Why you should explore state parks

Aerial view of Pocahontas State Park

For most of us summer is in full swing which usually leads to more opportunities to get outside and play. When pulling out the map or tapping into your brain trust, think outside the box and research places you have yet to visit in our state or neighboring state (West by God Virginia).  One of the best resources for outdoor exploring is the state park systems within Virginia and West Virginia. This is exactly what I did with my youngest son Carter (11) last week.

For years I’ve heard about Pocahontas State Park, just south of Richmond.  This Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) park, around for a long time, has jumped onto the cycling radar over the past 2 decades because of their increased development of mountain bike trails, 43 miles in total. After some interweb digging, I was super excited when my research found yurt rentals available at Pocahontas State Park, and openings during my planned father/son escape week. Our 3 days and 2 nights of stay at Pocahontas included a little bit of everything including swimming, canoeing, mountain biking and general campground fun.

Functionally speaking, a yurt is a cross between a tent and a cabin

The mountain biking at Pocahontas is fun especially for beginners  and sometimes hard to find in our part of the state. The smooth, flat and flowing mountain bike trails were accessible from our yurt via the park’s natural-surface trail system. This meant our car never moved during our stay at the park. Because the 43 mile mountain bike trail system is compact, it is easy to escape quickly and great for kids who’s tank goes from full to empty in a split second.

I used to think since I live in Harrisonburg and am surrounded by National Forest and National Park, there was not a need for state parks in our area, but my mind has changed.  State parks have something that most National Forests do not offer, more amenities and recreational opportunities in a condensed environment. The National Forest is a different experience, as it should be, and I love it for its unique and remote recreational opportunities.

There are 43 miles of mountain bike trails in Pocahontas State Park

Why am I raving about state parks? Because the newest Virginia State Park, Seven Bends State Park, is close to Harrisonburg!  Having explored Seven Bends State Park recently, I know it is in its infancy, but like a newborn, it will grow into something great.  After our recent visit to Pocahontas State Park, I can see a future vision for Seven Bends State Park: a park with boating opportunities, cabin and yurt rentals and trails for all users.

There are two cycling-related activities that will help grow and mature the Seven Bends State Park; one is the development of the Shenandoah Rail Trail and the other is Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) assistance with trail development and the state’s Recreational Trails Program. These trail opportunities will be an asset for the Shenandoah Valley and our entire state park system.  While the projects are years from completion, I am confident with our help and support, they will come to fruition. Maybe one day, someone will take their son to Seven Bends State Park, stay in a yurt or cabin, ride the trails, and create memories of a lifetime.

Enjoy your summer and think about a state park trip for your next new adventure.

Here’s to summer 2022! – Thomas & Carter Jenkins