There are 19 national park service sites in Virginia. While the stunning Shenandoah National Park may be the most famous of Virginia’s National Parks, the state boasts many other sites and parks designated for their unique place in preserving the southern landscapes, as well as for their importance in shaping early American history. Dive in and discover more about each of Virginia’s unique sites.
Table of Contents
Map of Virginia National Parks
NPS Sites Virginia
Appomattox Court House National Historical Park
This national historic park is a group of reconstructed buildings from the 19th century. As a designated national park service site in Virginia, it’s managed by the U.S. National Park Service. The park itself commemorates the Battle of Appomattox Court House and also features the house of Wilmer McLean. This is also the site wherein the surrender of the Confederate Army took place—this is a key battle that put an end to the American Civil War.
The park itself was established in 1935, but was not named a national historic park until 1954. The total land area covered by the park is about 1,774 acres. Visitors rave that this is a must-stop location for Civil War history buffs. Planning your visit here is fairly easy. Self-guided experiences are available and you should reserve about two to three hours for exploring this National Park site. Start in the visitors center and museum, tour the Appomattox Court House village, and pick up a souvenir at the Tavern Kitchen’s bookstore/gift shop.
Assateague Island National Seashore
This national seashore is attributed to both Virginia and Maryland since it spans over 42,000 acres along the border of both states. The protected seashore encompasses about half of Assateague Island and the National Park Services oversees and manages the facilities and recreational activities within this designated area, particularly the beach.
The seashore was initially planned as a resort community until a storm in 1962 destroyed everything that was built at that time. Now, an average of 2.1 million tourists visits this area each year due to its white sand beaches and wild ponies—yes ponies! These are a real highlight of visiting this site. Tours of this site can include everything from paddle boarding to kayaking to hiking, time at the lighthouse, and more. Learn more about how to enjoy Assateague Island National Seashore.
Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial
This Greek revival style mansion is also popularly known as the Custis-Lee Mansion. It’s located in Arlington, Virginia and it was the home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The mansion overlooks the National Mall of Washington DC and the Potomac River.
At the time of the American Civil War, the mansion’s grounds were taken over by Union troops used for the Arlington National Cemetery. Ever since then, the home was dedicated in memory of Lee and it was named a national memorial thanks, in part, to his actions after the Civil War to promote peace and reunion. The mansion was built in the early 19th century and has the distinction of being the most visited historic house museum in the NPS system—it’s commonly visited on historic tours of Arlington and DC. The mansion is closed for rehabilitation works until January 2020, so plan your visit with this in mind.
Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is an internationally known All-American Road noted for its scenic beauty and drive. It is a unit of the national park service sites in Virginia and North Carolina, specifically within the towns of Asheville and Roanoke. The area protected by the U.S. NPS measures at more than 93,000 acres and this is the only unit of the National Park Service that is highly visited by tourists but is not actually a national park.
The Blue Ridge Mountains is the most prominent feature in this scenic route. This mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains and the Parkway, while popular through the year is also immensely popular in autumn, when fall foliage road trips drive tourists here in droves to see the beautiful changing of the leaves. You can also horseback ride the area, hike, or take a photo tour—plan your visit using advice from fellow travelers.
Booker T. Washington National Monument
This national monument is another unit of the national park service sites in Virginia. It’s located in Franklin County and preserved the 207-acre portion of a tobacco farm that was significant to the life of Booker T. Washington. Washington was an educator and a leader who rose to this position despite being born out of slavery in the mid-19th century. The site provides a glimpse into the life and achievements of Washington, as well as what took place in the farm and his life during the time of slavery.
As one of the more popular national park service sites in Virginia, it is well preserved and receives an average of more than 24,000 visitors per year. The site offers historical reenactments and makes a great stop on any tour of historic sites in the state.
Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park
Built in the late 18th century and named a national historic park in 2002, the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park was established to protect several historically significant locations in the region. The entire area of the protected site measures at 3,700 acres and the majority of it is privately owned. In fact, the majority of the battlefield included in the protected area is not actually open to the public.
There are self-driving guided tours and park ranger-led tours to the site that you can access via public roads, however, so don’t overlook a stop here. Other travelers gave this stop top marks even though it’s a small site compared to many of the others in Virginia.
Colonial National Historical Park
Located within the Hamptons Road region of Virginia, this park is managed by the U.S. NPS. This Virginian national park service site protects several different locations within the region, each holding historical significance to the defeat of the British army during the American Civil War, as well as the site of the first landing of the English settlers in America. Among the most notable sites included within this park are Colonial Parkway, Yorktown Battlefield, Jamestown, and Green Spring Plantation. This is a large site, and when planning your visit to the park, allocate a full day to truly explore all it offers.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
This is another one of three sites in this list that Virginia shares with other states. The Cumberland Gap is part of the Appalachian Mountains and the tri-state area belonging to the park covers 20,508 acres. The average number of tourist visitors to the park comes in at more than 853,000. This area was used by Native Americans because of its fertile hunting territory, specifically buffalo and wild deer. There are also several species of migratory birds that pass through the area, making bird spotting tours popular.
The park was established to protect the natural beauty while also focusing on historic preservation. In some parts of the park, there is also an early 20th century Kentucky mountain community and settlement. The management of the park is hoping to preserve this area. There is also a visitor center in the area that is open for tourists all year long.
Fort Monroe National Monument
Fort Monroe is a decommissioned military installation located in Hampton, Virginia. This national monument was established to commemorate this site. During the early days of the Colony of Virginia, Fort Monroe was considered an important defensive location. The fort was built in the early 19th century but was named a national monument in 2011. President Obama designated this site as a national monument to recognize its natural, historical, and scientific importance. The grounds here are well-kept, the beach is delightful, and the grounds are well-kept, making this a popular day trip for tourists and locals alike.
Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park
This is another unit of the national park service sites in Virginia that commemorates four battlefield sites during the American Civil War. These battlefield sites include the following: Battle of Fredericksburg, Battle of the Wilderness, Battle of the Chancellorsville, and Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.
Aside from these battlefield sites, there are also several historic buildings located within these sites that are preserved within this park, too. This over 8,000-acre park has two visitor centers and receives an average of more than half a million tourist visitors per year.
George Washington Birthplace National Monument
This 600-plus acre site is located in Westmoreland County and the national park service site encompasses a colonial plantation established in the 17th century. This plantation was owned by George Washington’s great-grandfather, John Washington. Washington’s house is the main feature of this national monument, but a memorial house was also built during 1931. A memorial shaft obelisk made of Vermont marble, which is a replica of the Washington DC monument for George Washington, is built at the entrance and makes for a nice photo opportunity.
George Washington Memorial Parkway
The George Washington Memorial Parkway runs along the south bank of the Potomac River in Mount Vernon, Virginia. It’s currently managed by the National Park Service and there are no commercial vehicles allowed. However, airport shuttles or taxis are allowed to pass through and the official designation for this parkway is State Route 90005. The parkway was established in 1930 and measures at 40 kilometers.
Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site
This early 20th-century historic site features Gothic style architecture and is located at 110A E. Leigh St. in Richmond, Virginia—this convenient location makes it easy to book a day tour here. It was named a national historic landmark in 1975 and a national historic site in 1978. The site is part of the “Quality Row” within Richmond’s Jackson Ward neighborhood. The site tells the story, life, and work of Maggie L. Walker, who as the first female bank president in the United States. Park rangers offer tours to the home.
Manassas National Battlefield Park
This site features two major battle sites of the American Civil War: First Battle of Bull Run and Second Battle of Bull Run. The once peaceful countryside in Virginia saw the clash of the Union and Confederate armies during that time. The actual battlefield site is located within Prince William County in Virginia. It was established in 1940 and spans over 5,000 acres in land area.
The park commemorates and preserves the historic terrain where the soldiers fought and died in during the American Civil War. The battlefield site is visited by nearly 1 million tourists each year and you should plan your visit around the fact that it’s such a popular tourist attraction.
Petersburg National Battlefield Park
This park was established to preserve the site of the Siege of Petersburg during the American Civil War. The battlefield is located in Petersburg city in Virginia. Annual park visitors reach about 140,000. There are three major units that consist of this park and one additional component: Eastern Front Visitor Center and Park Tour Road, Five Forks Battlefield, City Point Unit, and Poplar Grove National Cemetery.
Prince William Forest Park
This is another NPS site located in Prince William County. Prince William Forest Park is located next to the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. The park measures at 16,000 acres and is, therefore, the largest protected natural area in Washington DC. In addition, the park features the Quantico Creek watershed. The park is home to several species of native plants and animals.
For those who like to visit the park, there are several recreational opportunities on the site, such as wildlife viewing, tent camping, bicycling, and hiking.
Richmond National Battlefield Park
This Virginian park measures at over 3,000 acres in land area and protects 13 American Civil War sites within Richmond. In fact, the city served as the capital of the Confederate States of America for most of the war. The majority of this national park’s features are focused on the home front together with the defensive fortifications built in the city during the time of war that had been preserved today.
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is arguably one of the most visited national park service sites in Virginia, and it covers a wide swath of the state, including some parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Most of the park is long and narrow, but the Shenandoah River and Valley is wide and broad. To the east of the park is the rolling hills of Virginia Piedmont. The most recognized part of the park is the scenic Skyline Drive, which makes up 40% of the entire land area in the park. In addition to being named a national park, Shenandoah is also recognized as a national wilderness area. Approximately 1.4 million tourists visit the park each year.
Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts
Known simply as Wolf Trap, this performing arts center is located in 1551 Trap Road, Vienna, Virginia. The entire structure measures at 117 acres and was established through the initiative of the National Park Service. There are numerous performing art venues within the park that are, of course, open for visitors, including the Filene Center, Children’s Theatre in the Woods, and Meadow Pavilion. The Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts helps manage the park grounds and its features since its establishment in 1970. You can explore the area and book shows at the various venues.
Virginia is home to one of the U.S.’ 23 UNESCO World Heritage Sites as well: Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
Keep exploring! View a complete list of the National Park Service Sites in neighboring states, including: National Parks in Washington DC, National Parks in Kentucky, National Parks in Maryland, National Parks in North Carolina, National Parks in Tennessee, National Parks in West Virginia
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