Shot Tower State Park occupies 10 acres near New River Trail in Austinville. Its centerpiece is the Jackson Ferry Shot Tower, a 200 year old historic landmark that was used by early settlers to create ammunition.
This Virginia state park also serves as an access point to the multi-use trail system inside New River Trail State Park, a 57-mile long linear park in Southwest Virginia.
These trails follow along an abandoned N & W Railway line, through the counties of Grayson, Carroll, Wythe and Pulaski and the city of Galax.
When you visit Shot Tower State Park you’ll learn its history and discover the beauty of the New River. Then you can stay for a picnic and explore the trails in nearby New River Trail State Park. And from those trails you’ll have access to fishing, boating, primitive camping, picnicking, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, gift shops, learning centers and much more.
Really the only thing that you are unable to do at these 2 parks is swim (there are no designated swimming areas because the river may be hazardous due to swift currents, sudden drop offs and unseen obstructions).
Here are some of the activities that you can do during your visit to Shot Tower State Park and New River Trail State Park:
The Historic Tower at Shot Tower State Park
Historic Shot Tower was built over 200 years ago by early settlers. It was used to make ammunition for firearms by melting lead from nearby mines in a kettle (on top of the 75 foot tower) and poured through a sieve into the tower and into a kettle of water (through a 75-foot shaft) below the tower.
The tower is open on scheduled days during the summer and admission is free. The Shot Tower is open for tours Saturdays and Sundays, 10am to 5pm, April 1 through October 31.
Trails at Shot Tower State Park
From Shot Tower State Park you’ll be able to access New River Trail State Park’s 57 miles of multi-use trails. These trails are mostly flat, rated easy to moderate and are ideal for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians.
The trails parallel the New River, one of the oldest rivers in North America, and cross bridges, tunnels, fields, streams and wildlife through 4 counties.
Gorgeous views of this ancient river can be seen from the trails as you hike, bike or ride on horseback. Also along the trail are 2 tunnels, 3 major bridges and nearly 30 smaller bridges and trestles.
Here’s the popular trail that leads into New River Trail State Park from Shot Tower State Park:
Shot Tower to Foster Falls Trail – An easy 3.1 mile flat gravel trail out to Foster Falls. This mostly shaded path is through the woods, above the New River and past rock formations and historic markers.
Horseback Riding at Shot Tower State Park
New River Trail is open for horseback riding on all but a 2-mile section (Galax to Cliffview), and horse trailer parking is available at Austinville, Cliffview, Draper, Fries, Ivanhoe, Pulaski (Dora Junction) and Foster Falls (the Mark E. Hufeisen Horse Complex).
Virginia state law requires visitors to carry a negative Coggins report for each horse brought to the park.
Boating at Shot Tower State Park
Boating on the New River is very popular and public boat ramps are located at Allisonia, Austinville and Foster Falls. And Foster Falls Boat & Livery has seasonal rentals of canoes, kayaks and tubes. Call (276) 699-1034 for more information.
Don’t miss out on a chance to kayak, canoe or tube along the 39-mile stretch of the New River past untamed mountain scenery, craggy rock cliffs and large rock outcroppings.
Fishing at Shot Tower State Park
Access New River inside New River Trail State Park adjacent to Shot Tower State Park for fishing opportunities. There you can catch bass, catfish, black crappie, sunfish, walleye, perch and muskellunge by accessing the river from Foster Falls or find a quiet area along the trails.
Remember to pick up a Virginia freshwater fishing license ahead of time.
Wildlife Viewing at Shot Tower State Park
You may only see a few birds, squirrels and other signs of wildlife while visiting Shot Tower State Park. Once you enter the trails into New River Trail State Park you’ll discover many, many more.
Inside of the woods and along the river you’ll see waterfowl, songbirds and raptors as well as deer, rabbits, snakes, frogs, salamanders and turtles. And don’t be too surprised if you catch sight of a black bear, just quietly keep on going past.
Camping at Shot Tower State Park
Shot Tower State Park is small and doesn’t have space for overnight accommodations. Nearby New River Trail State Park has 3 primitive walk-in or boat-in campgrounds with a total of 35 sites. All sites overlook either Chestnut Creek or New River.
If you’re looking for a spot to park your RV check out:
- Fort Chiswell RV Park – 312 Fort Chiswell Rd, Max Meadows
- Fries New River Trail RV Park – 26 Dalton Rd, Fries
Or if you’d rather stay in a nice air conditioned room with access to a pool:
- Hampton Inn – 90 Farmers Market Drive, Hillsville
- Comfort Inn – 151 Farmers Market Drive, Hillsville
Pets at Shot Tower 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.
Attractions Near Shot Tower State Park
- Foster Falls at New River Trail State Park
Mark E. Hufeisen Horse Complex
The Discovery Center – Has an indoor theater, aquarium, educational programs and fun activities.
The Depot Gift Shop
Foster Falls Boat & Bike Livery – Has snacks, drinks, horse rentals, kayak, canoe and tube rentals and a shuttle service. Call (276) 699-1034.
Hoover Mountain Biking Area – A separate section of the trail system that contains 5 loops and 7 trails exclusively for mountain bikers. This section can be accessed from Allisonia, between the boat ramp and Hiwassee River Bridge on Julia Simpkins Road.
Shot Tower State Park
283 Pauley Flatwoods Rd,
Austinville, VA 24312
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Shot Tower State Park: