24 Epic Virginia National Parks

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Virginia is home to 24 famous and gorgeous National Parks. They include some of the most visited National Parks in the United States.

Some of the major Virginia national parks include Shenandoah National Park, Great Falls National Park, Assateague Island National Seashore, and the Appalachian National Trail.

National Parks are a great way to take an unforgettable vacation without spending a lot of money. You can learn more great tips about how to budget and save for travel!


Map of Virginia National Parks


24 Virginia National Parks

Whether you’re looking for amazing views, hiking trails, waterfalls, historic battlefields, or living museums, Virginia has something for everyone!

Appalachian National Scenic Trail

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is one of the most famous National Parks in the United States. The epic trail spans over 2,180 miles and runs the length of the Appalachian Mountains from Maine to Georgia.

Appalachian National Scenic Trail - one of the best Virginia National Parks

A large part of it runs through the western part of Virginia.

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail runs through Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia.

An official brochure map of the entire trail can be found on the National Park Service website. The trail begins in Baxter State Park in Maine, and ends at Amicalola State Park in Georgia. Though I have yet to attempt the epic hike, it is a popular bucket list item for many outdoor enthusiasts and hikers.

You can find information on how to reach various points along the trail at this website.

Appomattox National Court House National Historic Park

Appomattox Court House is the location of the surrender of the Northern Virginia army in the Civil War, and it is often considered the point at which the Civil War ended. The surrender occurred on April 9, 1865 in the McLean House at Appomattox.

Appomatox
Source: City of Lynchburg Office of Economic Development & Tourism

There are numerous historic sites to visit as part of Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, including the McLean House, Visitor Center, and the East End of the Village.

The site hosts many special events throughout the year, including history walks, living history programs, tours of the battlefield and grounds, firing demonstrations, music programs, and more.

A full list of upcoming events can be found here.

Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial

Arlington House serves as a memorial to Civil War Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The house is located in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, which consists of 600 acres of land owned by the United States Army.

Arlington House

Arlington House is located at the top of a hill near the Potomac River, and right outside of Washington, D.C. It was designed and built between 1803 and 1818.

The house itself is a memorial to Robert E. Lee, and includes many artifacts from the 1800s, including artwork, furniture, manuscripts, Civil War memorabilia, as well as artifacts from the enslaved people who were living on the property.

There are also gardens around the property. More information about the architecture and history of Arlington House can be found here.

Assateague Island National Seashore

Assateague Island National Seashore is located on the 37-mile-long Assateague Island. It is located between the Atlantic Ocean and Chincoteague Bay.

The National Park includes land in both Maryland and Virginia, and it technically includes two parks. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is managed on the Virginia side. Assateague State Park is managed on the Maryland side.

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is located in the homelands of the Pocomoke and Occohannock people, and it is designed as a refuge to protect migratory birds and other wildlife, as well as sand dunes, beaches, and forest habitats.

It also features the Assateague Lighthouse and the famous Chincoteague ponies. The refuge is one of the best places in the state for wildlife viewing.

There are also wildlife trails to explore on the island:

You can download a copy of the trail map here.

Assateague State Park features two miles of beach for swimming, sunbathing, beachcombing, surfing, and fishing. It is also home to the famous Assateague horses.

Please note that the horses are wild and you should not approach, touch, or feed them. You can find more safety tips here.

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile road that travels through the Appalachian Highlands and Blue Ridge Mountains in western Virginia and North Carolina.

The parkway offers stunning views of the valleys, mountains, and landscape of this region of the country.

The parkway has a maximum speed limit of 45 mph, and it is intended to be taken as a leisurely scenic drive.

There are many activities to enjoy along the parkway, including hiking, bicycling, camping, music events, picnicking, and more.

Hiking:

  • There are over 300 miles of hiking trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway. A list of the most popular hikes can be found here. I personally went on the Crabtree Falls hike. It is short, a little steep, but features a gorgeous waterfall. You can learn more about the Crab Tree Falls hike here.

Camping:

  • There are numerous campgrounds located along the parkway. The sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, for a fee, and include potable water, flush toilets and sinks, and a dump station.

Music Events:

Picnicking:

Booker T. Washington National Monument

The Booker T. Washington National Monument is a monument honoring the African American educator, author, and orator.

Washington was born into slavery on a plantation in southwestern Virginia. He would go on to become the first principal of the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University).

The National Monument marks the birthplace of Washington. You can begin at the Visitor’s Center, which features an audio tour. There are several walking trails and other sites from there that explore the monument.

Major sites at the monument include:

  • Plantation Trail = a 0.25-mile loop trail that passes through the historic area.
  • Jack-O-Lantern Branch Heritage Trail = a 1.5-mile trail that goes through nearby fields and forests.
  • Picnic Area
  • Farm Area = home to pigs, sheep, horses, and chickens
  • Garden Area = learn about historic garden techniques

You can learn more about the extraordinary life of Booker T. Washington here.

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park marks the site of several major Civil War battles, including a decisive Union victory at Cedar Creek.

You can explore the battleground by walking the Morning Attack Trails, which is a series of 3 interconnected trails that are a combined 1.7 miles in length.

There is also a 17 mile self-guided driving tour that lasts over an hour and has 9 stops, including the following locations:

  • Cedar Creek Battlefield
  • Thoburn’s Redoubt
  • 128th New York Monument
  • Morning Attack Trails
  • Belle Grove Plantation
  • Mount Carmel Cemetery
  • Miller’s Mill
  • Rienzi Knoll
  • Counterattack Fields

Another major attraction at the park is the Belle Grove Plantation, which is a 1797 manor house offering tours.

The park also hosts numerous events, including stargazing. You can find upcoming events on the National Park Service calendar.

Colonial National Historical Park

Colonial National Historical Park actually encompasses several major parks that are some of the most famous in the entire state of Virginia. These parks include Historic Jamestown, Yorktown Battlefield, and the Colonial Parkway.

Colonial Williamsburg - one of the best places to stop along the drive from North Carolina to Virginia.

Historic Jamestown marks the site of the 1607 settlement of European settlers in the Americas. The first legislative assembly occurred here. You can learn more about the history through tour guides at the site.

It should be noted that Historic Jamestown is different from the Jamestown Settlement. Both sites are about 1.6 miles from each other. Historic Jamestown marks the actual location of the original 1607 settlement. It is currently a site devoted to archaeology and historical study.

The Jamestown Settlement is a recreation of the forts, buildings, houses, and ships that were used at the original Jamestown site. Both sites are definitely worth a visit.

One site that is definitely not to be missed is Glasshouse, which is the site of glass furnaces from the early 1600s that were rediscovered in 1948. The furnaces were recreated and glass blowing is performed there today to create gorgeous vases, bowls, and other items.

I visited there a few years ago and purchased a lovely vase. It is really cool to see the glass blowing in action. Glasshouse is located within walking distance to Jamestown Settlement.

Yorktown Battlefield is the site of the famous 1781 battle in which American and French soldiers, led by George Washington, defeated the British army to win Independence for the American colonists.

You will want to start your visit at the Visitor Center, from which you can get a map and learn about the programs and sites for the day.

The town of Yorktown includes many historical structures that are fascinating to see in person, such as the 18th-century Nelson House, and earthworks that were first built by the British in 1781.

You can learn more about visiting these sites and more by reading the article on Things to do in Williamsburg, VA.

You can also book a guided tour from Northern Virginia or Washington, D.C. to visit these historic sites.

Click here to book the Guided Tour of Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement, American Revolution Museum from DC!

The Colonial Parkway is a 23-mile road that connects the historic triangle of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown. The road travels from the York River at Yorktown to the James River at Jamestown.

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is located in parts of Southwestern Virginia, as well as Tennessee and Kentucky. The park is 24,000 acres in size, and includes 85 miles of trails as well as campgrounds.

Attractions in the park include Gap Cave, which can be visited through ranger-led tours throughout the year. The cave features bats, stalactites, stalagmites, and other fascinating underground features. A tour of the caves lasts approximately 2 hours and travels 1.5 miles into the cave.

Another major attraction in the park is Hensley Settlement. The settlement dates back to 1903, and includes a farm and blacksmith shop, cemetery, schoolhouse, numerous houses, and a cabin.

Guided tours of the settlement are conducted from May to October and last about 3.5 to 4 hours. Advanced reservations for the tour made are recommended.

Fort Monroe National Monument

Fort Monroe is located in the Tidewater Region of southeastern Virginia, roughly between Newport News and Norfolk. It has 400 years of history, beginning with the history of the first Africans to arrive in the Americas in 1619.

The site is also home to the Old Point Comfort Lighthouse, which is believed to have been active as early as 1775.

You can also schedule a tour of the Casemate Museum. The museum chronicles the military history of Fort Monroe and Old Point Comfort. It is located within the largest masonry fort in the United States.

You can read more about the rich history of Fort Monroe here.

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park marks the sites of some of the most devastating and significant battles in the Civil War. The site is located about halfway between Washington, D.C. and Richmond.

There are so many sites at the park, that it could take several days to see everything. The National Park Service has a useful guide to planning your trip, whether it’s several hours or several days long.

The park includes 4 battlefields, which can be visited individually or as part of a larger tour:

There are also numerous historic buildings located at the park, including:

  • Chatham Manor
  • Jackson Death Site
  • Ellwood Manor
  • Salem Church

There are also many outdoor activities at the park, including trails for hiking and bicycling, as well as picnic areas. You can find trail maps here.

There also numerous events hosted throughout the year. You can find more information on the National Park Service calendar.

George Washington Birthplace National Monument

The George Washington Birthplace National Monument, as the name suggests, is located at the ancestral home of the Washington family, and it is the birthplace of George Washington. The site is located in the Northern Neck of Virginia, and it is 550 acres in size.

Main attractions at the park include the Memorial House Museum, Building X, Colonial Revival Garden, Farm Workshop, Colonial Revival Kitchen, Spinning and Weaving Shop, Farm Animals. There are also picnic grounds and Potomac River Beach, a public beach.

There are also several hiking trails, including:

  • Nature Trail = 1 mile roundtrip
  • Dancing Marsh Loop Trail = 0.75 mile roundtrip

The Northern Neck Heritage Trail is the major bicycle trail that runs through the site. The trail can take 1 to 2 days to travel. You can also add stops along the way to stop at local wineries and historic sites or to go kayaking.

If you are looking for recommendations for bikes to take on the trip, check out an excellent guide to the best bikepacking bikes!

Fishing is allowed at the historic site, though you should check the rules and regulations before planning your trip.

George Washington Memorial Parkway

The George Washington Memorial Parkway (also known as the G.W. Parkway) is a scenic parkway skirting the Potomac River at the border of Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia.

George Washington Memorial Parkway - one of the best Virginia National Parks

It travels through dense forests in Alexandria and Arlington, Virginia, and has vantage points that overlook the Potomac River and sites within Washington, D.C., including lovely views of the Georgetown skyline. The parkway is 25 miles long.

The parkway marks several prominent points in the life of George Washington. It begins at his home in Mount Vernon in Alexandria, continues past the nation’s capital that bears his name and ends at Great Falls in Northern Virginia.

There are a number of major sites right off of the parkway, including:

Additional information about the George Washington Memorial Parkway can be found here.

Great Falls National Park

Great Falls National Park is one of the major parks in the Northern Virginia region. It is located on both the Virginia and Maryland sides of the Potomac River, not far from Washington, D.C.

Great Falls National Park

As the name suggests, it features a series of falls and rapids where the rushing water of the Potomac cascades over rocks. This creates some stunning scenery and sounds of the power of nature. There are even several 20-foot waterfalls in the park. It is a popular spot for weekend hikes and site-seeing.

There are three overlooks that can be used for viewing the falls, and two of the overlooks are wheelchair and stroller accessible. Each of the overlooks is a five to ten minute walk from the Visitor’s Center.

More information on the falls overlooks can be found here. You can also view the falls from the Maryland side, but you have to drive to that location from the Virginia side.

Other amenities at Great Falls include a picnic table area, grills, and a snack bar (open seasonally).

Note that, particularly on nice weather weekends and holidays, it can get quite crowded, with a wait of 45 or more to enter and find parking.

You can find more information on Great Falls and other waterfalls in Virginia here.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park lies at the border of Virginia and West Virginia in the northwestern corner of the state.

Harpers Ferry, WV

It is most famous as the site of a major event that sparked the Civil War – known as John Brown’s Raid.

Harpers Ferry includes the historic town, buildings, and gift shops, which you can explore, as well as excellent hikes and other outdoor activities. The major sites include:

  • John Brown’s Fort
  • The Point – where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet, and where you can see Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland from a single vantage point.
  • Storer College
  • You can find other historic sites and attractions here.

You can also easily travel to three additional nearby National Parks from Harpers Ferry:

There are 22 miles of hiking trails in Harpers Ferry as well, including:

Additional hiking trails can be found here, courtesy of the National Park Service.

Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site

The Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site commemorates the life of Maggie L. Walker, who was the first African American woman to found a bank. Ms. Walker was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1864.

She was a prominent and successful businesswoman in post Civile War Virginia. The historic site is located at the 1883 home of Ms. Walker, and it features many original family furnishings as well as historical information about her life and times.

You can learn more about the fascinating life of Maggie L. Walker here.

Manassas National Battlefield Park

Manassas National Battlefield Park is one of the top sites in Manassas, VA.

The park marks the site of two major Civil War battles that were fought in 1861 and 1862. It is also referred to as Bull Run, which is the name of the stream located nearby. The site encompasses 5,000 acres.

Manassas National Battlefield Park - one of the best things to do in Manassas VA

Manassas National Battlefield Park includes artifacts, artillery, and historical landmarks related to the battles, including cannons (which are fired several times during the day).

The park also features guided walking tours, the Henry Hill Visitors Center Museum, and a 20-mile driving tour of the site. Picnics and dogs are welcome at the park.

Additional information about activities can be found here.

The park also includes over 40 miles of hiking trails, including several loop trails.

First Manassas Hikes include:

Second Manassas Hikes include:

Maps of the trails can be found here and below.

Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail

Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail is located in four states: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

It is 330 miles in length and marks the trail used by colonial militia in the Kings Mountain campaign of 1780 during the Revolutionary War.

You can drive parts of the trail, or hike along 87 miles of hiking trails.

Petersburg National Battlefield Park

The Petersburg National Battlefield Park is located about 28 miles south of Richmond. It marks the site of the Siege of Petersburg, which was the longest military event in the Civil War. The siege lasted 9 and a half months and resulted in 70,000 casualties.

The site also marked a pivotal moment in the Civil War, as the Confederate retreat at the end of the siege led to their surrender just 5 days later in Richmond.

The site features a driving tour with nine stops at historic landmarks. The stops include:

  • General Grant’s Headquarters at City Point
  • The Eastern Front
  • The Western Front
  • Five Forks Battlefield

There are also several great trails to hike at the park, including:

  • 10 miles of trails at the Eastern Front Unit (hiking, bicycling, and horseback)
  • 8 miles of trails at the Five Forks Battlefield Unit (hiking and bicycling)

You can find out more about how to plan your visit here.

Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail

The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail is an extensive network of trails that travels between Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia.

Potomac Heritage Scenic Trail - one of the best Virginia National Parks.

Virginia Hiking trails include:

  • An 11-mile one-way hike from Great Falls to Algonkian Regional Park. You can reserve a cabin overnight at Algonkian.
  • A 1.5-mile hike in Great Falls Park
  • The Theodore Roosevelt Island – Scotts Run Nature Preserve 10-mile hike along the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
  • A 1.5-mile loop trail in Woodlawn Historic District in Mount Vernon.
  • Prince William Forest Park trails.
  • A 2-mile loop trail at Government Island in Stafford County.

There is a loop bicycle trail that connects four parks within Leesburg in Loudoun County, VA. The trail begins and ends in Leesburg, and includes gorgeous views of the Potomac River. More information on the trail can be found here.

There are many other activities at the extensive Potomac Heritage National Historic Park, including historic tours, birding, and camping. You can find more details here. Below is a summary of activities from the National Park Service.

ItineraryActivity
A Secluded and Scenic Excursion on the PotomacCivil War, History, Paddling, Wildlife
Alexandria’s Canal TrailBirding, Hiking, Museum/Visitor Center
Alexandria’s Canal Trail: Bogs, Bluffs & BaysBicycling, History
Bicycling Arlington Memorial Bridge to Reedville, VirginiaBicycling, Birding, Civil War, Historic Site, History, Museum/Visitor Center, Wildlife
From Riverbend to Great FallsHiking, History, Paddling, Wildlife
Loudoun’s Potomac HeritageBicycling, History
Nature and History Abound in Prince William Forest ParkBicycling, Camping, Hiking, History
Northern Neck HeritageBicycling, Birding, Hiking, Museum/Visitor Center
The Ira Gabrielson Trail HikeBirding, Hiking, Paddling, Wildlife
Tidal Occoquan to Pohick Bay Paddle TourBirding, Hiking, Paddling, Wildlife
Explore Woodlawn Historic DistrictHistoric Site, History, Museum/Visitor Center
Source: National Park Service

Prince William Forest Park

Prince William Forest Park is 15,000 square miles in size and offers an incredible 37 miles of hiking trails, plus over 20 miles of bicycling trails (12 miles of paved road and 9 miles of gravel.)

Woods, sunlight, fall foliage at Prince William Forest Park

To navigate this immense park, I recommend starting at the visitor center and picking up a map to get your bearings.

From there, take the Laurel Trail Loop to South Valley Trail to North Valley Trail. The trails are mostly flat and wander through the woods and by a stream.

You’ll eventually reach two cascades over large rocks, which are like mini-waterfalls and are very peaceful and serene.

You can reach even more lovely cascades by going on the Lake Quantico Cascades Trail to the Mary Bird Branch Trail to the Turkey Run Ridge Trail to the South Valley Trail. This route leads you through the heart of the forest on mostly flat terrain.

The full list of Hiking Trails at Prince William Forest Park is:

Other activities at the park include:

One of the most popular ways to explore the Prince William Forest is to drive along the scenic route, which allows you to see much of the immense park in a much shorter amount of time than by hiking.

The park is especially beautiful in fall when the leaves are changing colors. It’s also one of the best places for fall colors in Virginia!

Richmond National Battlefield Park

The Richmond National Battlefield Park is another historic Civil War site in the state of Virginia. Throughout the war, there were numerous battles fought near the city of Richmond, and the site commemorates the history of those events.

The park is actually a collection of 13 parks located in Hanover, Henrico, and Chesterfield counties as well as the city of Richmond.

It can take about a half day to a full day to tour the entire park. The National Park Service recommends starting at the Richmond National Battlefield Park at the Civil War Visitor Center at Tredegar Iron Works, located at 470 Tredegar Street, in downtown Richmond.

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah is probably the most famous National Park in Virginia. It is also one of the largest.

Shenandoah Mountains at Sunset

It is 200,000 acres in size and spans much of the Shenandoah Mountains in the western part of the state. It features many hiking trails, wildlife, gorgeous mountain views, waterfalls, picnic shelters, and much more.

The park is perfect for nature lovers. Shenandoah is even home to black bears!

Shenandoah is a great destination year-round. It’s also one of the top destinations for snow in Virginia!

The park is a great place to go on a hike. There are over 500 miles of hiking trails at Shenandoah National Park.

Below is more information from the National Park Service on all of the hikes available at the Shenandoah:

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

The Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts is a major performing arts venue in Northern Virginia, and it is the only national park that is also a performance venue.

The Filene Center is an outdoor, covered amphitheater with a capacity of over 7,000.

During the Summer months, the Filene Center hosts an eclectic mix of performers, including international singing stars, musicals, movies, symphony orchestras, operas, jazz, and much more.

Wolf Trap is the perfect place to enjoy a warm summer night with family and friends. A calendar of the 2022 events can be found on the Wolf Trap website.

Wolf Trap also features a second, indoor performing arts venue, called The Barns at Wolf Trap. This venue is much more intimate than the Filene Center, with a capacity of just 382.

Wolf Trap is also a great location for picnics, weddings, or other events. Before a Summer show, you can bring your own food and even alcohol for a picnic, or enjoy food and drinks sold at the venue itself.

There are also two hikes at Wolf Trap. The park also hosts first Sunday Hikes.

  • Wolf Trap TRACK Trail = 1.5 miles
  • Wolf Trap Trail = 2.5 miles

FAQs about Virginia National Parks

Before heading out to any of the many amazing National Parks in Virginia, here is some additional information to help you get the most out of your trip!

How many US National Parks are in Virginia?

There are 24 National Parks in Virginia.

What is the biggest National Park in Virginia?

Shenandoah National Park is the biggest National Park in Virginia. It is 200,000 acres in size.

What are some National Parks in Virginia?

Some National Parks in Virginia include Shenandoah National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, and Appalachian National Scenic Trail.


List of Virginia National Parks

  1. Appalachian National Scenic Trail
  2. Appomattox National Court House National Historic Park
  3. Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial
  4. Assateague Island National Seashore
  5. Blue Ridge Parkway
  6. Booker T. Washington National Monument
  7. Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park
  8. Colonial National Historical Park
  9. Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
  10. Fort Monroe National Monument
  11. Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park
  12. George Washington Birthplace National Monument
  13. George Washington Memorial Parkway
  14. Great Falls National Park
  15. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
  16. Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site
  17. Manassas National Battlefield Park
  18. Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail
  19. Petersburg National Battlefield Park
  20. Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
  21. Prince William Forest Park
  22. Richmond National Battlefield Park
  23. Shenandoah National Park
  24. Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

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