False Cape State Park: Virginia As Pocahontas Saw It
When you get to False Cape State Park, stop and close your eyes. Imagine you’re Captain John Smith stepping foot on land for the first time in months. Imagine what he might have felt as he gazed at this quiet, wild, desolate beach, birds screeching overhead.
Now open your eyes. This is what John Smith might have seen.This spectacular setting is a mile-wide sand barrier between Back Bay Wildlife Refuge and the Atlantic. Activities are limited to hiking, bicycling or boating. You can camp here, but it’s very primitive and you have to bring your own water. Hunting of deer and feral pigs is allowed on a limited basis.How did the park get its name? Sailors used to mistake it for Cape Henry…and ended up shipwrecked, giving False Cape its reputation as a ships graveyard. In fact, many of the buildings in the local community, Wash Woods, were built by shipwreck survivors using cypress wood from their wrecked ships.
Just remember, access to the park is only through Back Bay Wildlife Refuge. Those wishing to visit the park for the day must either bike or hike through the refuge , or by boat or canoe.
During the summer season an ecologically-friendly tram–called the Terra Gator– is available to take you from Back Bay and back, for $8 per person, round trip.
Overnight Parking At False Cape State Park
Set your directions for Little Island City Park on Sandpiper Road which provides overnight parking for those camping at False Cape State Park.
Depending on the time of year, the entrance may not be manned.
There is a nominal fee to park during the summer from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
The park gates close in the evenings so make sure you are aware of their hours before heading out. You can check times here .
If youre arriving on a holiday, there is a designated time when rangers open the gates.
Once you find a parking spot, put a copy of your campsite registration on the dashboard. This notifies the city park staff youre not missing and prevents them from towing your car.
Since the beach is blocked from Little Island City Park to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge to protect nesting birds, youll need to walk down the remainder of Sandpiper Road until you reach the entrance to Back Bay. Its less than half a mile and the road literally dead-ends at the entrance gate.
Things To Do At False Cape State Park
False Cape State Park is home to kayaking excursions, camping, hiking and biking trails, miles of beach and so much more.
False Cape State Park has a total of 15.3 miles of trails for hiking, biking and taking self-guided and guided tours.
Fishing and Boating
Freshwater and saltwater fishing are permitted at False Cape State Park with a valid Virginia fishing license. Boats and motorboats are also permitted.
False Cape State Park offers guided programs with the parks knowledgeable staff members. Browse the online schedule for interpretive programs, guided kayak tours, outdoor education programs, along with school and group programs. Theres even more to see and do at the parks environmental education center.
False Cape State Park offers primitive camping year-round. There are no cabins on site. The parks four, tents-only primitive campgrounds allow up to six people per site. Those interested in camping at False Cape State Park should reserve their campsite in advance.
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Getting To False Cape State Park
If you started looking into False Cape yourself, the instructions probably sounded complicated. Its actually quite easy and Ill walk you through the steps.
Before heading out, make sure you have two copies of your camping registration printed. After reserving your site, the confirmation form is emailed to you.
Exploring False Cape State Park
Hiking the Trails
Theres basically one main trail that goes through the park and into North Carolina. A few small loops peel off of the trail and head to the beach or little overlooks towards the bay
Youll find people on bicycles along the trails. Renting a bike and cycling through Back Bay and False Cape is a common activity for tourists and locals.
You can hike down to the North Carolina Outer Banks using the interior trail and stop by the remains of the old Wash Woods community on the way.
Wash Woods was a town including a church, grocery store, and school built by survivors of a shipwreck. Now, the only evidence the town existed is the steeple from the church and a small cemetery.
Housed in a small building, you can see the intricate construction used in making the steeple from random pieces of wood and metal.
Whether you make it all the way to the border or not, head back via the beach and enjoy the quiet and views.
Enjoying the Beach
Youre at the beach, you have to at least dip a toe in.
The water will likely be a little cold for swimming, but its not too bad. I didnt go in past my knees since I was by myself. Had there been a few people around, I may have considered going in further.
Keep in mind if youre staying at one of the False Cape campsite sections that there is no shower to rinse off the salt. Theres a pump with non-drinkable water, but I wouldnt use it to shower.
Enjoy a Spectacular Sunset
The colors are spectacular and it seems to last forever.
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False Cape State Park
Virginia State Parks provide comfortable and economical overnight accommodations, with 260 climate-controlled cabins and more than 1,700 campsites, ranging from primitive sites to developed sites with electric and water hookups. Many cabins are available year round. While most campgrounds are open from March 1 through the end of the first week of December, primitive campsites are available year-round. Please click here for cabin rental rates. Click here to check on availability and to reserve online or call 800-933-7275 Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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Visit False Cape State Park
Sponsored By:Virginia State Parks
Quincy is excited to check out False Cape State Park. This park is only accessible via bicycle or hiking, so he strapped on his hiking boots and set out.
Located at the southern eastern point of Virginia, False Cape State Park is where the Outer Banks begin.
Because this park so remote, visitors must be prepared before embarking on their 4 mile hike or bike ride.
This means having plenty of water and snacks as well as sun screen and bug repellant. But make sure to hold on to any empty bottles or packaging, as you should leave no trace to help preserve the wildlife and flora.
You will likely see some of the various wildlife as you hike through the park. This may include venomous snakes, so be sure to stay on the marked path.
If you are a history buff you can visit what remains of the Wash Woods Method Church, including a cemetery that dates back to the 1800s. There truly is something for everyone.
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About False Cape State Park
Tucked between the Atlantic Ocean near Sandbridge Beach and the Back Bay, False Cape State Park is one of the few remaining undeveloped areas on the Atlantic Coast. The nearly 4,000-acre park offers outdoor adventurers plenty of opportunities for scenic fun and relaxation in a primitive setting extending to the North Carolina state line.
Reasons To Enjoy A Virginia State Park Staycation In 2022
With 41 Virginia State Parks across Virginia, there’s something for everyone!
The past two years have felt like 10 years for many of us as we’ve gone through lockdowns, virtual school, and social distancing from family and friends. With spring just around the corner, make plans now to break free and enjoy a Virginia State Park staycation!
Whether you’re making plans for spring break or summertime or looking for a winter getaway, Lynchburg Macaroni Kid has you covered! Virginia State Parks are wonderful to explore in any season!
Here’s 10 reasons to put a Virginia State Park staycation at the top of your bucket list:
Close to home.
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Which Campsites Are Best
Each campsite has a tent pad that can easily fit two 2-person tents and a picnic table. Raccoon hangs are also available to keep the critters out of your food and each site has a privy.
Barbour Hill Beach sites are down a sandy trail. There is a potable water pump and a small shower to rinse off the saltwater. Sites are shaded and spaced well apart. This section has the most sites in one area. Its also the easiest section to reach with the least amount of hiking.
Barbour Hill Bay sites are down a trail past the Visitor Center. Theyre nice and flat with a lot of space. The bay is at the end of the trail for good views. This section seemed to be pretty buggy though.
False Cape Beach sites are in the section with the fewest tent spots, only three. Its down a little trail and very quiet. Theres a mens and womens privy which is interesting. Youll be more on your own in this section.
False Cape Bay sites are nice and large. There are no tent pads, but set areas where you can pitch tents. Larger groups would be more comfortable in this section. Kayakers could pull right up to the small dock and camp here. The sunset views from the bay are amazing.
More Information About False Cape State Park
For more information about False Cape State Park, visit DCR.Virginia.gov
False Cape State Park is open year-round from dusk to dawn.
Getting to False Cape State Park
False Cape State Park does not allow public vehicle access. The park is accessible by foot, bicycle, beach transport, tram or boat. The park operates a tram that leaves from the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge on Sandpiper Road. This tram travels through the refuge and gives visitors a chance to see the parks historic site.
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Explore A Different Side To Virginia Beach At False Cape State Park
When you think about spending the day outdoors in Virginia Beach, your mind immediately goes to the sandy beaches along the Atlantic Ocean. Along with the beach, there are several other ways to have some fun in the great outdoors. Among the many things to do in Virginia Beach, a must-do is spending a day at False Cape State Park.
False Cape State Park Planning Your Trip
Before you plan your trip, youll want to be aware that there is no car camping at False Cape State Park. You will need to hike or bike 4 to 6 miles to your campsite.
Because you cant drive into the park, they are clear to state that overnight stays are only recommended for experienced backpackers.
Youll be on your own with limited resources, including water. Dont worry though, the park will provide a lot of information to help you prepare.
As part of ensuring campers know what theyre getting into, campsite reservations are only done via phone, and same-day reservations are not allowed.
The wonderful staff and volunteers that answer the phones will go through all the information and help you choose a site.
There are no bears at False Cape, but there are raccoons and coyotes. The park does not allow open flames , but you can use a stove and fuel to cook.
Whether you hike on the trails or the beach, shade is minimal so consider a high SPF sunscreen. Bugs are also an issue. I was there in late September with bug spray and still came back with bites.
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Tl: Dr False Cape State Park Things To Know
You cannot drive your car into False Cape State Park. All campers need to hike in approximately 4 to 6 miles.
Camping is permitted year-round with reservations. They do not allow same-day reservations and you cannot make reservations online. You must call and receive a registration packet.
Read through the packet thoroughly and follow the instructions.
Make sure you read through all of the rules for Little Island City Park, Back Bay Wildlife Refuge, and False Cape State Park, including any fees and dates they may apply.
Biting insects are a problem in the summer months so have lots of insect repellent. I visited in mid-September and had to use bug spray. Even then, I still got bit.
The area is remote with limited access. Overnight camping is recommended only for experienced individuals.
You can enter False Cape State Park through North Carolina, however, I couldnt locate information on parking or directions. Also, consider that it would be the most northern area of the Outer Banks and could be quite a drive.
There is no shade hiking via the beach or the internal trails of Back Bay. Hikers should be prepared for intense sun with hats, sunscreen, and plenty of water.
The hike from your car to the campsites varies depending on the site. Using interior trails it can be 6 to 9 miles. Using the beach I approximate 4 to 7 miles.
Campsite And Water Locations
The park is long and narrow. Its about a mile across with the Currituck Bay on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. From the Visitor Center, its about 8 to 9 miles to the North Carolina border.
Multiple primitive campsites are organized into four locations: Barbour Hill Bay Side, Barbour Hill Ocean Side, False Cape Bay Side, False Cape Ocean Side.
Pumps with potable water are located at the 2 Barbour Hill sections and in front of the Visitor Center
The False Cape campsites are further down as you walk towards the North Carolina border and do not have water pumps. To reach the False Cape sites from the Visitor Center its about 2.2 miles using the interior trails and 1.5 miles hiking down the beach.
Needless to say, if youre staying at a False Cape site, stop and top up water before you head in.
Once you reach your campsite, youll clip the second printed copy of your registration to the board next to the site number. The rangers will come by and officially check you in as they make their rounds.
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Going Through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Back Bay has its own hours and rules which you can read up on here:
Dogs are not allowed in Back Bay so you wont be able to bring along your four-footed friend unless you kayak into the park. It can be done, but the site warns there are strong currents and only experienced kayakers should attempt it.
If the entrance gate is manned, there is a fee of $2 per person to hike through Back Bay. Bicyclers pay $5.
The next part is the least fun portion of the trip. Its a mile walk down a paved road in the hot sun from the main gate to the Back Bay Visitor Center.
Once you reach the parking lot for Back Bay with the Visitor Center and the trailheads, you may have a choice, depending on the time of year.
Between April 1 and October 31, you have two options.
Option 1: Hike through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge using their internal East Dike Trail or West Dike Trail.
Option 2: Hike the Seaside Trail to the beach and walk down the beach to False Cape State Park.
Between November 1 and March 31, there is only one option, hike the Seaside Trail to the beach. The internal trails for Back Bay close during this time.
The beach is faster and about a mile shorter by my estimation. Its much easier to walk it at low tide or when the high tide has just gone out.
During my visit, I opted to hike into False Cape via the Back Bay trails and return to my car on Sunday via the beach.