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False Cape State Park is located in the Southeast corner of Virginia Beach and consists of a narrow strip of land that runs from North to South between the Atlantic Ocean and Back Bay. Despite being in the states largest city, it is one of the most remote state parks because one cannot access it by car. Those who wish to visit must drive to Back Bay National wildlife refuge or Little Island City Park, both located to the North, and then they can walk, bike, or ride a tram into False Cape. Both of the above parks require a parking fee and the wildlife refuge requires an entrance fee as well, depending on the time of year. False Cape can also be accessed by boat as there are several docks along the bay side of the park. False Cape is rich in history and had been inhabited for centuries before it became a park in 1980. Also in False Cape was the farming community of Wash Woods. Between the 1880s and the 1920s this community boasted 300 people but shifting sands and hurricanes prompeted most of the people to leave in the 20s and 30s.
Outdoor Recreation Award for: Amazing Spots, Hiking, Scenic Views
Activities At This Destination: Biking, Boating and Water Sports, Camping, Educational Activities, Fishing, Gifts and Shopping, Hiking, Hunting, Picnicking, Wildlife Activities and Canoeing and Kayaking
The Barbour Hill Trail transects the park from Back Bay on the west side of the park to the beach on the Atlantic Ocean side of the park. An easy 1.4 mile trail for hiking and biking, it is accessible from the main Marsh Ridge entrance trail, from the Sand Ridge Trail and from the northern part of the beach near campsites four through six. This trail passes by the Visitor Center and, before the park's establishment, was once used as a small landing strip by local hunt clubs.
Blaze Color: Gold
The Cemetery Trail is a .90 mile, moderate difficulty trail, that is accessible from the Sand Ridge Trail and the Maritime Trail. The trail surface is very sandy, crossing over the dunes and across the Sand Ridge Trail. Hard surface matting connects to the Sand Ridge Trail and runs parallel to the Cemetery Trail to make access easier. The trail is named for the cemetery and former church site through which it passes. The Wash Woods Methodist Church was abandoned in 1922 and succumbed to the migrating dunes and Atlantic storms that have virtually wiped away the former community of Wash Woods. Today, all that remains is part of the steeple and the nearby graveyard. One can see that all of the graves are positioned with the head pointed towards the west, in tune with the strong Christian tradition.
Blaze Color: Blue
The Dudley Island Loop Trail is a 1.3 mile, easy loop trail, accessible from the Sand Ridge Trail. This trail leads to the site of one of the many hunt clubs that used to be in this area. All that remains is the small caretaker's house that was adjacent to the club. At the end of the trail there is a small loop around an area of tall grasses where the hunt club used to stand.
Blaze Color: Brown
The False Cape Landing Trail is a .7 mile, moderate difficulty trail, that is accessible from the Sand Ridge Trail, the False Cape Landing Boat Dock, and from the beach access point at its eastern end. The trail is one of three trails in the park that connect the Back Bay on the west side of the park, to the beach on the Atlantic Ocean side of the park. It is also the shortest of these spanning trails and the most centrally located in the park, making it popular for boaters and surfers wishing to access the beach. The trail passes by campsites 10-12 to the west and campsites 7-9 to the east. The trail takes users over the sand dunes to the ocean.
Blaze Color: Gray
The Maple Leaf Trail is a .7 mile, easy trail, accessible from the Sand Ridge and from the beach just south of the False Cape Landing Trail. It runs very close to the False Cape Landing Trail, but is somewhat narrower and more scenic. The trail crosses over the dunes and leads to an observation point where views of this pristine and secluded seashore are the reward. The name of the trail commemorated the Civil War "Maple Leaf Incident" where the USS Maple Leaf was overtaken by Confederate soldiers who escaped through the marshes of Back Bay to rejoin their regiment in North Carolina.
Blaze Color: Yellow
The Maritime Trail is a .7 mile, moderate difficulty trail, accessible from the Sand Ridge Trail and from the beach access point just south of the Wash Woods Trail. The trail connects with the Sundew Trail and passes through areas that were formerly inhabited by members of the Wash Woods community. Occasionally, remnants of the past in the form of old bottles, cars, and farming equipment can be seen poking through the sand.
Blaze Color: Orange
The Marsh Ridge Trail is a .7 mile, easy trail at the park's northern entrance. It connects with Sand Ridge Trail near the park's Visitor Center. Winding through the park?s impoundments and marsh areas, this trail highlights the transition from marsh to dune ecology. An overlook platform is at the beginning of the trail and is excellent for bird watching and wildlife photography.
Blaze Color: Light Green
The Monument Trail is an easy, 0.1 mile trail, that spans between the Dudley Island Loop Trail and the Ocean Pearl Trail. At the monument site, one can see the obelisk that was placed in 1887 by governor Fitzhugh Lee (nephew of Robert E. Lee) to commemorate the 1728 surveying of the state line.
Blaze Color: Pink
The Ocean Pearl Trail is a .4 mile, easy trail that connects with Sand Ridge Trail and the Monument Trail near the park's southern boundary. The trail dead ends at the North Carolina border, but is not the main southern trailhead that is located on the Atlantic Ocean beach.
Blaze Color: Light Blue
The Sand Ridge Trail is the park's main trail. A 6.2 mile, moderate trail, that runs almost the entire length of the park, several overlooks can be accessed from this trail. Its northernmost access point is near the Visitor's Center at the intersection with the Barbour Hill Trail. The trail provides access to nearly all other trails in the park. At the southern end of the trail, hikers may access the Monument Trail, Ocean Pearl Trail, and the trail head at the North Carolina border. This trail is open to hikers and bicyclists though bicycle riders should watch for loose and shifting sand as most bikes will have to be walked through these areas. When hiking the park's trails watch for wild ponies and feral pigs which should not be approached or fed as they can be aggressive.
Blaze Color: Green
The Sandy Point Trail is a 0.8 mile, easy trail for hiking and biking that passes through areas of shrub oak and pine trees. The runs north-south near campsites 1 through 3 and provides an alternate route out of the park to the north. This trail provides access to the Barbour Hill Boat Dock which is the launching point for guided interpretive kayaking programs. There are overlook spurs to Back Bay off this trail-Teal Overlook, Tundra Swan Overlook, and Widgeon Overlook. Please look at the events and programs schedule for more information.
Blaze Color: Dark Green
South Inlet Trail is a .3 mile easy trail located just south of the Barbour Hill area. It is accessible from the Sand Ridge Trail and takes hikers west to an overlook of Back Bay. It runs by the South Inlet, which is believed to have been formed during a hurricane in the 1700s and at one point flowed uninterrupted from the Back Bay to the Atlantic Ocean.
Blaze Color: Red
The Sundew Trail is a .3 mile, easy trail that connects the Maritime Trail and Wash Woods Trail. Seasonally, the trail area is in bloom with Sundew flowers, which are carnivorous plants similar to Venus fly traps. The trail is deep sand and bikes are not permitted.
Blaze Color: Purple
The Vir-Mar Trail is a .3 mile, easy trail provides access to the Wash Woods Environmental Education center, the former Swan Hunt Club, a seasonal duck hunting club, and now an interpretive center that overlooks the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge.
Blaze Color: Black
The Wash Woods Trail is a .66 mile, easy trail that parallels the Maritime Trail and provide access to the Sundew Trail. It is accessible from the Sand Ridge Trail. Wild ponies, fox, white-tailed deer, and a variety of waterfowl are all often visible from this trail. The east end of the trail terminates at the Atlantic Ocean.
Blaze Color: White
A small former hunting lodges sleeping quarters have been converted to a visitor center/gift shop. It is located in the northern part of the park near Barbour Hill and is situated at the intersection of the Barbour Hill Trail and the main park entry road and is accessible from both of these roads. Both pit toilets and a small covered information display are located nearby. The gift shop offers hats, T-shirts, sweatshirts and other mementos of ones visit to the park as well as information about the parks history and ecosystem.
Wash Woods Environmental Education Center is located on the bay side of the park in the Wash Woods section and is accessible from the Wash Woods Trail. It is a large two story air-conditioned facility that has bunk beds for 26 people. It also has a full kitchen, restrooms, shower, meeting area, a small library, and AV equipment. It is available for student groups for environmental education purposes. The two story structure first existed as a one story hunting lodge in the 1920s but in the 1950s the initial story was raised and a second, newer floor was built beneath it, giving the current structure that exists today.
False cape has four camping areas each containing three campsites making a total of twelve campsites in the park. Sites 1-9 allow up to 4 people, while 10-12 allow up to 6 people. Campsite groupings have picnic tables, pit toilets, lantern posts, and a place to hang up food and trash to prevent animals from getting into them. People wishing to camp must make reservations in advance and make sure that they bring two copies of their confirmation letter when they camp. One letter must be left on the dashboard of their car in Little Island Park, the other must be clipped to the campsite marker.
Ride the beach transporter, the Terra Gator, to False Cape State Park through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The Terra Gator operates only on weekends from Nov. 1 through March 31. The transporter departs Little Island City Park in Virginia Beach at 9 A.M. and returns there at 1 P.M. The trip takes about 45 minutes each way. Call 1-800-933-7275 (PARK) to make reservations. Once in False Cape, visitors can spend two hours exploring trails and the natural beach.
To get a taste of the park, the Back Bay Restoration Foundation operates a tram that leaves from Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, drives through the wildlife refuge and lets visitors explore the park for two hours in the Barbour Hill contact station area. The tram provides a round trip ride and is not available for overnight guests. The tram for False Cape operates from April 1 through October 31 on a first-come, first-served basis. Tram inquiries should be directed to call (757) 426-3643.
Washed Up at False Cape State Park
Sara Miller, Marketing Intern
Surrounded by winds and waves on both sides of the barrier spit island, we had to abandon our kayak trip and hike the beach.
Rare Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Nest at False Cape
Staci R. Martin, Visitor Service Specialist
Rare Kemp's Ridley sea turtle nest at False Cape State Park.
Get Outside Then Fuel Up with SUBWAY
Shannon Johnson, Marketing and Visitor Services Manager
Get outdoors, stay active, then fuel up with SUBWAY.
Taking my First Steps in the Great Outdoors, Part I
Olivia A. Richardson, Visitor Services Intern
Olivia Richardson, Old Dominion University Senior, has started her internship with Virginia State Parks.
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