My husband and I have a goal this year of visiting one new state park each month, whether it be for just a day trip or for an entire weekend. With 41 state parks in our home state of North Carolina and 38 state parks in nearby Virginia, thankfully we have a huge variety of parks to choose from within a fairly short distance from us.
We love spending time in nature, the budget-friendly lodging options, and being able to bring our rescue dog along with us on our trips as often as possible since she loves being in the woods. If you’re looking for a state park full of natural beauty, mystique, and a wide variety of outdoor activities, spend a weekend at Natural Tunnel State Park in Virginia. It was a short 3-hour drive from us in the Triad area of North Carolina, and it’s also close to the Tennessee border. Here is a rundown of what to expect and all that you can enjoy!
Accommodations include campground sites for tents, RV’s, trailers, yurts, and log cabins. Certain lodging options are pet-friendly for an extra fee, but the yurts do not allow pets. We opted for the log cabin which included 2 comfortable bedrooms, a wrap-around porch, and a toasty fireplace. The kitchen comes with what you need to make your own meals and we all enjoyed playing State Parks Monopoly.
We had no idea just how many unique parks were in the area until we played! The area around the cabin was quiet and untouched. On our evening walk, we encountered several deer running across the road in front of our cabin.
Trails To Explore
For our daytime adventures, we started by exploring the famous limestone Natural Tunnel, which was formed gradually over thousands of years. It reminded me a little of the Natural Bridge which is also located in Virginia. Some have referred to Natural Tunnel as the Eighth Wonder of the World, and I’d say it would be a well-deserved title.
It was damp and a little eerie walking into the darkness of the tunnel but awe-inspiring at the same time. You can either pay for a chairlift that takes you down to the tunnel (it was $4 per person, round trip) or you can hike down the trail to get there. We opted to hike down; beware that hiking back up is quite strenuous, but totally doable if you’re moderately in shape.
There are many trails to explore, but be sure not to miss the Lover’s Leap Trail. It has a storied history dating back to the conflict between the Indians and settlers. The gorgeous overlook is guarded by a fence and is a fairly easy hike around the expansive valley below. Stay alert and you might even catch a glimpse of some wildlife scurrying around on the rocks by the trail.
There are a lot of small historic cabins to explore throughout the park’s trails, along with a decommissioned train you can board and take photos on. We liked that the park offered a variety of difficulties on their trails. Some had a lot of elevation gain and were quite challenging, but they also had a few easier trails for a more leisurely pace. You can find a map of the entire system of trails including their difficulty levels here.
Be sure to stop by the Daniel Boone Wilderness Road Blockhouse replica and the visitor’s center. Going inside the replica house was a fun step back into the 1700s and seeing what life would have been like living in those times! If you visit during April, you can be part of the Trade Faire and Muster, and in October they hold a Harvest Celebration there. The blockhouse and visitor center are open May through October on Saturdays and Sundays from 2 – 4 pm.
The park also has a swimming pool and concession area which we didn’t get a chance to visit, but we heard from others in the park that they loved the pool. I would recommend bringing a Camelbak or water bottle that hooks to your day bag so you can have your hands free while hiking. Some trail mix or nutrient-dense snacks would also be good to have with you as you will need plenty of energy to make it up some of the cliffs!
Overall, it was a budget-friendly weekend full of enjoying all the natural beauty the park had to offer. I believe we paid $127 per night for the 2 bedroom cabin and split amongst 5 people it was quite reasonable for what was included. It would even be able to house one more person because of the double bunk beds in the 2nd bedroom.
Other noteworthy hikes and attractions nearby include the hike to The Devil’s Bathtub, and hiking the Great Channels. We didn’t have the time to explore those two, but we hope to return to cross those hikes off our bucket list.
What is your favorite state park to explore?