Hiking False Cape State Park

by Bill & Mary Burnham

Hiking False Cape State Park

This isolated barrier spit on the southern tip of the busy resort city of Virginia Beach is one of the most secluded places in the state.

Walk, bike or boat through four miles of Back Bay Wildlife Refuge to reach False Cape, so named by sailors because its resemblance to Cape Henry further north lured boats into its shallow "graveyard."

Stay the night in a primitive campsite to explore further: A network of trails lead another 16 miles to the North Carolina border, and the site of Wash Woods, a community built by survivors of a 19th-century shipwreck.

Hiking in the Atlantic surf

Nothing beats falling asleep to the sound of the surf, then awaking to sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean.

You might even spot a feral pig or wild pony while hiking interior trails past lagoons and marshes, while the Atlantic's ribbon of sand is a great option during low tide for easier walking. (Note some interior trails are closed November-February for bird nesting.)

Details: Access is by foot, bike, boat or electric tram only (800-933-PARK) from Back Bay NWR. Campers must park at Little Island City Park (parking fee charged) just outside the refuge.

Topo maps: USGS North Bay, VA; Knott Island, VA

mmm pancakes! Setting up camp in the dunes

Facilities: False Cape has pit toilets and primitive campsites (reservations required, 800-933-PARK). Back Bay NWR has bathrooms and a visitor center.

Directions to trailhead: From I-64 in Virginia Beach, take Indian River Road exit and go east 13.5 miles. Turn left on Newbridge Road and go 1.1 miles. Turn right on Sandbridge Road and go 3.1 miles. Turn right on Sandpiper Road and drive south 4 miles to Back Bay NWR.

Stay: The nearby residential community of Sandbridge has rental cottages and vacation homes, while Virginia Beach's resort strip has hotel rooms galore. Visit the Virginia Beach Tourism official site.

Hiking Virginia guidebook

Contact: False Cape State Park

We wrote the book!

False Cape State Park is fully described with mile-by-mile cues, history and map in the Burnhams' award-winning book, Hiking Virginia.