As we start the semester and the weather moves from hellishly hot to tolerably temperate, it is the perfect time to enjoy the beautiful outdoors that Virginia has to offer. From beautiful sandy beaches to forested mountains and picturesque views, the Virginian natural landscapes are not to be missed. Luckily, not only can we enjoy our own lake Matoaka right on campus, but we have a number of fantastic national and state parks even just a twenty-minute drive away. Here are five National and State parks that would be great for weekend trips, day trips, or even just a couple hours on study break.
York River State Park
- John Gresham/Virginia Dept. of Conservation and Recreation
York River State Park is just a twenty-minute drive from campus and offers boating, hiking, biking, canoeing or just hanging out at a picnic site. The park has a full calendar of established events including hikes and kayak trips on the York River. Additionally, from May to October the park leads moonlight canoe trips on evenings during the full moon and starlight canoe trips during the new moon.
Grandview Nature Preserve
- Courtesy of This is Hampton Virginia
The Grand Nature Preserve is a 45 minute to an hour drive away from campus and with its 2.5 mile, sandy, bay front beach it is great for a warm beach day. This 500-acre reserve holds a number of different environments including marsh, woodland, and beach front providing diverse possibilities for all different kinds of animal sightings. Trails can lead you through the wetlands and wooded patches around the preserve then you can cool down by taking a dip in the water.
Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Reserve
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Although the name of this reserve may sound a bit dreary, the park itself is far from dismal. Located in Suffolk, the reserve is maybe an hour and a half drive away from campus and has all sorts of available hikes and an abundance of wildlife to see. The swamp has a huge diversity of animals from black bears and river otters to butterflies and birds so wildlife sightings are always available.
Savage Neck Dunes State Natural Area Preserve
- Virginia Dept. of Conservation and Recreation
The Savage Neck Dunes are unique around the Virginian East coast for its collection of dunes going up to 50 feet high. Although this preserve is between an hour and a half and two hours away from campus, the white sanded, mostly unpopulated beach is very worth it. There is a short, yet pretty one-mile hike to the beach where you can find lots of migratory birds in the fall and the large sand dunes all year round.
Shenandoah National Park
- NPS/Neil Lewis
About a two-hour drive from William and Mary, the Shenandoah National Park is the farthest park from campus on the list but is worth the drive. The park flaunts 200,000 acres of protected land with woods, waterfalls, and incredible views that would make any weekend getaway better. The park has over 500 miles of hiking trails, rock climbing opportunities for all levels, and some beautiful waterfalls to check out because who does not love a good waterfall?
While most of these parks are free for entry, some like the Shenandoah do have a small entrance fee to keep these parks beautiful. So, while working hard on campus, remember to take some time outside especially since we do not know how long the good weather will last.