The natural arch
Blue Ridge Parkway,  Natural Bridge,  USA

Natural Bridge State Park: butterflies and hiking

In 2015 we drove the Blue Ridge Parkway and made a small detour to Natural Bridge. We loved exploring Natural Bridge, it was one of the many cool things we did on our 6 week road trip through the USA.

Where is Natural Bridge State Park?

Natural Bridge State Park is only 24 kilometers (15 miles) from the Blue Ridge Parkway. An approximately 30 minute detour. Natural Bridge is located in Rockbridge County in the state of Virginia.

Some facts about Natural Bridge State Park

The natural bridge is a geological formation carved out in the surrounding limestone gorge by the Cedar Creek. It’s the remains of a roof or tunnel through which the Cedar Creek ran. The bridge is 66 meters (215 foot) high and has a span of 27 meters (90 feet). The park encompasses 1.540.22 acres. Natural Bridge is on the crossing of US Route 11 and State Route 130. US Route 11 even runs across the bridge. This isn’t visible from the hiking path below.

The Natural Bridge
The Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988 and is also a Virginia Historic Landmark. On 24 September 2016 Natural Bridge became a state park under management of the Commonwealth of Virginia, although still owned by VCLF. It’s the only state park on privately owned land. In the past Thomas Jefferson owned the area with the arch.

Hiking

There are almost 10 kilometers (6 miles) of hiking trails. We did the Cedar Creek Trail, it’s the trail that leads to the natural arch, under it and further along Cedar Creek. Along the hiking trail is a reconstruction of a Monacan Indian Village, and at the end of the trail a 9.1 meters (300 foot tall) Lace Falls, a cascade. We loved admiring the Natural Bridge, it’s really high. We loved all the butterflies we found while hiking. They were everywhere. Someone had spilled juice and we could admire the butterflies even from up close.

Lace Falls
Lace Falls

There are 2 other trails, the Buck Hill Trail 2 miles long and the Blue Ridge Trail which is over 3 miles long. From this last trail you can see the Blue Ridge Mountains with their beautiful forests and rolling meadows and the James River valley.

Butterflies on the other shore from the creek
Butterflies

Monacan Indian Village

They have rebuilt an Indian village to showcase how the Monacan Indians lived in this area in earlier times. We loved getting a look inside the tents, seeing the tools that were used and the explanation given.

The inside of a Monacan tent at Natural Bridge
The inside of a Monacan tent

These are the Living History Programs that are provided by the park, so that people can learn about how the native Americans once used the area’s resources to survive.

Tools of the Monacan
Tools of the Monacan

Bridge Entrance & Gift Shop

The Visitor Center at Natural Bridge.
The Visitor Center

Near the visitor center there’s a beautiful view on the Blue Ridge Mountains. We spent some time admiring this view. The bridge entrance houses exhibits and a gift shop.

Yuri standing next to a black bear
Yuri standing next to a black bear

From here there’s also a shuttle going to the bridge trail, if the stairs that come first are too much for you.

The view near the visitor center
The view near the visitor center

What else is there?

Besides these things there’s the “Drama of Creation” light show in the evening. The state park organizes events, for instance on art. Fishing is allowed on Cedar Creek for 15 years and under.

Address:

6477 South Lee Highway

Natural Bridge

VA 24578

(540) 291-1326

Opening hours vary throughout the year. Admission is $ 6 for 6-12 years and $ 8 for 13 years and older.

Conclusion

We enjoyed our visit to Natural Bridge. It wasn’t a state park yet on our visit, but the experience wasn’t any less because of that. We spent about 3 hours at the park and find it a good side trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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