Though it wasn’t designated as one of Virginia’s State Parks until 2016, Natural Bridge of VA has been listed on the National Registry of Historic Places since 1988.
It has also been one of the most popular Virginia attractions ever since before the USA was even a country.
The famous 215-foot-tall Natural Bridge is so ingrained in American lore partly because our first President, George Washington, carved his initials in it.
Founding Father Thomas Jefferson later bought the landmark (and 157 acres surrounding it) from King George III in 1774. He paid a whopping 20 shillings!
Of course, the Natural Bridge in Virginia had a place in history long before the days of colonialism.
It was also a sacred site for the Monacan Indian nation, who controlled the James River in the Piedmont region all the way west to the Blue Ridge Mountains when the Jamestown settlers arrived in 1607.
Now, it is the namesake and primary feature of Natural Bridge State Park in Virginia, the state’s 37th park, which encompasses just over 1500 acres and was recently recognized as an International Dark Sky Park.
Read on for our in-depth guide to visiting Natural Bridge, including a list of the hiking trails, tourist attractions, and campgrounds in Natural Bridge VA.
Natural Bridge State Park VA Info
ADDRESS: 6477 South Lee Highway, Natural Bridge, VA 24578
OFFICE HOURS: Park open from 8:00 am to dusk; Visitor Center open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
ENTRY FEES: Per person, age 3-12, $6.00; age 13 and up, $9.00; parking at trailheads, $5.00
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
NATURAL BRIDGE VA DIRECTIONS:
From Roanoke VA, the trip to Natural Bridge State Park takes about 30 minutes. Travel north on I-81 to Exit 175 onto US-11 N. Follow US 11-N for 1.6 miles to VA-130 E. The parking area for the Visitor Center will be on the right.
From Richmond, getting to Natural Bridge requires about two hours. Use the I-95 N to get to I-64 W. After about 100 miles, take the exit for I-81 S. Travel southwest for around 42 miles to take Exit 180 onto the US-11 S. This will cross the VA-130 E in about 3.4 miles. The parking area for the Visitor Center is right at the intersection.
Natural Bridge Hiking Trails
In terms of state parks, Natural Bridge State Park, Virginia (there’s also a Natural Bridge State Resort Park in Kentucky) isn’t a particularly large one.
However, its boundaries are fairly packed with places to hike and things to see.
The one disadvantage is that all of the Natural Bridge hiking trailheads are in different locations.
But fortunately, these hiking trails are not far from one another…
Cedar Creek Trail
The Cedar Creek Trail is the main Natural Bridge hike.
This 0.8-mile trail starts behind the Visitor Center and follows along Cedar Creek, under the Natural Bridge, past the Monacan Indian Exhibit and Saltpeter Cave, beyond the Lost River, and to Lace Falls.
This Natural Bridge trail is the state park’s main draw. The Cedar Creek Trail is an easy hike, but the trip down and, more importantly, back up from the trailhead involves a lot of stairs.
The Skyline Trail is the place to go for the best of the scenic overlooks in Natural Bridge State Park. The trail is very short and rated easy, at just over half a mile.
Jefferson Point is the pinnacle for wide horizons. Skyline Trail’s parking area is located near a Virginia State Park Children’s Discovery Area as well, so it’s a great place for families.
This is also a prime place for having an afternoon picnic.
Blue Ridge Trail
The Blue Ridge Trail is the longest hiking trail in Natural Bridge park, at 3.3 miles.
But it’s a really pleasant walk, with less than 500 feet of elevation change and a wide, well-maintained pathway. And it’s a very quiet hike compared to the ever-popular Cedar Creek Trail.
The trail takes you through dense forest, with a couple of noteworthy viewpoints (particularly the Red Knob Overlook) offering views of the Appalachian Mountains and chances to spot wildlife along the way.
The Blue Ridge trailhead is just down the road from the Visitor Center, right across from Natural Bridge Caverns.
Buck Hill Trail
Buck Hill Trail is best summed up as a 2-mile hike in the woods. It’s a simple loop trail with no significant challenges, and no standout features of note.
That being said, the access points to the trail include Natural Bridge Caverns, which are definitely worthy of a visit. The other two access points are the Natural Bridge Cottages and Natural Bridge Church.
This would be a good walk for those who are hanging around the park for a bit longer, and looking to see more of it.
Campgrounds Near Natural Bridge State Park
In terms of camping, the state park has no facilities whatsoever.
However, there are an array of Natural Bridge State Park camping options nearby (many of which are very family-oriented, with lots of creature comforts).
There’s also a historic Natural Bridge Hotel located less than 100 yards from the park’s Visitor Center.
Natural Bridge Virginia KOA Campground
214 Kildeer Ln, Natural Bridge VA 24578 • 540-291-2770
The campgrounds have sites for RVs and tents, as well as Natural Bridge cabins to rent.
KOA offers the semi-rustic feeling of organized camping, but kids also get entertaining amenities like a pool and game room. There’s also a convenience store and gift shop.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Campgrounds In Boone NC
Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park
16 Recreation Ln, Natural Bridge VA 24578 • 540-291-2727
Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park is located five miles from Natural Bridge State Park, near the James River. It has full-service RV sites, tent sites, and romantic cabins for rent.
Jellystone’s Natural Bridge VA location includes a “splash park” water playground, regular playground, swimming pool, miniature golf course, and lakeside beach.
There are also opportunities to fish, picnic, play arcade games, and have birthday parties. In other words, it’s essentially a full-on mountain resort.
Jellystone also offers access to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Jefferson National Forest, and The Caverns at Natural Bridge.
Natural Bridge Historic Hotel & Conference Center
15 Appledore Ln, Natural Bridge VA 24578 • 540-291-2121
With incarnations stretching back to the early 1800s, the Natural Bridge Historic Hotel as we know it today was constructed in the mid-1960s after the original Natural Bridge Hotel was destroyed in a fire.
The modern version is part of the Wyndham Hotels portfolio.
It’s located just across the road from the Natural Bridge State Park Visitor Center and has luxurious rooms, event venues, and two restaurants on-site.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Roanoke VA
Natural Bridge Attractions
It’s a state park, sure, but it’s also a documented national treasure, with lots of things to do in the Natural Bridge area:
The Natural Bridge
Natural Bridge spans some 90 feet across and 215 feet above Cedar Creek.
The creek carved a gorge from the limestone that composes the bridge itself as well as the sheer cliff walls upon which the bridge sits.
US Route 11 (also called Lee Highway) runs atop Natural Bridge, but the best way to see it is from the Cedar Creek Trail.
The Monacan Indian Exhibit
The Monacan Indian Exhibit along the Cedar Creek Trail has replicas of Monacan houses, buildings, gardens, tools, and more.
While the park is wrought with colonial history, this is a responsible and necessary look at the history of the park prior to the arrival of European settlers.
Natural Bridge was a sacred site for the Monacan tribe, not to mention the setting for a great victory over their rivals, the Powhatans.
The final natural wonder along the Cedar Creek Trail, Lace Falls is one of the only noteworthy waterfalls in this part of Virginia’s Blue Ridge region.
The 30-foot cascade is formed by Cedar Creek, and it’s visible from a nice lookout area at the end of the out-and-back trail.
With several benches and shade here, it’s a fantastic location to enjoy a snack or rest before hiking back to the Natural Bridge State Park Visitor Center.
Children’s Discovery Area
The self-guided brochures that go along with Kids in Parks Track Trails teach them about local flora and fauna, geology, and history.
Friends of the Natural Bridge State Park helps to provide kid-friendly programs at the park, too.
The Caverns at Natural Bridge
There are several rooms in the Natural Bridge Caverns, with special features such as Mirror Lake and the stalactites and stalagmites of the Canyon Room.
The caverns are about a 15-minute walk from the Natural Bridge State Park Visitor Center, or a three-minute drive. —Jonathon Engels, photos by Emma Gallagher