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stormy skies and waves from the beach at false cape state park in virginiaNot far from the North Carolina border lies a vast area of undeveloped land along the coast and near Virginia Beach.

This Virginia park, on the Currituck Banks Peninsula between the Back Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, is only accessible by foot, bicycle, beach transport, tram or boat.

Visitors to False Cape State Park are able to experience nature in a unique and primitive setting while exploring trails, picnicking, observing nature, fishing, boating, swimming and camping.


This unique park allows visitors to take a step back in time. You won’t find many modern conveniences inside of False Cape State Park.

But you will have the opportunity to appreciate the peacefulness of nature while enjoying the ocean, trails and nature all around.

The Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, next to the park, operates a tram (April 1 – October 31) that travels through the refuge and into the park’s Balfour Hill area and Wash Woods historic site.

The park also offers astronomy programs, nature hikes, kayak tours and overnight experiences that focus on environmental education.

Here are some of the other activities that you can do during your visit to False Cape State Park:

Swimming at False Cape State Park

Swim in the ocean or nearby at Back Bay Lake during your visit. There are no designated swimming areas along the 6 miles of coastline within False Cape State Park.

Fishing at False Cape State Park

Both freshwater and saltwater fishing can be found at False Cape State Park. Discover the wonders of the ocean from shore or boat while trying to catch a bass, flounder, cobia or tuna.

Remember to pick up a fishing license ahead of time. Virginia fishing licenses can be purchased online.

Boating at False Cape State Park

Get out on the open water during your visit to False Cape and kayak, paddle board or explore the water in your motorboat.

Boat docks are located at Barbour Hill, False Cape Landing and Wash Woods.

Keep in mind that only experienced boaters that are already familiar with the vast and rugged coastline of Back Bay should attempt to access the park by boat.

Trails at False Cape State Park

False Cape State Park has 15 miles of trails that wind along the beach, through the freshwater marsh, maritime forest, sand dunes and past historical site markers. These 5 trails are open year round for pedestrians and cyclists.

Here are a few notable trails:

  • Cemetery Trail – A moderate trail that leads past the historic cemetery and church steeple of the long gone Wash Woods community.
  • False Cape Interior Trail – A 6.5 mile moderate wooded trail also known as Sand Ridge Trail. Many sections of this trail cross through sand making it more difficult for some. No dogs are allowed on this trail.
  • Marsh Ridge Trail – An easy 1.4 mile trek past the freshwater marsh land.

When arriving at the park through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge you’ll take either the East Dike trail (7.7 miles) or the West Dike trail (6.9 miles). Both of these trails are flat, gravel paths suitable for beach cruisers and mountain bikes. These trails are closed from November 1 until March 31 each year.

Wildlife Viewing at False Cape State Park

closeup photo of dragonflies at false cape state park in virginiaWildlife viewing at False Cape really depends upon what time of the year you visit this secluded beach area.

Deer, opossum, raccoons, coyotes and other creatures hide during the hot, humid summer months but can be observed during the cooler months.

During the summer dragonflies and butterflies seem to appear everywhere throughout the park as well as many shorebirds and songbirds.

No matter when you visit you’ll be certain to glimpse snakes, frogs, turtles, osprey, ducks and seagulls. And, if you’re lucky you may see a sea turtle, swan or a dolphin.

Camping at False Cape State Park

False Cape State Park offers year round primitive tent-only camping for guests wanting to spend the night inside of this secluded area.

Reservations are required ahead of your visit and it’s important that you bring 2 copies of your confirmation letter with you (one copy needs to go on the dashboard of your car and the other will be clipped to your site marker). Carefully read through all of the information ahead of time.

You also must be fully prepared to hike a distance of 5 to 9 miles to get to your site with all of your camping supplies.

And since campsites are located in four distinct areas – Barbour Hill Bay, Barbour Hill Ocean, False Cape Landing Bay and False Cape Landing Ocean – be sure about the exact location of your campsite before hiking or boating in.

Overnight parking is not allowed at the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. However, overnight parking is available at Little Island City Park which is about 40 minutes away from the park.

Drinking water is available inside the park but you will need to bring containers to transport it to your site. Pit toilets are also available for your comfort. No open fires are permitted but camp stoves may be used.

When arriving through Back Bay be aware that you must be out of the refuge before sunset so give yourself enough travel time.

Wash Woods Environmental Center, located on the bay, has space for up to 26 overnight guests plus a kitchen, bathrooms and showers in addition to their meeting room, lab and library.

Pets at False Cape State Park

Pets are allowed at False Cape but are not allowed through the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Pets can only be brought into the park by boat or through the North Carolina entrance. No horses are allowed anywhere in the park.

Attractions Near False Cape State Park

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge – This 4,589 acre refuge was established in 1938 to provide a habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl, since the area is on the Atlantic Flyway migratory bird route along the East Coast.

The refuge provides public education and guided tours through its diverse habitats. And, the refuge provides public trails and a tram for access into False Cape State Park between April 1 and October 31.

Little Island City Park – This large park provides access to the beach and Back Bay Lake plus opportunities for fishing, boating and picnicking.

Park Location

False Cape State Park
4001 Sandpiper Rd
Virginia Beach, VA 23456
Phone: 757.426.7128

Reservations for primitive campsites MUST be made by calling 1-800-933-PARK (No same day reservations)


Additional Info

Park is open daily from sunrise to sunset.
All Tram Tours require a reservation, call (757) 426-7128.

Parking: Parking at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is for day use only and fills up quickly during the summer. Additional and overnight parking is available at Little Island City Park.

*If staying overnight Be sure to leave a copy of your confirmation letter on your dashboard*

*If you have a group of 10 or more you will be required to obtain a special-use permit from the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge two weeks in advance.

*Make sure to bring bug spray and be vigilant in keeping an eye out for ticks and venomous eastern cottonmouth snakes.


Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at False Cape State Park: