Wednesday, May 2, 2018

An Afternoon at the Natural Bridge in Virginia

We have overlooked this place many times in our travels.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe I figured it was “too far out of the way”, which is a curious reason for someone who has been full-timing for 9 years. I think we just didn’t really think about it until it was too late.  Maybe it was like talking about stopping at the next fuel stop and realizing we just passed the exit...

This was our second choice, really.  Our first choice to visit was the George C. Marshall Museum and Research Library.  We looked at the map and we were only about five hours away from our starting point (Roadrunner RV Resort and Campground - Maynardville, TN) to the museum which is located in Lexington VA.  If we left between 7:00am - 8:00am we could still be at the museum in the early afternoon.

But there was only one problem:  The museum is closed on Mondays.  Ugh.  “Oh well”, I thought, we’ll just take it easy and get caught up on things.  I always have some writing to do (what blogger is every caught up on all the posts they intend to write?).

We got underway about 7:15 am and had a beautiful drive.  It was a sunny, warm and gorgeous spring day in East Tennessee.  We travelled up Highway 33 to Tazwell, then over to Highway 25 E through Morristown TN to I-81 north.  About 200 miles later, we took our exit for Buena Vista VA and the city campground at Glen Maury Park.  Some where along the way I was thinking about other things in the area that might be good opportunities to see.

The Virginian Military Institute (VMI) is located a few miles away in Lexington VA.  That was an option.  Another was the Natural Bridge of Virginia located about 12 miles away.  That sounded like a great choice so we drove over there.

What at great choice.  The entrance fee was $8.00 each and was a self-guided tour along an improved trail which was about a mile in each direction. In addition to being a well maintained site, it was a improved and updated.  I think the other time I visited here was back in 1977 or so.  I was stationed in Florida at the time (had not met Pam yet) and got to know Doug.  Doug was a VMI graduate and was getting married at the school and I was invited to the wedding.

Another friend and I drove here saw the Natural Bridge.  I thought it was an interesting place then, the bridge was cool, but I really don’t remember a lot about it.  I seem to remember the trail from the starting point was all dirt.  It is really a blur, but I know I have been here.

Fast forward 40+ later and it is an upgraded ‘very improved’ top notch park.  The gift shop and Visitor’s Center is big and well furnished.  It has an informative of historical charts and pictures along he walls for a good self-guided tour.
Visitor's Center
Starting Point for the hike on the Trail to the Bridge
Cedar Creek and Cedar Creek Trail
 The trial itself is a mix of stone steps and a flagstone 2’ flagstone wall along the river trail.  The trail itself is improved, flat and has some asphalt along some stretches.
The rest of it is hard packed crushed rock.  They are free of potholes and level and make the mile trail from the start to the end near Lace Falls, very easy.
Lace Falls at the end of the Trail
One thing that struck me was how ‘upgraded’ and expansive the maintenance was on the entire trail.  The entire Cedar Trail runs along side of Cedar Creek and it made me wonder if the Cedar Creek 5th wheel by Forest River was inspired by this famous area.  

We were interested to find out the State of Virginia got control of the park in 2016 when the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund (VCLF) had trouble making payments on the $9.1 million dollar mortgage. VCLF bought the park in 2013 but couldn't keep up with the payments and the state of Virginia took over and designated it as a State Park.

The main attraction - the Natural Bridge - is quite stunning.  
Natural Bridge
It is main of limestone rock and 215' with a span of nearly 90'.  Highway 11 runs right across the top of it. 
Natural Bridge
Thomas Jefferson bought the property and 157 acres which included the bridge in 1774.  It has been a notable place since 1742 when frontiersman John Howard came across the site.  Legend has it that George Washington was there as a young man as a surveyor. 
In the 1800's many famous guests viewed the bridge including:  James Monroe, Sam Houston, Henry Clay, Martin Van Buren, Calvin Coolidge, John C. Marshall -- the list is long.
It could not have been a more delightful day and we loved it.  We got to thinking about how much we miss hiking and getting out to the parks.   We will have to do more of it this summer!

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!


  1. I went to Natural Bridge back in the early 80s and I don't think we paid anything to go to it. We stopped about 7 or 8 years ago and they wanted $20 a person. We decided to forego the visit. Didn't have the upgraded path when I was there.

  2. Nice! We saw it on the map as we traveled along I-81, too, but we didn't stop near there. We'll have to check it out next time . . . with Nicolas in Norfolk, we'll be spending lots of time in Virginia the next few years.

  3. Growing up in WV, I'd always heard of Natural Bridge but have never been - thanks for the tour.

  4. Wow, the first time we were at the natural bridge was when our kids were very young:) Thanks for the memories.


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