First Landing State Park is a hidden oasis in bustling Virginia Beach. This 2,888-acre park located on Cape Henry is one of the best places to go on a family hike. Here are great tips for visiting First Landing State Park.
What Is First Landing State Park?
Need some fresh air? First Landing State Park‘s got you covered! With sand dunes, lots of trees, and spectacular wildlife, it’s one of the best places to go on a family adventure in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Going for a hike is a great way to teach your children an appreciation for nature while enjoying the whole family’s company, nature, and exercising at the same time.
First Landing State Park is a hop, skip, and a jump from the Atlantic Ocean, several different bodies of water like Long Creek, Crystal Lake, and Broad Bay. Besides being a prime example of environmental stewardship in Virginia, it’s a National Natural Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Accessibility is easy, as there are two entrances, one off Route 60 / Shore Drive (with restrooms, the information center, the Environmental Education Center, and the campgrounds), and the second off 64th Street, which provides access to the Narrows boat launch and beach, the bike trail, and hiking trails. First Landing State Park’s trails are friendly and fun for all ages, levels, bikers & dogs (on a leash).
Plan Ahead at First Landing State Park
Here are a few things to remember while you’re packing up the essential tools, especially if you’re hiking with kids.
It’s important to be aware of the weather conditions when you’re hiking and what you’ll need. Usually, this means dousing everyone in sunscreen and spraying legs and arms with bug/tick protection. Brushing up on what poison ivy appears as (three leaves) is a must, and definitely keep an eye out for snakes, snapping turtles, and other small reptiles you may meet as you weave along the trails.
“Search & Find” on the Trail
Take your adventure up a notch by stocking up on binoculars, magnifying glasses, and a search-and-find scavenger hunt card. When the kids keep a sharp eye out on their hike, it encourages them to slow down as they walk along the trail. Keep an eye out for worms, water, insects at work, and berries, and butterflies!
The best part of hiking might be collecting small acorns, leaves, and cool stones. However, our one rule is “if it’s living, it stays in the woods”. It’s fun to keep track of your location on the map with the mile markers you pass. You’ll also pass different bodies of water on the Cape Henry Trail. So be sure to challenge your hiking buddies to throw rocks or have a pinecone competition.
Take a photo while you’re hiking along First Landing State Park’s magical trails and send them securely to friends, family, and other nature enthusiasts on the FamilyApp.
First Landing State Park is a great bird park for birdwatching and is a National Wildlife Refuge. Be sure to keep your binoculars handy as you watch for the different types of birds flying or perched above in the treetops. If you are very quiet, you can hear their distinctive “chirps” and calls.
First Landing State Park Trip – Don’t Forget the Snacks!
Having a bunch of “Trail Magic” (nuts, chocolate pieces & dried berries) always helps to motivate small legs just a little bit further. Check out our recipe for “monkey munch trail mix,” a crowd-pleaser at my house. Sandwiches, apples, or carrots to munch on at your halfway point also do the trick! Packing a water bottle for each member of your group is essential too – hydrating is important, especially in the heat of the summer months! If you’re planning a longer day trip, pack a lunch that you can eat at a bench along the trail. Don’t forget to pack up all your trash so you leave no trace!
Programs and Activities in First Landing State Park
This summer, we can get back into the swing of things–camps, activities, public pools, all the post-COVID things we took for granted in 2019. First Landing State Park has plenty of fun programs and events for families. From “Wilderness Survival School” to group bonfires, you can find an event perfect for everyone in your crew. Check their online schedule of events to find an activity for everyone! Here are some of their re-occurring events you won’t want to miss:
Take a Hike: Head out with one of their Interpreters for a guided experience in nature. Venture through the maritime forest and delve deep into what makes First Landing State Park so special.
Bayside Crabbing: In this catch and release program, learn all about the Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab and why it is so important to the Bay. And, you can try your hand at catching a few on your own! You can purchase supplies at The Cape Camp Store and fees for crabbing lines and bait are approximately $5.
Seaside Creations: Want to make a sculpture out of seashells? Well, here’s your chance. Let your imagination go wild as you create your very own shell masterpiece!
If Turtles Could Talk: Get ready to walk the turtle walk and talk the turtle talk! This meet-and-greet with our reptilian animal ambassadors is a unique opportunity to view wildlife up close. Learn all about why it’s so important to respect and protect native species.
Crafty Critters: Meet Interpreters at the Trail Center to get creative with nature and critters in mind! Join them each week for new, hands-on, arts, crafts, and activities – then bring your creations home.
Home Sweet Swamp: Join them for a true Bald Cypress Swamp adventure. Dip your buckets into the swamp to see what kind of amphibians, invertebrates, and other cool critters are living below the surface!
Kids in Parks
If you’re hiking with the whole crew, sometimes it’s best to have a game plan. For some of us, that structure can be a saving grace. Kids in Parks offers an expanding network of family-friendly outdoor adventures called TRACK Trails. Each TRACK Trail features self-guided brochures and signs that turn your visit into a fun and exciting outdoors experience. Best of all, you can earn prizes for tracking your adventures! Not only that, but they also provide advice and recommendations for which trails are easiest for kids. Check it out!
The “Sagging Wagon” in First Landing State Park
As you might already know, hiking with kids has its highs and lows. So be prepared to stop as many times as they need to. It’s Progressive. Don’t expect them to hike for over an hour! If you go in intervals and take your time, you’ll have a higher success rate. And eating a snack between intervals is always a wise decision.
We always plan for the “Sagging Wagon”, which basically means – prepare yourself for having to carry a kid at some point. For babies and smaller toddlers, a light hiking backpack will do the trick. Jogging strollers with bigger wheels will get you through the dirt and sand terrain of First Landing State Park’s trails.
With all of your preparations and planning, you’re sure to have an incredible family adventure. So HAVE FUN! Enjoy nature with your family!