Once revered by the Monacan Indians, surveyed by George Washington, and owned by Thomas Jefferson the awe-inspiring Natural Bridge has been an important Virginia tourist attraction since the 18th Century.
Located about 14 miles south of Lexington, Natural Bridge became Virginia’s 37th State Park on September 24, 2016. At the dedication ceremony, then-Governor Terry McAullife said, “The historical and geological significance of Natural Bridge is beyond question, and I am pleased to announce that this property will now be operated for public benefit and enjoyment.”
The bridge is 215 feet high and spans 90 feet across Cedar Creek, which carved the formation from adjacent limestone. Start your trip at the Visitor Center and take the long series of steps down to the path along the creek and onto the Natural Bridge. (Yes, the steps are a bit steep coming back.) Interpretive signs are posted along the way. There is also a shuttle to the trailhead if you prefer to shorten the walk.
The 1,500-acre park includes several other attractions, such as six miles of hiking trails with classic Blue Ridge vistas, the 30-foot Lace Falls, a gift shop, and a re-created Monacan Indian village (open April 1 through Thanksgiving) where living history demonstrations entertain and educate. The popular “Drama of Creation” light show continues to be shown in the evening, and Rangers conduct various programs such as “Skulls and Skins, where those parts are used to identify local wildlife.
Journey to Natural Bridge and you’ll see why Thomas Jefferson called it, “the most sublime of Nature’s works.”
Getting There: From I-81, take exit 175 or 180A to U.S. 11 and follow signs to the park.
Getting In: Admission per person is $6 for ages 6-12 and $8 for those 13 and older.
See the video
Natural Bridge took a long and somewhat unusual path toward becoming a state park. Additional reading on that history may be found in a Roanoke Times article and a press release from Gov. McAuliffe.
Nearby and Notable:
Natural Bridge Hotel and Conference Center
The Caverns at Natural Bridge
Virginia Safari Park (Opening March 10, 2018)
Banner photo courtesy VTC/Sarah Hauser