Referred to as the Mountain State, these parks exhibit a sensational landscape of imposing peaks, sparkling lakes, verdant alpine forest, flower rivers and rugged bluffs.
For residents of Harrisonburg who want a digital detox, or even just to detach themselves from the hustle and bustle of the big city, there are a host of wonderful state parks you can visit to refresh your mind and re-energize your soul.
Providing outstanding opportunities for fishing, swimming, hiking, boating, picnicking, photography, and camping, these pristine wilderness destinations are just waiting to be explored.
With that in mind, showcased below are 9 of the best state parks near Harrisonburg in Virginia you must visit at least once in your life.
Map of State Parks Near Harrisonburg, VA
Here is a map of the Virginia state parks covered in this post:
List of State Parks Near Harrisonburg
All 9 of these state parks near Harrisonburg can be reached within less than three hours of driving. So they can easily be visited as a day trip destination.
However, if you would like to stay for a few days or more at any of them, most possess a range of camping and other overnight accommodation options you can use as a base of operations.
The Natural Bridge State Park is just an hour long drive southeast from Harrisonburg.
Listed as a National Historic Landmark, the major attraction here is a 215-foot tall Natural Bridge which was carved out in a limestone gorge by Cedar Creek.
Encompassing spectacular woodland landscapes, lush valleys, rolling meadows replete with gorgeous wildflowers, flowing waterfalls and stunning vistas of the surrounding mountains, the 1,540 acre park is a wonderful place to hike and photograph.
In terms of places to stay, the pet-friendly campground offers 31 full hook-up sites, 25 tent sites and a handful of cabins available.
It also has a lovely swimming pool, as well as a children’s playground and games room onsite too. In addition, the WI-FI coverage is good and there is a camp store that sells all the basics you may need.
Opened in 1936, the Douthat State Park is one of the oldest state parks in Virginia.
Located a 1.5 hour drive south east of Harrisonburg, the park is actually listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of the role it played in development and creation of other state parks across the country.
Framed by exceptional mountain scenery, the park is very popular with anglers who enjoy the endless opportunities afforded by the 50-acre trout filled lake, as well as four miles of stream fishing.
You can also rent boats to head out to the lake, or traverse it on kayaks, paddle boards and canoes. While the comely beach here is perfect for swimming and sunbathing.
For hikers and mountain bikers, numerous trails wind through the area and there is also a playground for children to enjoy too.
Accommodation wise, the park offers 32 cabins and three lodges that can house 15-18 guests each.
Location: 6620 Ben H Bolen Dr, Dublin, VA 24084
Situated a 2 hour and 20 minute drive south east of Harrisonburg lies the Claytor Lake State Park.
Centered around the magnificent 4500-acre Claytor Lake, which resides within a 21-mile-long reservoir, the 472-acre state park is a haven for those who love water.
Set around three miles of spectacular lake frontage, Sport fishing and boating is a very popular activity here – as is swimming, kayaking and canoeing.
There is also a lovely swimming beach, as well as plenty of hiking trails to explore, and scenic picnic spots.
In addition, the park boasts a full-service marina that features docking slips, supplies, fuel, refreshments and boat rentals.
With 15 cabins and three lodges available that directly overlook the lake, as well as a number of camping sites, there are plenty of accommodation options here for the visitor too.
Location: 1235 Rd 888, Huddleston, VA 24104
Boasting the second largest freshwater lake in Virginia, the Smith Mountain Lake State Park is a very good destination to visit from Harrisonburg.
It will take you about 2 hours and 15 minutes to drive there, but once you arrive you will be able to enjoy activities like swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, boating and paddle boarding.
Running along the shoreline of the stunning Smith Mountain Lake, the 1,148-acre state park also showcases its beauty through a number of hiking and biking trails.
If you embark on any of these be sure to take your camera or iPhone with you. The delightful public beach here is also a great spot to photograph and picnic by as well.
Accommodating 50 sites for trailers, tents and RVs, the campground here is located near the lake. Of these sites 14 of them are electric, while there are also 20 cabins and a bunk house available too.
Fairy Stone State Park is one of the most interesting of all state parks in Virginia.
Reached via a 2 hour and 45 minute drive southeast of Harrisonburg, the park was named after the unusual ‘fairy stones’ that are widely found in the park. Most of which resemble a St Andrew’s or Roman cross shape.
Incorporating 4,741 acres, one of the other highlights of this park is a stunning 168-acre lake that links to the picturesque Philpott Reservoir. Which offers fabulous opportunities to enjoy fishing, kayaking, canoeing and swimming.
The park is also a renowned spot for hiking, with a number of trails leading you to some of its more beautiful and topographically diverse areas. While there is also a lovely swimming beach and two playgrounds for children to enjoy as well.
For those wanting to stay overnight the park has very good campground facilities which include a lodge and group camping.
Location: 350 Daughter of Stars Dr, Bentonville, VA 22610
Located just a 50-mile drive from Harrisonburg, you can easily reach Shenandoah River State Park on most days, with mild traffic. The park is home to many affordable hotels, so you can plan a multi-day layover to experience most of what this beautiful region has to offer.
The park opened in 1999 and is usually accessible from 8 a.m. until dusk. Located toward the southern fork of the Shenandoah, the park spreads across 1600 acres along 5 miles of shoreline.
What can you expect at this park? With over 24 miles of trails, you have options of biking, hiking, and horseback riding. You also get to enjoy beautiful views of the Massanutten Mountain.
7. New Market Battlefield State Historical Park
Location: 57 George Collins Pkwy, New Market, VA 22844
Just 19 miles from Harrisonburg, at an elevation of 977 feet, the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park is the closest state park to the City of Harrisonburg.
If you are a history buff, this place will interest and intrigue you. It showcases the Battle of New Market (1864), one of the last Confederate victories in the region. Within the 300 acres of the park, you will find the battlefield areas, a historic farm, and the Hall of Valor Civil War Museum.
The New Market Battlefield State Park is also great for the fantastic views of the north fork of the Shenandoah River. It also offers birdwatching opportunities for birders and photographers.
Website: dcr.virginia.gov/…Location: 11012 Edmonds Ln, Delaplane, VA 20144
To get to this park, you will need to travel 80 miles out of Harrisonburg. The Sky Meadows State Park’s name describes it well. The park starts in the foothills of the Blueridge Mountains. It goes up to the Appalachian Trail, with beautiful meadows along the way. The name ‘sky’ comes from a former owner Sir Robert Hadows, who had named it ‘Skye Farm’ after a Scottish island.
The park offers natural history programs all year round. A visit to the park can help you connect with the unique farming practices that gave birth to its pastoral landscaping.
Sky Meadows State Park is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with sightings all through the year. You will certainly find a variety of woodpeckers any time of the year.
Most visitors to the Sky Meadows State Park come here for the beautiful picnic spots, hiking, and camping against the backdrop of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountain terrain. Groups or families can book and experience the park’s hike-in camping facilities.
The park covers 1,860 acres with bridle paths, hiking trails, and biking trails. Like most state parks, the Sky Meadows State Park usually remains open from 8 a.m. until dusk. This park also holds the distinction of being an International Dark Sky Park. It organizes monthly astronomy programs for those interested in the subject.
9. Future Mayo River State Park
Location: 500 Old Mayo Park Rd, Mayodan, NC 27027
Over 180 miles away from Harrisonburg, the future Mayo River State Park is well worth the three-hour drive to get there. The park lies on the Virginia-North Carolina border.
Although officially in North Carolina, it is a relatively new addition to the Virginia State Parks System.
At the Mayo River State Park, you can see the remains of thousands-of-years-old Indian villages. The park launched a new trail system on Earth Day in 2022 (that’s April 22, for those who didn’t know), with its parking area at the end of Pratt Road in Virginia.
Why the name Mayo? A surveyor named William Mayo was a part of the surveying party that camped in the area in 1728. The party found the place breathtakingly beautiful and mentioned so in their official records.