View of Natural Rock Formation Bridge at Natural Bridge State Park Virginia

Where is Natural Bridge State Park

Located in the Shenandoah Valley, Natural Bridge State Park resides entirely within the state of Virginia. The state parks most notable feature is the natural arch that is situated within a gorge in the park. However, the park also contains various hiking trails, a visitor center, a children’s discovery area, and areas for fishing and boating. The closest city to Natural Bridge State Park is Natural Bridge, Virginia. Natural Bridge State Park is located 200 miles (three hour and fifteen-minute drive) southwest of Washington D.C.  And it is located 224 miles (three hour and twenty-three-minute drive) north of Charlotte, North Carolina.  Natural Bridge is also 149 miles (two hour and fifteen minute drive) west of Richmond, Virginia. The state park is also located near several other recreation areas. These outdoor recreation areas include Watoga State Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Shenandoah National Park.

How Large is Natural Bridge State Park

Natural Bridge State Park covers a total area of around 1,500 acres. The park’s geography mainly consists of woodlands and riparian zones. The natural arch that gives the park its name is 215 feet tall, and the end results of a gorge that was carved through the limestone in the area by Cedar Creek. The “natural bridge” is actually the roof or top covering of a cave Cedar Creek once flowed through. In addition to the arch, Natural Bridge State Park also contains around seven miles of hiking trails. These hiking trails traverse the park’s woodlands and riparian zones and give visitors a better understanding of the park and its ecology.

Natural Bridge State Park Weather

The weather at Natural Bridge State Park varies frequently throughout the year. In the summer, temperatures in the park average between 60- and 95-degrees Fahrenheit. In winter, these temperatures cool considerably and average between 35- and 55-degrees Fahrenheit. The warmest temperatures of the year arrive at the park in June, July, and August, and the coldest temperatures find the park in December and January. On average, Natural Bridge State Park receives around 85 days of rain per year. These 85 days of rain accumulate to a yearly average of around 38 inches. Natural Bridge State Park also experiences snowfall throughout every year. Snowfall in the park is normally heaviest in the winter months of December, January, and February. The park’s yearly snowfall totals average around 15 inches per year.

When did Natural Bridge Become a State Park

Natural Bridge State Park first became a state park in 2016. The state park was the 37th state park to be commissioned by the state of Virginia. However, the Natural Bridge and the area the park encompasses received designation years before its dedication as a state park. In 1997, the natural bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1998, the natural bridge was designated a National Historic Landmark. The natural bridge has also been designated a state historic landmark by the state of Virginia. According to legend, in around 1750, a young George Washington came to the natural bridge and surveyed the area. The area also has been talked about and romanticized by Thomas Jefferson, Herman Melville, and several other influential Americans.

View of Creek Trail in Natural Bridge State Park Virginia

Things to do in Natural Bridge State Park

Natural Bridge State Park draws visitors to its grounds with the promise of sights of the natural arch. However, the state park grants so much more. The most popular adventures and experiences found in the state park are listed and discussed below.

Explore the Visitor Center

The visitor center at Natural Bridge State Park is the perfect place for visitors to start their Virginia state park adventure. The visitor center houses several educational displays, exhibits, and stanchions that discuss a variety of topics relating to the park’s ecology, history, and cultural influence. Knowledgeable staff in the visitor center can also distribute important park information, such as park maps, trails maps, and camping information.

Join an Interpretive Program

Visitors still interested in learning more about Natural Bridge State Park after the leave the visitor center, should look to join on or more of the interpretive programs offered by the park. The topic of these programs will vary, but example topics include the natural bridge’s formation story, wildlife of the Shenandoah valley, and the future of Virginia state park. All programs offered at Natural Bridge State Park are led by knowledgeable staff or educated volunteers. The programs are offered on a week to week rotating schedule.

Take a Hike in the Park

Visitors wishing to see more of Natural Bridge State Park should take a hike in the park. The seven miles of hiking trails found in the state park traverse the park’s woodlands and meander near the natural arch and several riparian areas found in the park. More information regarding current trail conditions and difficulty can be found online on the park’s website or at the visitor center.

Go Fishing on the James River

Cedar Creek, which runs through the park and was responsible for forming the natural bridge, is a tributary of the James River. Anglers visiting Natural Bridge State Park will find several fishing access areas located nearby the state park. The James River nourishes a variety of fish species including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, catfish, and others. Anglers who are fifteen and older will need to obtain a valid Virginia state freshwater fishing license before casting in the park or on the James River.

Children’s Discovery Center

The Children's Discovery Center at Natural Bridge State Park has two separate components. These components are the Kids in Parks Track Trail and the Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom. Each of these two components offer kids the chance to learn more about the variety of wildlife, geologic, and geographic features that reside in Natural Bridge State Park.

Wildlife Viewing in the Park

Natural Bridge State Park and the surrounding area supports a long list of wildlife species. Species commonly spotted by visitors include white-tailed deer, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, wild turkeys, and others. Visitors looking for wildlife in the park may also spot a variety of songbirds in the park and the occasional hawk or eagle.

View of Natural Bridge Formation in Natural Bridge State Park Virginia

When to Visit Natural Bridge State Park

Natural Bridge State Park is open year-round, and visitors can plan a trip to the park throughout the entire year. However, the best time to visit the state park is during the summer. During the season, temperatures in the park are well suited for a variety of activities. All of the park’s facilities including the visitor center and the children’s discovery center are open during the season. The most interpretive programs are also offered during the summer season at Natural Bridge State Park. Visitors looking to experience all the park has to offer, but who want to avoid the summer crowds should plan their trip for the late spring or early fall.

Must Have Items to Bring to Natural Bridge State Park

Most state park enthusiasts know that every trip outdoors requires packing and planning. The following list of essential items will make your packing and planning for your trip to Natural Bridge State Park that much easier.

Water & High Energy Snacks

It is hard to think of a more necessary item to carry with you on an outdoor adventure. Water is almost always the first thing visitors should pack when planning to recreate outdoors. High energy snacks are also important. These snacks will give hikers and other outdoor recreators a boost late in the day when their energy levels are low. Beef Jerky, trail mix, protein bars, and dried fruit are great snack options.

Sturdy Hiking Boots

A pair of sturdy hiking boots are essential for any visitor who is looking to hike the trails of Natural Bridge State Park. These trails traverse a variety of terrain that can cause even the most experienced hikers to stumble. Visitors looking for added comfort and protection should opt to invest in a lightweight and waterproof pair of hiking boots.

Fishing Supplies

Anglers visiting Natural Bridge State Park will want to remember all of their freshwater tackle and equipment in order to take advantage of the James River fishing opportunities. All anglers should also remember to obtain a valid Virginia state fishing license before fishing in the park or on the James River.

Camping Supplies

The best way to remember all of your camping supplies is to create and utilize a camping checklist. This way you will have no doubt that you have remembered all of your equipment when you hit the road and travel to Natural Bridge State Park.

Wildlife Field Guides

Wildlife enthusiasts visiting Natural Bridge State Park will be impressed by the number of species found in the park. In order to successfully identify and learn more about these species interested visitors should purchase a North American wildlife or avian field guide. The best field guides include color photos and species descriptions that make identification easy and enjoyable.

Where to Stay in Natural Bridge State Park

Natural Bridge State Park offers no overnight lodging within its borders. Visitors looking to stay in a hotel or other lodging establishment nearby can first try out options in Natural Bridge, Virginia. However, visitors looking to stay in a larger city can make the two-hour drive to Richmond. The city has a variety of lodging options ranging from five-star hotels to quiet and quaint bed and breakfasts.

Food Near Natural Bridge State Park

The closest food to Natural Bridge State Park is offered around the park in Natural Bridge, Virginia. The community contains a number of restaurants and supply stores that are well suited to serve visitors of the state park. Visitors looking for more options or a larger culinary scene should make the two-hour drive to Richmond.

Airports Near Natural Bridge State Park

The closest international airport to Natural Bridge State Park is located in Richmond. The Richmond International Airport is 157 miles or a two hour and twenty-minute drive west of the park. The next closest international airport to the park is located in Washington D.C. The Dulles International Airport is located 187 miles or about a three-hour drive northeast of Natural Bridge State Park.

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