“Let’s go camping and not come back for a while.” –Unknown
When I was growing up, my parents took my brother and me to several Virginia State Parks that left us with memories of horseback riding, butter churning, summer days swimming in a pool, and fishing at the edge of dams and beautiful lakes. Little did I know then, that as an adult, my Husband and I would look to the beautiful State Parks of Virginia for our camping adventures.
The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) takes pride in managing 38 State Parks with an obvious focus on land conservation and access to all Virginians and others visiting our State, boasting a State Park within one hour of every Virginian. Within the parks, there are more than 500 miles of trails, thousands of campsites, cabins, and recreational spaces and facilities for biking, boating, fishing, picnicking, swimming, and equestrian space.
For today’s blog, I am highlighting 3 of the Virginia State Parks in which we have camped so far this summer; Belle Isle, Pocahontas, and Powhatan State Parks.
Belle Isle State Park: Address: 1632 Belle Isle Road, Lancaster, VA.; Opens March 1 and closes the 1st Monday of December; Rates: $35 per night, $245 per week (*rates vary per website); Acreage: 733
The location of a Virginia plantation in the 19th century, Belle Isle still partially functions as farm land. It is the first State Park to be purchased by the State of Virginia under the 1992 Parks & Recreational Facilities Bond Referendum and boasts 7 miles of shoreline on the Northern Neck of the Rappahannock River that provides a diverse habitat for birds and wildlife.
For visitors, the park offers picnic shelters, hiking, biking, bridle trails, motor boat and car top launches, bicycle and canoe rentals, playgrounds, boardwalk and fishing pier, and overnight lodging.
The campground hosts 34 sites, 1 bunkhouse, 1 cabin, and 1 lodge. Amenities include a full service bathhouse, dump station, water and electric hookups, fire rings, and picnic tables. The park also offers a hike-in or boat-in primitive campground.
Our Review: We found the park to be very spacious, clean, and well maintained, with heavily wooded campsites, plenty of wildlife for a Disney Princess, and beautiful sunsets that can be viewed in wide open spaces over the nearby river. The park was one of the most remote of this group and making sure we had the supplies we needed was important. The nearest spot to grab supplies was 30-45 minutes away in each direction.
Pocahontas State Park; Address: 10301 State Park Road, Chesterfield, VA.; Open year round for camping; Rates: $35 per night, $245 per week (*rates vary per website); Acreage: 7,950.
Named after Chief Powhatan’s famous daughter, Pocahontas, and 20 miles from Richmond, Virginia’s State Capital, Pocahontas State Park is the largest and oldest State Park in Virginia, established in 1946.
Pocahontas State Park has three lakes and hosts a large aquatic center, boat rentals, banquet halls, cabins, picnicking facilities, 2,000 seat amphitheater, 90+ miles of hiking trails, bridal trails, and is the site of the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum that is dedicated to depression era workers responsible for developing what would become Pocahontas State Park and the National Park Service’s Prince William Forest Park.
The campground has 130 sites, 4 Yurts, and 6 cabins. Amenities include full service bathhouses, dump station, water and electric hookups, fire rings, and picnic tables.
Our Review: This is a very big park with something for everyone. It’s services are busy with day use visitors and despite the large campground, it is well maintained and quiet. Our first site was across from the children’s playground and a wide open space for games. Our second site was heavily wooded and private. So close to Richmond, the park itself feels like a wooded oasis in the middle of suburbia.
Powhatan State Park; Address: 4616 Powhatan State Park Road, Powhatan, VA; Open from the 1st Friday in March to the 1st Monday in December; Rates: $35 per night, $245 per week (*rates vary per website); Acreage: 1565
On the James River and 45 minutes from Richmond, Powhatan is the newest State Park in Virginia, founded in 2013. It sits remotely positioned in the northwest corner of Powhatan County among wide open farm land. The park offers a playground, boat launch, bridal trails, 12 miles of trails, and fishing.
The campground has 3 yurts and 29 campsites with some pull through sites that can accommodate up to RVs up to 60 feet. Amenities include a full service bathhouse, dump station, water and electric hookups, fire rings, and picnic tables. The park also hosts a canoe-in or hike-in campground accessible by the James River. There are 9 primitive sites that are open year round. These sites have a composting toilet but do not have water or electricity.
Our Review: The smallest of the parks we’ve visited so far, it is one of our favorites. It is quiet and well maintained. The sites are well positioned and spaced out. This is however, the first Virginia State Park that warned us to be Bear aware, warning campers how to secure their equipment and food stores from area bears. While we did not encounter bears on our first trip, we did see deer that come to the road and trails. The rangers were friendly and informative and there were regular patrols through the campground.
We love our State Parks. Of those we have visited so far, many of the sites are “site specific,” or by reservation, but there are also sites that are first come, first served. Check in is 4pm and check out is 1pm. Each park is very distinct in it’s landscape but the campgrounds are maintained in a consistent manner. Some sites are gravel while other are black top and we’ve been happy to have been in at least two sites that have been level!
We have enjoyed a summer in the Virginia State Parks and plan to explore as many of the other parks as we can while continuing to go back to our favorites as well. We look forward to fall camping and enjoying a warm fire and the fall colors. We recommend the Virginia State Parks, not only for camping, but for anyone that enjoys outdoor activities. If going for the day, be aware that there is a $5 parking fee in all of the parks.
Our State’s moto is, “Virginia is for Lovers” and that is true. If you love lakes, beaches, mountains, hills, wide open spaces, and walking in the woods, Virginia has a State Park that you will enjoy. Come visit us!