Celebrate Great Outdoors Month at a unique Virginia State Park

Celebrate Great Outdoors Month at a unique Virginia State Park

Contributed photo of Natural Bridge by Amie Knowles

By Ava Edwards

June 20, 2024

June is National Great Outdoors Month, and with the weather heating up, now is the perfect time to visit Virginia’s plethora of state parks.

Did you know that Virginia State Parks offer special events and activities for the whole family? And oftentimes, they’re free (just remember to pay the park admission fee, if applicable)! 

Here’s your one-stop guide for seven of the commonwealth’s most unique state parks, and ways to celebrate National Great Outdoors Month in Virginia.

First Landing State Park (Virginia Beach)

  • Hours 7 a.m.—dusk

Located in Virginia Beach, First Landing’s name comes from its rich history. This park is where English colonists first landed in Virginia in 1607. First Landing has a rich Native American history and has been the site of many historical events—from the War of 1812 to the Civil War!

This historical landmark is Virginia’s most-visited state park, and is known for its variety of wildlife and natural landmarks. Some fun activities include hiking, biking, fishing, and sunbathing along the park’s extensive beaches. 

First Landing also has free activities for the family, like the Remote Ranger event on June 26. During this event, Park Rangers take visitors on an exploration through the lesser-explored Narrows Beach. Make sure to reach out to a park ranger for more information.

Grayson Highlands State Park (Grayson County)

  • Hours 8 a.m.—10 p.m.

For those interested in trekking a mountainside, Grayson Highlands State Park’s alpine-like peaks—topping 5,000 feet—are the perfect place for elevation excitement. 

While the proximity to Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain are some of Grayson Highlands Park’s biggest attractions, this park also boasts miles of streams, forests, and a thriving wild pony population. 

The park’s second-largest attraction is the dozens of wild pony herds in the Grayson Highlands. It’s estimated that 100 ponies live in the mountains surrounding the park. These graceful creatures are generally uninterested in people, but they provide a stunning site with the backdrop of Virginia’s two tallest mountain peaks.

Grayson Highlands State Park has two free events for the remaining time in June. On June 21, they will hold the Strawberry Fields Moon Glow event, where visitors will join in on a strawberry-moonlit hike through the park’s grounds.

On June 26, the park is holding a Wellness in Nature event, where patrons will learn about the “5 Bridges to Wellness” while enjoying the natural scenery.

Hungry Mother State Park (Smyth County)

  • Hours 8 a.m.—10 p.m.

Looking for mountains? A beautiful lake? Beaches? Forests? Hungry Mother State Park has it all! 

As one of the six original Virginia State Parks, Hungry Mother is known for having a little bit of everything. With its lush woodlands and a 108-acre lake in the middle of the mountains, the park’s visitors have their choice of a range of activities.

With plenty of campgrounds, water sports, and hiking trails, the family will never tire during their stay. 

For National Great Outdoors Month, Hungry Mother has two free events. The first event is called Feeding Frenzy on June 25, where patrons can watch the park’s animals during their mealtime with the guidance of a Park Ranger. 

The other event is Junior Naturalists – Batty for Nature! on June 26. This program is geared toward younger park explorers, where they will get the chance to learn about bats in their natural habitat. 

Natural Bridge State Park (Natural Bridge)

  • Hours 10 a.m.—6 p.m.

Natural Bridge State Park is a staple of the commonwealth. This park gets its name from its 200-foot-tall limestone gorge, which acts as the main attraction. 

This park also boasts 10 miles of hiking trails, many meadows, and acres upon acres of lush forests. Natural Bridge Park is certainly the place to appreciate the natural beauty of Virginia and all its glory.

Want a tour of the underground? Natural Bridge State Park also has miles of underground caverns to explore. A massive 34 stories deep underground, visitors can trek stalagmite and stalactite-filled caves from March to November. 

To learn more about the wonder of the Natural Bridge, join the rangers on June 27 for a Lantern Tour of the Natural Bridge, where visitors learn the history of the site by lantern light. Registration is required for this event, and tickets are $7 for adults and $4 for children. 

Pocahontas State Park (Chesterfield County)

  • 7:30 a.m.—dusk

Pocahontas State Park is the activity destination for this summer. While this park offers traditional park activities like boating, camping, and other attractions, Pocahontas also has 90 miles of trails and a water park. 

The park’s Aquatic Center has water slides, a toddler pool, numerous leisure pools, and more.

And if you get tired of water sports, Pocahontas State Park is also the home of The Civilian Conservation Corps Museums, where the family can learn about the hard work that comes with conservation work (bonus fact: The CCC helped create several state parks in Virginia).

Pocahontas State Park’s Nature Center is the perfect place to teach kids about the exciting world of nature. Here, kids can get an up-close look at some of Virginia’s natural inhabitants. 

On June 21 and 28, visitors can also participate in a free tour of Pocahontas’ extensive trails. On Forest Trail Fridays, park-goers will participate in a tour of the lesser-known parts of the park’s trails.

Smith Mountain Lake State Park (Huddleston)

  • Hours 8:15 a.m.—dusk

Home of all things watersports, Smith Mountain Lake State Park is the spot for all of your needs. 

The park is located directly next to Virginia’s second-largest freshwater lake, Smith Mountain Lake. Here, patrons can swim, boat, fish, and more. 

Want a unique view of Smith Mountain Lake? Come aboard throughout the year for a free Full Moon Pontoon Boat Tour. On this trip, visitors will watch the sunset while riding along the beautiful lake. As moonlight falls on the lake, the park’s wildlife comes out to say hi from the shore. 

On June 21 and 28, join the park for their free Firefly Campfire where visitors can catch fireflies and listen to stories while roasting marshmallows. 

York River State Park (Williamsburg)

  • Hours 8 a.m.—dusk

The wetlands meet the woodlands at York River State Park. This state park’s estuary makes for a unique mix of activities and wildlife for visitors. York River State Park is a history buff’s dream destination, with a rich story and plenty of potential archeological finds

With its history, 40 miles of hiking and biking trails, and its proximity to the York River, the state park has something for everyone. Join park rangers on June 21 and 24 for their free Roaming Ranger program. During this event, patrons will get a guided tour of the park’s forest and wetlands, while learning about the area’s unique ecosystem.

  • Ava Edwards

    Ava is an up-and-coming journalist who recently graduated from William & Mary with a degree in English. She's written for news publications such as her school's newspaper, The Flat Hat, and Hampton Roads' WAVY-TV 10. As a lifelong Virginia resident, she looks forward to informing her community on the latest information and events.

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