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Natural Bridge State Park Guide — Hiking, Programs, and More 

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

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Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Keri Stooksbury

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With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now editor-in-chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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Virginia’s Natural Bridge State Park is a paradise for nature enthusiasts with its fantastic mountain and valley views, lush forests, and meadows that stretch on and on. This park has a host of activities for visitors to enjoy, including hiking trails, disc golf, picnicking, camping, and a discovery area for children. Each year, approximately 150,000 travelers come to this park to take in its splendor and beauty.

How To Get to Natural Bridge State Park

Where Is Natural Bridge State Park?

Natural Bridge State Park is just 15 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway in Natural Bridge, Virginia. This park spans over 1,500 acres and features a stunning 215-foot natural bridge, verdant forests, vast meadows, waterfalls, mountain views, and the James River Valley. The closest major cities to the park are Lexington, Virginia, and Roanoke, Virginia, between 14 and 40 miles away.

Natural Bridge State Park Opening Hours and Seasons

Natural Bridge Landmark
Image Credit: Virginia State Parks

This state park is open year-round from 8 a.m. to dusk, as long as the weather permits. The visitor center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Park facilities are closed on Christmas Day and may vary depending on daylight saving hours and seasons. It is wise to call before setting out for a day at the park to ensure that the activities you want to participate in are available.

Nearest Airports to Natural Bridge State Park

The closest airport to Natural Bridge State Park is Lynchburg Regional Airport (LYH), located about an hour away in Lynchburg, Virginia. This airport exclusively offers daily service on American to Charlotte, North Carolina, where you can easily catch a connecting flight to another hub worldwide.

Once you arrive, you can easily arrange a rental car or ride-share service to complete the final leg of your journey.

Driving to Natural Bridge State Park

This state park is about a 2-hour drive from Richmond, Virginia, and 30 minutes from Roanoke. From I-81, you will access Exit 175 or 180A to U.S. 11. Follow the signs that lead to the park.

Taking the Train to Natural Bridge State Park

Taking a train when traveling is a great way to sit back, enjoy the sights, and ride along the way. While there is no service directly to the park, Amtrak’s Northeast Regional Line can take you to Lynchburg. It is about an hour-long drive from this station to the park.

Taking the Bus to Natural Bridge State Park

There is no bus or shuttle service to this state park.

Getting Around Natural Bridge State Park

The best way to get around Natural Bridge State Park is to mix driving and hiking. There are several parking areas throughout the park where you can leave your car and explore the park and its beautiful trails on foot. The park provides a printable map to aid you in planning your Natural Bridge outings.

What To See and Do in Natural Bridge State Park

There is no shortage of things to see and do at this state park. From hiking to disc golf and discovery areas to ranger-led programs, there’s something for every visitor to enjoy.

Children’s Discovery Area

The Children’s Discovery Area is an outdoor experience for families to enjoy during their park visit. It is located along the Skyline Trail and features 2 components: the Kids in the Parks Track Trail and the Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom.

The Track Trail offers self-guided brochures so families can learn about wildlife and plants. The Outdoor Classroom is a play area with natural features that allow children to engage in outdoor imaginative play.

Fishing

Young anglers are in for a treat when visiting this state park, as it caters to youth fishing. Guests 15 and older can fish in Cedar Creek without a fishing license. There are also fishing opportunities for other fishermen in nearby areas.

Sunfish, catfish, smallmouth bass, and muskie are frequently caught here. Visitors who don’t fall into the youth category still have plenty of opportunities to fish in nearby parks and recreation areas.

Hiking Trails

Hiking Trails Natural Bridge State Park
Image Credit: Virginia State Parks

Over 10 miles of hiking trails weave through Natural Bridge State Park. These trails are a dream for hiking enthusiasts and range in difficulty from easy to strenuous. They showcase the park’s forests, gorge, and meadows.

Some trails here are the Cedar Creek Trail, Buck Hill Trail, and Blue Ridge Trail. Some sights on these trails include the Blue Ridge and the Appalachian Mountains, Lost River, Lace Falls, and the spectacular Natural Bridge.

Hot Tip:

The park provides a printable map of these trails so that you can decide which to try.

Natural Bridge

The Natural Bridge, which the park is centered around, has been a place that has inspired wonder and awe for hundreds of years. As one of the oldest geologic features on the East Coast, the bridge brings in many tourists who want to stand and marvel at its splendor.

Native Americans originally used this bridge, which was then discovered and bought by Thomas Jefferson, who dreamed of conserving it for public enjoyment. The bridge stands over 200 feet tall and is nestled into a limestone gorge that was carved by Cedar Creek.

The park hosts various events at the bridge, a favorite being the illumination program that has taken place on the last Saturday of the month from April through October for nearly 100 years.

Nature and History Programs

Natural Bridge State Park offers a variety of nature and history programs throughout the year. Some programs offered include stargazing events, guided hikes, lantern tours under the Natural Bridge, and dark sky events to view the different moon phases, meteor showers, and sunsets.

Rangers at the Base Camp Discovery Center offer small programs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, during which groups can participate in demonstrations, talks, and crafts. The park provides a helpful calendar to help you plan which events you want to attend during your visit.

Thistle Ridge Disc Golf Trail

Thistle Ridge Disc Golf Trail
Image Credit: Virginia State Parks

Those who love disc golf will be excited to visit this park. The Thistle Ridge Disc Golf Trail combines the sport with an incredible hiking trail. This course is perfect for all skill levels and features 18 holes with breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The trail is located at the visitor center at the Blue Ridge Trailhead.

Tours

Visitors can arrange a ranger-led tour to take them on a guided tour throughout the park. This is one of the best ways to fully immerse yourself in the park’s natural and cultural history. These guided tours offer unbeatable views of the bridge, cave systems, mountain stream ecosystems, waterfalls, and more.

A knowledgeable park ranger will lead your tour and teach you about the sights and wonders along the way. You can book these tours by contacting the park’s interpretation department.

Visitor Center

The visitor center is a great place to start your adventures at Natural Bridge State Park. This facility features a gift shop, artisan center, and park staff to answer any questions about the park. Special activities and programs are available and can be booked at this location. You can grab food items from Memorial Day to Labor Day at the cafe. Additionally, exhibits here teach about the park’s cultural, historical, and natural history.

Bottom Line:

This facility should be at the top of your itinerary, as it is an excellent place to learn and prepare for a big day at the park.

Nearby Attractions to Natural Bridge State Park

Natural Bridge State Park is a wonderful location for exploring the outdoors. You can find several noteworthy places to explore just a few minutes from the park.

Cave Mountain Lake Recreation Area

Cave Mountain Lake Recreation Area is 8 miles from Natural Bridge State Park. This park offers abundant outdoor activities such as swimming, fishing, and beach fun. Many visitors enjoy water activities on the lake, hiking the trails, and picnicking in the park.

Additionally, the park offers outstanding opportunities to view wildlife in their natural habitat. The park is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains on Cave Mountain Lake, and the setting is perfect for anyone seeking a nature retreat.

Caverns at Natural Bridge

Caverns at Natural Bridge
Image Credit: Virginia Tourism Corporation

The Caverns at Natural Bridge are less than a mile from Natural Bridge State Park. This park offers an incredible opportunity to explore the underground caverns that descend over 34 stories. Tourists have been exploring this cave system since 1977.

Some of the highlights of the caverns include the Colossal Dome Room, a massive dome-shaped natural feature that has been formed for thousands of years. Some spectacular stalagmites and stalactites will leave you in awe. Group tours and overnight tours can be booked for an unforgettable adventure.

George Washington and Jefferson National Forests

About 35 minutes from the park is George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, a national forest system spanning over 1 million acres through Virginia. These forests provide many outdoor recreation opportunities, including paddling, scenic driving, camping, and wildlife viewing.

Additionally, these forests have over 2,300 miles of streams, perfect for fishing, and over 2,200 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails.

Best Times To Visit Natural Bridge State Park

This state park is phenomenal to visit at any time of year, but certain times throughout the year are better than others, especially if you want to participate in particular activities and events.

Best Time To Visit Natural Bridge State Park in Winter

If you are a winter traveler, there are excellent times during the winter to plan a trip to this park. February temperatures are beginning to rise with a range of upper 20s to low 50s. There’s also an average of 6 days of precipitation, less than the other winter months.

Best Time To Visit Natural Bridge State Park To Avoid the Crowds

A solitary visit to this park is an experience that won’t easily be forgotten. November is an optimal time to visit for visitors seeking a crowd-free adventure. This is one of the least busy times for tourists, providing guests with a serene retreat without crowds, long lines, and traffic.

Best Time To Visit Natural Bridge State Park for Ideal Weather

Natural Bridge State Park for Ideal Weather
Image Credit: Virginia State Parks

Weather can make or break a trip, so planning your trip around typical weather patterns is wise. September is the perfect time to visit this park for ideal weather. The temperatures range from the mid-50s to the upper 70s, with an average of just 6 days of precipitation. These temperatures are perfect for hiking, camping, and picnicking.

Cheapest Time To Visit Natural Bridge State Park

Saving money while traveling isn’t something that often goes together. However, if you hope to plan an affordable trip to Natural Bridge State Park, it can happen with some research and planning. The cheapest time to visit this park is from late January to early February, when flight and accommodation rates are typically at their lowest.

Annual Events in Natural Bridge State Park

The park hosts a variety of events throughout the year. From stargazing events to guided hikes and everything in between, there’s something for every visitor to look forward to at Natural Bridge. A program takes place each year that is looked forward to by locals and tourists alike.

Kids Fishing Day

Friends of Natural Bridge State Park hosts Kids Fishing Day each year in April. The creek is stocked for this day with rainbow trout, and kids can reel in an impressive catch. On top of the main fishing event, there are programs where children can learn how to fish and complete arts and crafts activities.

Where To Stay in Natural Bridge State Park

One of the first steps in planning a vacation is securing a place to stay. The location of this park is perfect for travelers as there are options within the park and in the surrounding towns.

Inside the Park

The only option for lodging within the park’s boundaries is to set up camp under the stars. This park has primitive camping available at Blue Hollow. This campground does not have water or electric hookups, so it is best for campers who enjoy a rugged experience. This campground is only available for tent campers and features tent pads, a fire pit, and a private picnic shelter. 

Towns Near Natural Bridge State Park

Camping isn’t for everyone, so those who want traditional accommodations can set up a home base in one of the nearby towns. Whether you seek a busy city or a charming historic town, there are abundant opportunities to choose from near the park.

Lexington, Virginia

Lexington is 13 miles from Natural Bridge State Park and makes an excellent option for a base camp when visiting this park. The main draw to this town is the variety of restaurants and historical sites like Stonewall Jackson’s home and the Virginia Military Institute.

Whether you are a nature lover or a history buff, this town has plenty to offer. There are also plenty of options for lodging here, ranging from locally owned bed and breakfasts to upscale, refined hotels.

Natural Bridge, Virginia

This state park is located in Natural Bridge, which means the town is ideal for a home away from home. The town has plenty of lodging, dining, and recreation options, and its proximity to the park makes it ideal for visitors who want to stay nearby.

The Natural Bridge Historic Hotel is one of the most desired locations for accommodations, but there are also well-known luxury hotels and inns set in 19th-century mansions. Many dining options are located within the lodging facilities, but there are also several diners, cafes, and restaurants within the town.

Where To Eat in Natural Bridge State Park

There is an option for dining within the park and abundant restaurants in the surrounding cities. Here are the best eateries.

Cafe

There is a seasonal cafe in the park’s visitor center. This cafe serves various grab-and-go meals, such as hot dogs, sandwiches, and quesadillas. It is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. This is an excellent option when you need a bite but don’t want to miss out on the park experience.

Foot of the Mountain Cafe

Foot of the Mountain Cafe is located in Buchanon, Virginia, about 13 minutes from the park. This restaurant serves lunch and dinner from Wednesday to Saturday each week. The menu features gourmet specialties served family-style.

Whether you are in the mood for a juicy burger with all the fixings or a surf and turf entre with top-quality meat and fresh seafood, your taste buds are in for a treat at this cafe.

Hot Tip:

To top it all off, Foot of the Mountain has an impressive drink menu with weekly specials to sweeten the deal.

Pink Cadillac Diner

For an unforgettable dining experience, you should grab a meal at the Pink Cadillac Diner. This Elvis-themed restaurant is located 4 miles from the park. The diner is decorated with fascinating Elvis memorabilia, a functioning antique jukebox, and a retro ambiance, which makes for an exciting meal and entertainment.

This restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and serves daily specials featuring homemade American classic dishes and old-fashioned ice cream specialties.

Natural Bridge State Park Facts

Natural Bridge State Park

1. A New State Park Established

This park was officially established as Virginia’s 37th state park on September 24, 2016. It took hundreds of years to become a state park and has undergone many different ownerships.

2. A Presidential Past

Thomas Jefferson visited the Natural Bridge in 1767 and said it was “the most sublime of Nature’s works.” Seven years later, he purchased the bridge and over 150 acres from King George III in hopes of creating a park for public use. Once he died, his family was forced to sell this land to recover his debts.

Eventually, the bridge was acquired by a businessman who gave it as a gift to the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund. This group paid for additional land, and soon the park was established. While it took over 200 years, Jefferson’s dream became a reality, and the park is now used for public enjoyment.

3. National Register of Historic Places

Natural Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. It is registered as a National Historic Landmark.

4. Original People of the Park

The original people who lived in the Natural Bridge area were the Monacan and the Powhatan people. The bridge was a sacred site to these groups. Today, they are honored and remembered at a nearby museum that pays tribute to their cultures.

5. Seven Natural Wonders of the World

Natural Bridge has been listed on many Seven Natural Wonders of the World lists. These listings were mostly 19th- and 20th-century lists, but it is still today an awe-inspiring natural wonder and is listed as one of the Ten Natural Wonders of Virginia.

Final Thoughts

This state park is brimming with history, culture, and natural features and is just waiting for you to explore its grounds. There are abundant opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, and adventure. With so much to see and do at Natural Bridge State Park, it’s no wonder many people visit it yearly.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to visit Natural Bridge State Park?

The entrance fee is $9 per person ages 13 and up and $6 per person ages 6 to 12. Guests under age 6 are admitted at no charge.

How much time should I spend exploring Natural Bridge State Park?

It is recommended that you spend a half day to a full day exploring Natural Bridge State Park. This length of time will allow you to hike, view wildlife, and take in the sights around the park.

Can I swim at Natural Bridge State Park?

Swimming is not permitted at Natural Bridge State Park.

Are there any horseback riding trails at Natural Bridge State Park?

There are no opportunities for horseback riding at Natural Bridge State Park. Several opportunities for this activity are available at nearby parks.

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About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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