want a little more water for, say, fishing and boating. Well, state parks offer gas-powered boating access to these major waterways:

  • Buggs Island Lake (Occoneechee and Staunton River State Parks)
  • Chesapeake Bay (Kiptopeke and First Landing State Parks)
  • Claytor Lake
  • James River
  • Lake Anna
  • Potomac River (Westmoreland and Leesylvania State Parks)
  • Rappahannock River (Belle Isle)
  • Smith Mountain Lake
  • York River

Let's face it... no one beats Virginia State Parks when it comes to water access.

Camping and kids

Kid eating melonAnd no one beats our parks when it comes to camping either. Camping at a state park is a great way to introduce children to nature and spend quality family time in a verdant, safe, friendly setting. And the kids might even learn something. Every state park offers hands-on summer programs – some for an hour and some that span weeks – about nature and history. Many parks have visitor centers, too.

Learn more about why state parks are a great place to go camping with the kids by clicking here. You'll also find handy camping tips there.

Hit the trail

Whether spending the night or not, our parks are also great places to hike, bike or even ride horseback. Every state park has trails so you're bound to find one to your liking. Explore hardwood forests, coastal marshes and flowering meadows. Also, our well-marked trails are great places to learn about an area's cultural and natural history. More than 500 miles of trails of varying difficulty traverse nearly 70,000 acres in Virginia's state parks. So get find your compass, get the backpack ready, put the bikes on the car rack or load Nellie in the horse trailer and enjoy some peace and quiet in the great outdoors.

Flickr slideshow

Seeing is believing so check out this Flickr slideshow highlighting some of the summer fun our parks have to offer.

Click here to see a slideshow of kids enjoying summer. Many photos in the show are courtesy of Bill Crabtree Jr., Va. Tourism Corp.

Memory game

If you have kids or just want to feel like one for a while, this simple game will get you and your family psyched up for a visit to a state park. Just click on a square, and then another one and keep going until you've matched all eight pairs of outdoor images to reveal a secret message.

click here to play a Flash memory game about Virginia State Parks.