When you think of visiting a state park, you probably don’t think of going during the cold winter months. However, visiting a state park during the winter months can bring a completely new perspective and different ways to experience nature’s beauty. Natural Tunnel State Park is no exception.
Located on nearly 1,000 acres in Scott County, Va., Natural Tunnel has been operating as a state park since 1971. While attendance tends to drop during winter months, Natural Tunnel State Park still has a lot to offer visitors who enjoy the outdoors and are willing to brave the cold temperatures.
In addition to all of the hiking trails being open, the park offers several programs to keep visitors entertained. The Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Association provides history programs from January through March and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries provides a few hunters' safety courses at the Cove Ridge Center.
When it snows, guests are even invited to sled down the hill at the park’s picnic area.
Visitors can stop by either of the two visitor centers located inside the park. The first is located by the chairlift and houses the gift shop, which offers trinkets which reflect the railroad, nature and Native Americans. Located inside this visitor center is the museum. There, guests can learn about geology, railroad history, Appalachian history and much more.
The theme of the second visitor center is 18th century history. It reflects the settlers that were in the area over 200 years ago and Native Americans that lived in the area. There is a map on the floor which represents the Wilderness Road, state-of-the-art exhibits, touch tables, a video and still pictures from the reenactment that takes place at the Blockhouse. In addition, there are 18th century games, books, and powder horns which are available to purchase.
Another popular attraction is the Blockhouse itself. The Blockhouse was constructed in 2004 by the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Association and is a replica of John Anderson’s blockhouse that stood by the North Fork of the Holston River. All of the items inside the Blockhouse are used to educate and reflect the time period of 1775. This is a place where visitors can enjoy and embrace the rich history of the area.
If you are looking for a place to have a relaxing getaway in the beautiful outdoors, Natural Tunnel offers a variety of places for you to stay overnight. There are two campgrounds, Lovers Leap and Cove View, which offer spaces for tents, pop-up campers and RVs. In addition to the campgrounds, the park has 10 fully-furnished cabins available to rent. Cabins have either two or three bedrooms and can be reserved up to 11 months in advance, with a minimum two-night stay outside of peak season.
Another popular gathering place at Natural Tunnel State Park is the Cove Ridge Center.
“The Cove Ridge Center is a multi-use area that provides citizens of the county and region a location to host a variety of events,” said Megan Krager, a park ranger at Natural Tunnel State Park.
“The center can be used for meetings, weddings, birthday parties, camps, retreats, reunions and education. It is equipped with state of the art A/V equipment, tables, library, classroom, kitchen, and two lodges that can sleep 24 in each. The center can cater for groups up to 50 people,” Krager said.
While there are many advantages to visiting the park year-round, Krager says that “during the winter, the park is quieter with fewer distractions. The air is more crisp and wholesome.”
For more information or reservations, contact Natural Tunnel State Park at 276-940-2674.