Natural Bridge State Park

Natural Bridge State Park

Once owned by Thomas Jefferson and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 215-foot tall Natural Bridge is a limestone gorge carved out by Cedar Creek. The newest Virginia State Park is more than just the bridge. Beautiful forests, open, rolling meadows showcase the area’s karst terrain, and vistas of surrounding mountains and the James River valley display nature’s splendor. Access these via 6 miles of hiking trails, including the accessible Cedar Creek Trail that leads from the bridge to the Monacan Indian Village and Lace Falls with its 30-foot cascade. Living history programs connect you to the past and cover how people once used the area’s resources for survival and inspiration. Start at the Rockbridge Center where you will find exhibits and a gift shop.

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Image Credit: Image courtesy: Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation

Hours

8 a.m. - dusk

(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)

Fees

Admission per person is $6 for ages 6-12 and $8 for those 13 and older.

Activities

Trails

More than 6 miles of hiking trails wind through the park providing a glimpse of nature. The Cedar Creek Trail is universally accessible and goes under the Natural Bridge to the Monacan Village, Lost River and Lace Falls. The nearly 2 miles of Buck Hill Trail and more than 3 miles of the Monacan Trail offer spectacular views of the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains. Pack a lunch to take along and enjoy many scenic vistas. Cedar Creek Trail access beyond the bridge is limited during winter; call before arriving for details.

Swimming

There are not designated swimming areas.

Fishing and Boating

There are no designated fishing areas in the park, but the nearby James River has plenty of sunfish, smallmouth bass, catfish and muskie. Access the James from DGIF ramps in Buchanan and Arcadia in Botetourt County and take out in Glasgow in Rockbridge County.

Nature and History Programs

Experience life in a typical Monacan Indian settlement in the park’s outdoor exhibit from April 1 through Thanksgiving weekend. Learn about gardening, cooking, tool production, pottery making, basket weaving and more. An indoor classroom offers an alternative Monacan history exhibit including a replica wigwam as well as a nature exhibit when the outdoor exhibit is closed seasonally or because of inclement weather. Programs about the area's geology and diverse biology also are available.

Water Flow Info:

Facilities

Visitor Center, gift shop and snack bar

Accessibility

  • The Rockbridge Center
  • Restrooms at the Gate House
  • Accessible shuttle to Natural Bridge features a wheelchair lift
  • Cedar Creek Trail is accessible as far as the Monacan Village

Nearby Places

History

In 1774, Thomas Jefferson bought the bridge and 157 surrounding acres from King George III of England for 20 shillings. The bridge passed from one private owner to the next and became a tourist destination.

In May 2013, then owner Angelo Puglisi announced plans to sell the Natural Bridge complex by year's end. Nearby Lexington, Rockbridge and Buena Vista passed resolutions urging a positive outcome as did land trusts across Virginia and the nation. The Valley Conservation Council and Rockbridge Area Conservation Council hosted tours, wrote articles, encouraged support and formed the Friends of Natural Bridge.

On Feb. 6, 2014, the dream to ensure protection of the bridge in perpetuity came together thanks to the nonprofit Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund and its leader, Tom Clarke. Puglisi gifted the bridge and 188 acres of the property — valued at $21 million — to the fund. The nonprofit group agreed to pay for the remaining 1,300 acres with a loan from the Virginia Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund, from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia Resources Authority.

The state will not own the Natural Bridge property until the debt is paid off but took over management of about 1,500 acres here on Sept. 24, 2016. The state park does not include the Natural Bridge Hotel and Conference Center or the Caverns at Natural Bridge. Learn about the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund's facilities and activities here as well.

Weather

Last updated: August 27, 2019
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