Sometimes we just need to be alone – or at least away from the crowds. And even though it can seem an almost impossible task these days to get away from the business of our daily lives, Virginia has a number of hidden getaways that offer just the escape we need. Here are 7 places that you can explore when you need a break or just want some one-on-one time with nature.
1. The Channels Natural Area Preserve, Abingdon
Sandstone structures create craggy mazes at the summit of Middle Knob on Clinch Mountain, giving you a surreal sense of solitude. With an elevation of more than 4,200 feet, this peak is truly above the mundane worries of everyday life.
2. False Cape State Park, Virginia Beach
Far from the crowds of the boardwalk lies the False Bay State Park, one of the last undeveloped Atlantic Coast areas. The beautifully preserved landscape include 6 miles of coastline and offers kayaking, camping, interpretive programs exploring the park’s Native American history, hiking, and biking trails. Cars are not allowed so the park can only be reached by foot, bike, beach transport, tram or boat so plan accordingly.
3. Hidden Valley Lake, Washington County
Tucked away in the mountains of Washington County, Hidden Valley Lake sits at an elevation of 3,500 feet in the Hidden Valley Wildlife Management Area. Motorboats are not allowed, making it a perfect place for peaceful fishing, picnicking, or just enjoying all that nature has to offer.
4. The Devil’s Bathtub, Fort Blackmore
For a breathtaking break from reality, all you need is a 1.5 mile hike on the Devil’s Fork Loop Trail in the Jefferson National Forest. It’s a tricky path with streams and slippery rocks, but once you reach Devil’s Bathtub – a pool of nearly crystal green water at the base of a stone slide – you will know it was well worth it.
5. Arlington Woods, Arlington National Cemetery
There’s nothing more delightful than discovering a quiet hideaway in the midst of a crowd. While the Arlington National Cemetery is already a place of peace and reflection, it can get busy, especially during the summer months. The Arlington Woods sit just behind the Arlington House, the former residence of Robert E. Lee, and contain the oldest and largest tract of hardwood forest still remaining in Arlington.
6. Upper Cascades and Barney’s Wall, Pembroke
The Cascades Trail in Giles County remains one of the most popular hiking trails in the area. On any given weekend, the path might contain a steady flow of hikers looking to reach the stunning waterfall at the trail's end. However, what many people don’t realize is that another waterfall rests just a mile or so past the main falls (known as the Lower Falls). The “Upper Falls” are equally breathtaking, but offer much more solitude. If you’re looking for a bit of adventure, carry on to find Barney’s Wall, a 700’ sheer rock face with panoramic views of the New River Valley.
7. Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Vienna
Sometimes finding solitude can feel like a journey... an actual journey… in the car…for hours... But it doesn’t have to be! Sometimes it’s just finding that place where you can stop and breathe in a bit more deeply and enjoy the moment. The Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna promise that kind of peace. Rarely crowded, the gardens offer trails and quiet spaces at every turn.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. Virginia has more hidden gems and secret hideaways than we can count. But these places will at least help get you started. In the meantime, where do you go to get away? Maybe it’s a neighborhood park, an art museum, a hidden beach cove or a hike in the mountains. Wherever it is, let us know!