Virginia is not just for lovers but also for hikers. From the Atlantic coast to the Shenandoah Valley, the Old Dominion has so many beautiful hiking trails, especially for families. Here are five of the best Virginia walks that you and your children will enjoy, and that also feature some breathtaking scenery.
Great Falls Park
What can’t you love about Great Falls Park?
On 800 acres overlooking the Potomac River, it’s easy to spend all day in the park, participating in the Junior Ranger program, visiting observation decks and hiking trails, and picnicking on the Patowmack Canal Trail.
The park, which is home to a large number of rapids that really live up to its big name, has several easy-to-reach vantage points that offer breathtaking views of the rapids. For example, Overlook 1 has an observation deck that’s just a ten-minute walk from the visitor center.
The grounds of Great Falls Park, combined with unique views, make it one of the best hikes in Virginia to take with kids. There’s nothing quite like these falls, and two of the best hiking options are the North River Trail, a 1.25-mile route that passes shallow pools on the way to Riverbend County Park, and the River Trail Mini Loop, a 1 , 6 mile route Route over beautiful rocky and forested terrain.
My kids loved this park and assured me that they would be great climbers as they successfully traversed some of the huge rocks in the park.
Costs: $ 20 per vehicle, annual pass $ 35 per year.
Distance: 1.25 to 1.6 miles
Smith Mountain Lake
Photo Credit: Chad Williams, IG Account: @echadwilliams
Smith Mountain Lake is the second largest freshwater lake in Virginia and was created in the 1960s by the establishment of the Smith Mountain Dam. Due to the numerous peninsulas that extend into the lake, there are more than 800 km of beautiful coastline and many opportunities to enjoy breathtaking views, including while hiking along the lake.
One of the best children’s hiking trails in the area is at Smith Mountain Lake Community Park, an amusement park on a peninsula in the northern part of the lake. This 3 km long circular route begins on the Picnic Point Trail as a narrow path between pines and gravel.
One of the many benefits of hiking is seeing the sun shimmer over the lake at different angles, with the lake always in sight. An added bonus to this park is that entry is free.
Not only is hiking a great activity at Smith Mountain Lake, but a variety of water sports from fishing to wake boarding are extremely popular. The region has so much to offer and is a great place to take the family with you any time of the year.
Distance: 1.9 mile loop
Stony Man Trail in Shenandoah National Park
Photo credit: Cameron Davidson
Another great place for a family hike is the Stony Man Trail in Shenandoah National Park. Depending on the speed, this gradual mountain hike takes about 1.5 to 2 hours.
The easiest way to begin the hike is to access from the parking lot at mile post 41.7 on Skyline Drive. The trail also runs parallel to the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail that runs from Georgia to Maine. The white tree markings represent the Appalachian Trail and the blue tree markings represent the Stony Man Trail.
Once at the top, you can sit on the ledges and enjoy a wide view of the Piedmont plateau. This is also a good time for snacks that we made while enjoying the view.
After the hike, take a drive along the 106-mile Skyline Drive, stopping at the many beautiful viewpoints for panoramic views. Keep in mind that there are few, if any, ways to get off Skyline Drive once you start driving. So you have to drive the entire length of the street or turn around and go back the way you came.
Costs: $ 30 per vehicle, valid for 7 days
Distance: 1.6 mile loop
Cascade National Recreation Trail
Photo credit: Taryn White
The Cascade Falls Trail in Pembroke, Virginia features one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state, if not the entire east coast, and the dramatic four-mile loop that leads to the falls consists of an Upper Trail and a Lower Trail.
The Upper Trail provides an aerial view of Little Stony Creek and is the fastest, easiest way to get to the falls. The Lower Trail is the originally built trail and the more scenic route that blends seamlessly with the surrounding area and winds around Little Stony Creek.
For example, the Lower Trail features four bridges, stone stairs and walkways, and moss-covered boulders, and the constant sound of running water due to its proximity to the creek.
Since the hike on the Lower Trail takes about twice as long as the Upper Trail, people with young children should consider taking the Upper Trail to the falls and backtracking all or part of the Lower Trail if possible.
After both the upper and lower trails have merged, the 69-foot cascading waterfall is a welcome sight at the end of an incredibly beautiful hike.
Costs: $ 3 parking space
Distance: 4 mile loop
Natural Bridge State Park
Photo credit: Taryn White
Natural Bridge State Park takes its name from the 21-meter-high natural arch that was formed in a limestone gorge through which the adjacent Cedar Creek once flowed. The park has been designated a Virginia and National Historic Landmark and has more than ten kilometers of hiking trails. The Cedar Creek Trail is the way to access the natural bridge and Lace Falls.
There are several benches where you can sit and admire the beautiful natural monument. Towards the end of the path is a Monacan Indian exhibition showing a traditional Indian village. However, due to the pandemic, the exhibition is currently closed to the public.
The accessibility of this trail easily makes it one of the best hikes in Virginia for kids. In more than any other trail we’ve hiked, we’ve seen people of all ages here.
Costs: $ 8 for those ages 13 and older; $ 6 for anyone under the age of 13.
Distance: 1.6 miles there and back
Did you do one of these recommended best Virginia walks with kids? Tell us about your experience in the comments.
Taryn White is an avid traveler, wellness attorney, and founder of the Trip Wish List. After visiting all 50 US states and more than 75 countries, she views travel as transformative and has a passion for family, the outdoors, and travel off the beaten path. To see more of her incredible trips, follow her on Instagram!
The Top 5 Scenic Hikes in Virginia for Families in Virginia first appeared on Virginia’s travel blog.