In the last blog, I shared about my experience taking part in Virginia State Parks’ Trail Quest Program. Trail Quest provides a fun and interactive challenge that rewards you with Trail Quest pins for visiting the state parks that are part of this program.
I set the goal of visiting all 39 state parks in 2021 and just achieved that goal! Here are a few of my highlights from the year…
Favorite Nature Experiences and Adventures:
I had so many adventures and experiences in the outdoors. Here are some of my favorites:
- Staying in a yurt at Hungry Mother State Park
- Tent camping at the beach at First Landing State Park, which is the most visited state park in the system
- Biking and swimming in the Atlantic Ocean at False Cape
- Hiking in the rain at Clinch River and wearing my umbrella hat!!
- Seeing the wild ponies at Grayson Highlands State Park
- Crossing the Appalachian Trail at Grayson Highlands State Park
- Doing a treasure hunt at Kiptopeke State Park
- Visiting the newest state park to be dedicated in Virginia, Machicomoco State Park
- Seeing all the parks that connect with rivers, like the Potomac River, James River, and the York River. It was also very cool to see the rivers from different perspectives and how different they were at different ledges and overlooks. At Seven Bends State Park, we hiked up to an overlook and could see the seven places where the Shenandoah River bends and winds.
Favorite Season to Experience the Parks:
I started the challenge back in the winter, and got to experience different parks in each season. With so much of life spent on digital devices, getting to witness the changing of seasons was a great way to connect more to nature. My favorite time of year to experience the parks was the late winter / early spring because the parks weren’t crowded and you could see for miles.
Favorite State Park in Virginia:
My favorite state park in Virginia was False Cape. You can’t get there by car. You have to hike in, bike in, or get in by water (a kayak or canoe). We opted to get in by hiking and biking. This state park is located south of Virginia Beach on the Atlantic Ocean, and borders North Carolina. And it was spectacular. It was remote, stunning, and breathtaking.
Best Surprise Part of the Trail Quest Experience:
Best surprise part of the Trail Quest Experience? Meeting all the different Park Rangers! The Park Rangers were awesome and thrilled to hear about our adventure. Most Park Rangers hadn’t been to all the state parks and in fact… they were envious of our experience of doing it in 9 months!
Our favorite Park Ranger was at Kiptopeke State Park. They were doing a treasure hunt, and we asked if we could join. Even though it was mostly for kids 12 and under, the Park Ranger said yes. 🙂 It was a fun and playful part of the experience. We also loved meeting the Park Ranger at Smith Mountain Lake State Park – this is who I got my “Master Hiker” pin and certificate from! He commented that no one ever finishes at this park. (It’s such a popular park that many people start there.) We might have been the first to receive our certificates there, which was fun.
Interesting Facts I Learned About the State Parks
- In Wilderness Road State Park, you’re closer to Detroit than you are to Richmond.
- The Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park is actually a museum in a downtown area. Before the owner died, he wanted his home to be part of the state park system so it could be preserved.
- New River State Park is a 57-mile long linear park. (We did not cover the entire park.)
- Twin Lakes State Park has a sobering history. Until 1964, the two lakes at Twin Lakes State Park were segregated with a “White Only” lake and a “Black Only” lake. During that time, it was called Prince Edward State Park, which originally opened in June of 1950. It was Virginia’s 8th state park to open and the only pre-Civil Rights Era state park for African Americans.
- Clinch River is not completed yet. It had a couple of trail markers, but no sign, no visitor center, or trail maps.
My Short List to Return to:
It was amazing to get to visit all 39 parks in the Trail Quest Program. Still, there’s a lot more to be experienced, so here’s my short list of parks to return to.
- Kayak at York River State Park – This state park had a beautiful marshy boglike area. We didn’t have kayaks that day, and they weren’t renting them, so we didn’t get to kayak. I’ll be back for that!
- Biking the High Bridge Trail State Park – While attempting to bike this trail, we got caught in a thunderstorm and had to turn our bikes around. The trail isn’t long, and I’d like to go back to bike it in better weather.
- Exploring more of Hungry Mother State Park – We were at this park at the end of March and stayed in a yurt there. There’s a lot more to see that we missed, and I’d like to spend time in the lake there in warmer weather.
- Horseback Riding in New River State Park – We didn’t get the chance to horseback ride yet, so this is on the short list of what to go back and do!
- Visiting Parks at Different Times of Year – There are some parks we saw in the summer that we’d like to visit in the winter and vice versa – just to see how the parks feel different at different times of year.
Do you have a favorite state park in Virginia or otherwise? Leave a comment to share!
I’m looking for the next adventure! Visiting all the state parks in Maryland is my next task.