Camping and Hiking in Natural Bridge State Park, VA

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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.

READ MORE: Camping and Hiking in Grayson Highlands State Park, VA

Natural Bridge State Park Entrance in Natural Bridge VA
Natural Bridge State Park Entrance, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Natural Bridge State Park VA Info

ADDRESS: 6477 South Lee Highway, Natural Bridge, VA 24578

PHONE: 540-291-1326

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.

READ MORE: The Best Restaurants in Lexington VA & Natural Bridge VA for Foodies

The Front of Natural Bridge in Natural Bridge VA
The Front of Natural Bridge, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

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.

Skyline Trail

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 hike 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.

READ MORE: Tips for Tackling the McAfee Knob Hike Near Roanoke, Virginia

Monacan Village Natural Bridge State Park VA
Monacan Village at Natural Bridge State Park, photo by Emma Gallagher

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

https://koa.com/campgrounds/natural-bridge/

KOA’s Lexington/Natural Bridge Campground is located about 8 miles south of Lexington VA, and just 4 miles north of Natural Bridge State Park. The Virginia Safari Park is located a mile away.

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

https://www.sunoutdoors.com/virginia/jellystone-park-natural-bridge

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 deluxe 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 vacation resort.

Jellystone also offers access to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Jefferson National Forest, and The Caverns at Natural Bridge.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Campgrounds in the North Carolina Mountains

Natural Bridge Historic Hotel in Natural Bridge VA
Natural Bridge Historic Hotel, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Natural Bridge Historic Hotel & Conference Center

15 Appledore Ln, Natural Bridge VA 24578 • 540-291-2121

https://naturalbridgeva.com/

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.

The hotel offers several different specialty packages to accommodate romantic getaways, family vacations, and adventure travel. Check Rates on Booking.com.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Roanoke VA

Natural Bridge State Park Sign in Natural Bridge VA
Natural Bridge State Park Sign, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Natural Bridge Attractions

Natural Bridge State Park has some of the most remarkable geology and history within the Virginia State Parks system, not to mention the fantastic national forests and national parks of Virginia.

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.

READ MORE: 40 Fascinating Facts About Cherokee Culture & History

Lace Falls Natural Bridge VA
Lace Falls, photo by Emma Gallagher

Lace Falls

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 Children’s Discovery Area is a nod to the kiddos that visit this Virginia State Park. These spots have interactive hiking trails and outdoor classrooms, as well as fun play areas.

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

The Caverns at Natural Bridge are a popular attraction in Natural Bridge VA. Tours of the Cavern extend 34 stories beneath the Earth’s surface, and last about 45 minutes.

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

 

Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

After visiting the Western North Carolina for the first time, Jonathon Engels and his wife Emma spent two years looking for a few acres of property there to establish a permaculture homestead. During that search, he explored the Blue Ridge Parkway, surrounding towns, and parks. He has taught at both Blue Ridge Community College and Surry Community College, is a member of a long-established land conservation community near the town of Dobson, volunteers at the Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention, and continues to explore the Blue Ridge, a place he now lovingly calls home.