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Backpacker Magazine – BACKPACKER.com Online Exclusive

Virginia's False Cape State Park

Near-complete isolation just a few miles from Virginia Beach.

by: Eric Seaborg

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Little-Known Fact: To get to False Cape State Park you must pass through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Virginia's False Cape State Park is one of the few places where you can camp right on the beach without a dune between you and the water. The park lies just a few miles south of the state's major seaside resort, Virginia Beach, but those few miles make a world of difference.

Between the town and the park lies Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, a four-mile stretch of beach and marsh where motorized vehicles are not allowed. Then it's six miles to the campsites. You can hike, bike, or canoe. Mountain bikes or fat-tired beach bikes are recommended, but we made it on touring bikes.

There are three routes through the refuge: the beach, the east dike, and the west dike. The west dike is the least sandy. And the beach is the easiest walking in the world at low tide and the hardest in the world at high tide.

A hiking-biking trail runs south through the forest, with periodic side-trails to the beach. South of the park, this spit of land continues as North Carolina's famous Outer Banks.

Two full miles of the cleanest beaches you'll ever see permit camping here, so you can be as isolated as you want. A few people have permits to drive down to their land in North Carolina, and periodically a ranger motors past, but that's about it for civilized intrusions.


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Access through the winter is limited to the Beach - about 3.5 miles. Both east and west dikes are closed until April.

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