Looking for a quick outdoor escape? Built on farmland and forest by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1938, Pocahontas State Park delivers. Virginia’s largest (and oldest) state park is an outdoor playground with 90 miles of trails and three lakes across 7,925 acres. Located just 20 minutes southwest of Richmond in Chesterfield, Va., it offers paddlers with an ideal location to launch scenic flatwater tours, plus hiking and biking trails, with everything from nature programs and ample picnic areas to a variety of lodging options on-site (camping, cabins, yurts and lodges). Hit it for an afternoon or multi-day outing to take full advantage of its amenities.
The National Park Service originally operated the park as a recreation area for soldiers during World War II and then donated it to Virginia State Parks in 1946. Fun fact: A high school student won a local contest to name the park after Pocahontas, who (as the legend goes) saved Capt. John Smith’s life in 1608 when the storied colonist-explorer was held captive by the Powhatan Confederacy, then ruled by her father, Chief Powhatan. It’s a fitting moniker as the area encompassing the state park formed a border between the Algonquin-speaking Appomattox of the Powhatan Confederacy and the Sioux-speaking Monacan people.
Fishing and paddling
Three lakes offer options galore for paddling and fishing. Picks for dipping a blade or angling include 225-acre Swift Creek Lake and 24-acre Beaver Lake, with paddling available at 7-acre Camp 7 Lake. All also allow electric motors. Anglers need a valid Virginia fishing license (available online or at a Public Lands location). For paddlers, the park rents paddleboats, standup paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, Thursday through Sunday.
Biking and hiking
Pocahontas State Park has more than 90 miles of trails for both hikers and bikers of all skill levels—so bring your boots, helmets and more to explore everything it has to offer. Ten miles of trails are dedicated solely for hiking only, including a paved spillway for those with disabilities. With new purpose-built singletrack being built every year, Pocahontas has more than 44 miles of directional mountain bike trails, including traditional singletrack, machine-built flow and handcycle-friendly trails. The trails make up three major trail systems: Morgan, Swift Creek and Lakeview. Along with the James River Parks Systems trails, they comprise the IMBA bronze-level Richmond Regional Ride Center. Add 33 miles of forest roads for bikers and equestrians (horseback riders can access 19 miles of forest roads and 14 miles of multi-use trail, including Bright Hope, Otter Lick and Poorhouse) and there’s no shortage of ways to take it all in. More info: See a trail guide to the region with trail status updates, plus this interactive map to the park.