Over Memorial Day weekend, my family took a trip to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. We had the most AMAZING time. If you’ve never visited this part of the country, you definitely need to plan a trip. Three days wasn’t long enough for us to take it all in, so we’re hoping to get back there soon. I intended to put together one post on all the things we did, but there’s just too much for only one story, so I’m breaking it down into one stop at a time. First up: Natural Bridge, Virginia.
Natural Bridge, Virginia
Natural Bridge is a State Park that was once owned by Thomas Jefferson. There’s a lot of cool history here, and there’s also a lot of natural beauty, making it the perfect mix for the entire family to enjoy. There is a small admission fee ($6-$8 per person- totally worth it. A portion of our trip was hosted but this piece we did on our own and are so glad we did!) and then you can either trek from the Visitor Center down the steps to start your hike (there are about 130 or so steps), or there is shuttle that will take you to the bottom of the hill. You can take that shuttle back up if you’d like when you’re done. We walked the whole thing and going down 130 steps is easier than going up!
The walk to Natural Bridge itself is pretty short, only about a quarter of a mile, but then you can hike beyond that to see some other cool sights that I’ve included photos of below. I say ‘hike’ but it’s a relatively easy walk. My kids were able to easily do it.
The scenery along the path is just gorgeous. Cedar Creek flows along the walkway, which is the creek that carved out Natural Bridge. Unbelievably, it used to be a cave and this is what’s left!
Natural Bridge is 215 feet high and it’s really stunning when you first come upon it. Carved out of limestone rock, it’s over 500 million years old!
Gorgeous view, isn’t it? We took a zillion photos. It’s hard to capture the beauty of this place on camera. But definitely take yours! Another tip: Keep an eye on the weather. It sprinkled but didn’t pour, thankfully, until after we left. I took a couple of umbrellas with us, but they let us know at the desk where we purchased tickets that if the rain is heavy, the walkway can flood and they will close the park.
The bridge above lead to the Salt Peter Cave that my kids are hiding in in the photo below.
This is the Lost River, and the sign posted in front of it says that despite using floats and color dyes no one has been able to determine the source of this river. It’s almost like a mini Natural Bridge, the way the water has carved out this opening.
Finally at the end of the hike you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of Lace Falls. I’d love to visit in the fall when the foliage probably looks incredible along the water.
Monacan Indian Village
About mid-way into the Park is a replica of a Monacan Indian Village. Natural Bridge was considered a sacred site by the Monacans, so this is a really cool place to exhibit their way of life and share it with all who visit. They actually made mud walls to surround the village, and there’s really informative signage to explain what each building is used for. This hut behind my daughter is a sleeping quarters.
The village is staffed from April 1 through Thanksgiving with actors that can tell you all about what it was like to live in a village like this one. This kind lady was in a hut where the women would work, doing things like weaving baskets and clothing. There was a separate hut for the men’s work.
Stopping here was a nice little break for the kids, and it was definitely some added bonus educational information for all of us. I love being able to experience these kind of things instead of just read about them in books. They make much more of a lasting impact.
You can learn more about Natural Bridge on the website. Depending on the ages of your kids and how well they can walk, I’d give yourselves a couple of hours to get this done from start to finish. We were kind of booking it because rain was looming, it’s a pretty mild hike with a few places to stop and take photos or take a breather (like the Salt Peter Cave and the Monacan Indian Village) along the way. And of course the coolest part, Natural Bridge, is very close to the entrance so you’ll definitely catch that even if you choose not the walk the entire thing.
Be sure to check out more fun things to do in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia! I’ll add links to my other posts about our visit as I get them up. Natural Bridge is a must-do, so don’t miss it while you’re in the area!
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