DATE:
Recurring

Out & Back, Loops
~ Varies

ELEVATION GAIN:
~ Varies

LOCATION:
Duffield, VA

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The Natural Tunnel State Park is without a doubt one of the boys’ favorite outdoor spots to go. All of our boys love trains, but our oldest is a true train fanatic. We have been here multiple times and seeing the massive tunnel never gets old. It costs $5 to park (we forgot cash one day and they let us pay with a card at the gift shop). Once you get to the parking lot, there is an old train engine that our boys love. There are a few picnic tables under shade in this same area. We usually enjoy a picnic lunch before we venture off to the tunnel and trails. You can learn more about the Natural Tunnel’s fascinating history here. There is also a small museum inside the gift shop to learn more about the history of the area.

There are multiple trails that wind through the park. The boys favorites are a combination of the the Gorge Ridge + Lover’s Leap trail, (~.8 mi), and the short trail to the Carter Log Cabin, (~.4 mi). There is also a chair lift that goes from the parking lot down to the tunnel, creek, and path toward Carter Log Cabin. It costs $5 per person per day to ride the lift round trip or $4 per person to ride it one way. Children under 3 ride free. You don’t have to ride the lift down to the Natural tunnel. There is a short trail with multiple switchbacks that can take you down there as well called the Tunnel Trail. The entrance to this trail is to the right of the gift shop/museum.

Once you get to the bottom of either the chair lift or the path with switchbacks, take a left to go toward the tunnel. There is a short/winding bridge that will take you directly to the train tracks.

The tunnel is awe inspiring. We have never been there at the right time to see a train go through, but trains do still use that route. The last time we were there, we met a nice ranger at the train platform. She had corn snake named, “Popcorn,” and let the boys pet it! Any rangers we have met there have been so friendly.

If you come down the chair lift or switchback trail and go to the right instead, you will be on a little path that takes you to the Carter Log Cabin. There is a place to play in the creek along this path and a beautiful bridge. The cabin is a very short distance from the bridge. We have seen chairs set up inside the cabin before so they must have events or meetings that take place there. If you keep going, there are more places to play in the creek.

The trail head to the Gorge Ridge trail is adjacent to the parking lot. If you are standing near the train and picnic tables, the trail head is to your right. The beginning of the Gorge Ridge Trail is a steady ascent, but levels off once you hit the intersection with the Lover’s Leap trail. The forks in the trail are well marked and there are yellow blazes along the way.

We usually go right at the intersection that connects with the Lover’s Leap trail. The blazes will turn to blue here. There is a beautiful overlook just past where the two trails connect. After that, it’s all downhill. There are some rocky steps and partially paved areas on the way down.

Half way down and past a few switchbacks, there is another overlook with beautiful views of Lover’s Leap and the tunnel.

The end of this trail will put you right back at the gift shop/parking lot area. The trail is less than a mile but does have somewhat of an ascent and lots of steps to navigate. This park would be difficult to navigate with a stroller. For tiny ones, a baby carrier would be much easier to bring. Even the switchback trail down to the tunnel has some steps to navigate.

The Natural Tunnel Park is an excellent choice for spending the day outside. There are some really short trails, great spots to play in the water, friendly rangers, and the excitement of a massive natural train tunnel- you might even get to see the train come through!