One of the oldest tourist destinations in the US is located in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley just 15 minutes from historic Lexington and a ½ hour from Roanoke. Natural Bridge State Park’s visitors come to explore the trails, take in the spectacular views and learn about the history of this beautiful mountain area.
The Virginia State Park surrounds Natural Bridge – a 215 foot natural limestone arch with a span of 90 feet that is one of the oldest geologic features on the East Coast.
This bridge was originally part of an underground cave system when the nearby James River was formed 200 million years ago.
This historic area was considered sacred to the Monacan Indians, the area’s first inhabitants; and awe-inspiring to Thomas Jefferson, who owned the property in 1774.
Visit Natural Bridge State Park for its spectacular views, trails and history. And while you’re there grab a snack or an ice cream from the Outpost Cafe (open seasonally), have a picnic along the trails and check out the gift shop, artisan center and exhibits inside the visitor center.
The park also has living history programs, offered seasonally. The Monacan Indian Exhibit, located 500 yards from the Cedar Creek Pavilion, is like going back in time to 300 years ago. Learn about this native tribe and their customs and traditions such as shelter construction, weaving, gardening, meal preparation and tool-making.
Here are some of the many activities that you can do during your visit to Natural Bridge State Park:
Trails at Natural Bridge State Park
There are 7 miles of hiking trails within the park. These 4 trails range from easy to moderate and offer spectacular views of the mountains, valleys and forest inside and surrounding the park.
Here’s a little information about each trail:
- Cedar Creek Trail – A moderate .8 mile trail that starts near the bridge of the Monacan Indian Village. Follow the path under the bridge, past Lost River to its end at the 30 foot cascade at Lace Falls.
- Buck Hill Trail – Another moderate trail, 1.8 mile. It’s said to be like hiking the Appalachian Trail.
- Blue Ridge Trail – Moderate 3.3 mile trail that passes Red Knob Overlook and has breathtaking views of Blue Ridge and the Appalachian Mountains.
- Skyline Trail – The one easy trail, .6 miles, with beautiful views of the mountains and the surrounding park.
Children’s Discovery Area at Natural Bridge State Park
Natural Bridge State Park has a special area for children (and families) to experience nature and have fun at the same time. The Kids in the Park Track Trail helps kids learn about nature, plants and animals in the area. Families are encouraged to pick up one of the four self-guided brochures available and learn together while enjoying the park.
The Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom provides a play area that utilizes natural features to engage children and foster their natural creativity.
Fishing at Natural Bridge State Park
Children under the age of 15 may fish in Cedar Creek and the creek is stocked with brook trout seasonally. For everyone over the age of 15 you can fish at other locations outside the park. The James is a great place to catch smallmouth bass, catfish, sunfish and muskie. You can access the James River from DWR ramps in Buchanan and Arcadia.
Those under 16 may fish without a license. For those over 16 – you can purchase a Virginia freshwater fishing license locally or online.
Wildlife Viewing at Natural Bridge State Park
The rugged countryside and peacefulness inside the park creates an ideal habitat for many species. It’s also a perfect place for birdwatching! Keep an eye out for cardinals, sparrows, warblers, blue jays, hawks, bald eagles, bats, Canadian geese, wild turkeys, herons and many more.
Some of the wildlife that you may encounter while exploring the trails through the woods, across rocky streams and past wildflower fields are deer, fox, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, turtles, snakes, frogs and salamanders. And be aware that you may stumble upon an American black bear during your visit.
Pets at Natural Bridge State Park
Pets are allowed inside the park but must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet or in an enclosed area. Please clean up after your pet and do not leave them unattended at any time. Pets are not allowed inside facilities; service dogs are not considered pets.
Lodging Near Natural Bridge State Park
Natural Bridge State Park does not have any overnight accommodations within its park but there are plenty of places to stay nearby. Here are a few options for you to consider:
Natural Bridge Historic Hotel & Conference Center 15 Appledore Lane
Luxury hotel with meeting rooms and restaurants located across the street from the state park.
Natural Bridge/Lexington KOA 214 Kildeer Lane, Natural Bridge
Picturesque campground surrounded by 58,000 acres of National Forest. Amenities include RV sites, standard tent sites, cabins, swimming pool, game room, well-stocked camp store and dog park.
16 Recreation Ln, Natural Bridge Station
Popular family campground only 5 miles from Natural Bridge State Park. Open March through November. They have RV and tent camping, cabins, mini golf, water slides, a beach, boating and fishing.
Cave Mountain Lake Campground
811 Cave Mountain Lake Rd, Natural Bridge Station
Rustic campground (no electric hookups) with a beach and trails.
Attractions Near Natural Bridge State Park
Natural Bridge Caverns
Nearby Natural Bridge Caverns are very popular with visitors to the park. Explore these magnificent caverns on a guided tour. The natural wonders include large stalagmites and stalactites, Mirror Lake and the Well Room, all 34 stories underground.
Waterfalls, wildflower fields and forest cover this 200,000 acres of protected land.
Natural Bridge Zoo
5784 S Lee Hwy, Natural Bridge
Virginia Safari Park
229 Safari Lane, Natural Bridge
180 acre drive through safari experience with free-roaming elk, gazelle, zebra and other exotic animals. And a petting zoo.
Cave Mountain Lake Recreation Area
Public recreation area inside the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest.
Restaurants, shopping, galleries and museums are 30 minutes from the park.
Natural Bridge State Park
6477 S Lee Hwy
Natural Bridge, VA 24578
Open Daily 9am to Dusk
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Natural Bridge State Park:
This is bear country and it’s possible to encounter one during your visit to the park. Be aware and keep in mind:
- If you meet a bear, do not run. Back away slowly and don’t turn your back on the bear.
- Keep your dog on a leash at all times or consider leaving them at home.
- Use extra caution in places where hearing and visibility is limited (near streams, brushy areas, corners or on windy days).
- Make noise – talk or sing – to reduce your chances of surprising a bear.
- If you do encounter a bear, please report it to the park office.
- Pack some bear spray just in case.