Ahhh, parks. Not only are they a breath of fresh air to outdoor enthusiasts, but they also breathe life into the U.S. economy, with the national variety worth a combined $92 billion, according to figures reported by the National Park Foundation.
Few corners of the country are as packed with paragons of park perfection than Virginia. Here's a sneak peek at some of the best parks in the Commonwealth.
1. Kiptopeke State Park
Meaning "Big Water," Kiptopeke State Park is larger than life in so many ways, according to the Virginia Tourism Corporation. Located approximately three miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, Kiptopeke State Park is a recreational haven for bird watchers, stargazers and anglers, with the Chesapeake Bay teeming with fish. However, if you'd prefer to walk rather than watch, Kiptopeke offers an impressive 4.2 miles of trailways for hiking and biking
2. Chippokes Plantation State Park
As old as Virginia itself – a few years older, in fact – Chippokes Plantation has been a working farm since 1617, a status that it maintains today. But don't let its hard-scrabbled track record fool you, as it's also an excellent place for sightseeing and day-tripping. Some of Chippokes most preferred "take-ins" among visitors and regulars include the antebellum mansion, the sawmill exhibit at the Farm and Forestry Museum, and the visitor center.
3. Claytor Lake State Park
For seven years, the 4,500 acres that represent Claytor Lake State Park were home to the Appalachian Power Company. But a twist of fate in 1946 transformed the sprawling landscape into its current namesake, which stretches over 20 miles long. The lake's vastness makes it an ideal place to enjoy a plethora of aquatic adventures, including swimming, boating, fishing, and tubing. Your dog is sure to love Claytor Lake State Park as well, as pets are allowed, which can't be said for all of Virginia's state parks.
4. Bear Creek Lake
Sometimes you have to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Perhaps your shortest trip to far away is at Bear Creek Lake, less than 60 minutes west of Richmond. Though hiking trails and picnic places make it a great park for land roaming, boat going is Bear Creek Lake's signature feature, with boat launches, boat rentals and 40 acres of lake to prove it. Bear Creek Lake is smack dab in the center of Virginia in the gorgeous town of Cumberland.
5. Breaks Interstate Park
Dubbed the "Grand Canyon of the South," Breaks Interstate Park is one of only two interstate parks in the country, located on the Kentucky/Virginia border in Breaks. Though small compared to the Grand Canyon, which is over a mile down at its deepest point, Breaks is home to the largest canyon east of the Mississippi, as its seemingly bottomless floor plunges 1,600 feet below the earth's surface. Breaks' mountain terrain is a sight to behold as well, stretching over 4,500 acres that houses an assortment of cabins, playground equipment for kids, motel rooms, and a convention center. In short, you'll "break" for Breaks Interstate Park.
6. False Cape State Park
Here's what's true about False Cape State Park: It's one of only a handful of areas along the Atlantic coast almost entirely undeveloped. Because of this, accessibility is limited to foot travel or by tram via the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge, which runs from April 1 to Oct. 31. Located five miles south of Sandbridge in Virginia Beach, False Cape State Park is a must-see for nature lovers, as it's home to vast number of birds, wildlife and plant life.