Useful Trail News
Covid-19 and Virginia State Parks
Last Updated: Aug. 11, 2020
As the commonwealth eases public health restrictions put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19, Virginia State Parks reminds all guests to not let your guard down and do your part to keep yourself and others safe and healthy.
IMPORTANT: Face coverings are required in all park facilities and where social distancing is not possible. Please remember to bring a face covering with you and to use it when needed.
Phase 3 Reopening Updates
Picnic shelters and group sites are open.
Visitor centers, gift shops and other buildings are open on a park-by-park basis with adjusted hours of operation.
Operating hours at park facilities may be reduced to meet staffing demands.
Maximum group sizes of 250 people and social distancing will be enforced.
Some ranger-led programs may be available depending on the scope of the program and available staffing.
Protocols are in place to look after the safety of all guests and staff.
Check this page for closures at parks.
Anyone planning to visit a park through the summer should anticipate changes to normal park operations. Some facilities remain closed, and other amenities will not be available
Anyone who is sick or has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should stay home.
State parks in Northern Virginia could be impacted differently because of delayed reopening rules.
Guidelines for park visits:
Know before you go. Check the website of the park you intend to visit for any alerts. Have an alternate plan in case the park is at capacity when you arrive.
Stay close to home. If you’re sick with any ailment, stay home.
Guests should bring their own soap and hand sanitizer to use during visits.
Groups and gatherings of more than 250 people are prohibited and these restrictions will be enforced by park staff.
Bring face coverings. Face coverings are required in all park facilities and in outdoor areas where social distancing is not possible.
Respect social distance. Keep a distance of at least 6 feet from others at all times. While on trails, alert others of your presence and step aside to let others pass at a safe distance.
Play it safe. Choose lower-risk activities. Injuring yourself puts medical providers at risk and places unnecessary strain on medical resources.
Parking fees remain in place. If entrance contact stations are not staffed, self-pay is available, and we recommend you bring cash or check for the daily parking fees (PDF).
Trails for hiking, biking and equestrian use
Cabins & Lodges (see COVID-19 Update for Cabins for important details).
Camping cabins, group sites, bunkhouses and yurts
Boat and bike rentals (will vary by park)
Tidal beaches (see guidelines below)
Swimming beaches (see details below as beaches will gradually open)
Picnic tables and grills
Visitor Centers, gift shops and other buildings (with limitations, face coverings required in all facilities)
Chairlift at Natural Tunnel State Park (limited schedule)
Martin’s Station at Wilderness Road State Park
Closed until further notice
Shuttle services (includes the shuttle at Natural Bridge State Park)
Splash Spray Ground at Occoneechee State Park
Closed through Summer 2020
Horse livery at New River Trail State Park
OPEN: Tidal beaches at Leesylvania, Widewater, Caledon, Westmoreland, Belle Isle, York River, Chippokes, Kiptopeke, First Landing and False Cape.
Guests are advised that beaches at these parks are often small with limited spacing for beach recreation. Some are merely thin strips of sand along the shoreline. They are not guarded for swimming.
OPEN: Swimming beaches at Bear Creek Lake, Douthat, Holliday Lake, Lake Anna, Twin Lakes, Hungry Mother, Smith Mountain Lake, Claytor Lake and Fairy Stone.
These beaches will be available according to the following safety protocols:
Beachgoers will be required to practice social distancing between non-related groups
No entertainment or programming that generate mass gatherings
No beach playsets, tents or grouping of umbrellas
No team sports – i.e. soccer, volleyball, football
If the density of beachgoers increases on a beach, parking capacity may be reduced. In addition, park staff will initiate temporary beach closures if overcrowding occurs to ensure the safety of visitors and staff.
Camping, Cabins and other accommodations
Campgrounds for tent and RV camping, camping cabins and yurts are open. Cabins are open as well. Please see the reservation update page for more details.
If you have concerns or questions about future reservations, please call our Customer Service Center at 800-933-7275, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wait times may be long due to high call volume.
See more information about reservation cancellations.
What You Can Do
Keep in mind that you are recreating in a public facility. While we are making increased efforts toward sanitation, each surface is only as clean as the last person who touched it. Therefore, you should take steps to protect your health by following these guidelines provided by the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control:
Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time.
Avoid touching your face.
If you’re sick with any ailment, stay home. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
When in public, maintain a social distance of at least six feet.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw it away. If you don’t have a tissue, use your elbow.
Clean surfaces you touch regularly.
Looking for more information about the coronavirus? Here are a few resources to help:
Governor Northam's Updates
Centers for Disease Control
Virginia Department of Health
December 2, 2019 SEAT Meeting
Guest Speaker: Mike Barber-Director of Parks, Recreation and Tourism for Chesapeake spoke about the availability of funds for improvement projects at the city parks over the next few years. He emphasized the need for better communication between the horse community and the department. Mike suggested creating a committee and/or having folks from the horse community serve on the Chesapeake Parks, Recreation, and Tourism advisory board, which meets the first Thursday of each month. Currently there are several improvement projects in the works at Northwest River Park, such as; the paving of the gravel road from the ranger station to the river, building a new ranger station and removing the old buildings, and repairing the Marjorie Rein Memorial walkway. The future Heritage Park has funds available also, but needs to have input from the horse community on each phase of development. The Dismal Swamp trail was mentioned as a concern for riding due to the overgrowth of scrubs and branches along the edge of the road forcing the horses to walk on the asphalt. Mike encouraged us to call the main contact number at 757-382-6411 with any concerns such as this one. Kevin Kaul-Parks Manager, Lauren- Northwest River Park, and Ana Elezovic-Planner II were also in attendance from the city.
Please let the city know that we would like to see some of the money allocated to go to improvements to the equestrian areas and equestrian trails. The more people that voice their support or concerns for Northwest River Park, Heritage Park, and Dismal Swamp Canal Trail, the better the chances are of seeing improvements.
You can email your comments to;
Chesapeake Parks & Rec. at ContactPRT@cityofchesapeake.net
Chesapeake’s City Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org
Chesapeake’s City Council at email@example.com