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Virginia’s False Cape State Park

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

Contact Information:

False Cape State Park

4001 Sandpiper Rd.

Virginia Beach, VA 23456

(804) 426-7128

Location:

False Cape State Park is in the southeast corner of Virginia, just a few miles south of the seashore resort Virginia Beach.

Getting There:

From Richmond, take I-64 east. In Virginia Beach, follow U.S. Rt. 60 to Seashore State Park. Stop here for permits and directions. To get to False Cape, you must park at Little Island Recreation Area (with a permit) and walk five miles. You also have to pass through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge on your way. There is also a canoe launch near the parking lot.

Seasonal Information:

What’s best? Summer for swimming, any other time for wildlife except the week beginning the first Saturday in October, when the park is closed for deer hunting. Spring and fall, with temperatures ranging from 50 to 80 degrees F, are good times to backpack. Summer temperatures can reach into the 90s, with chances of thunderstorms and the strong likelihood of bugs. In winter, the temperatures rarely drop below 30 degrees F.

Wildlife:

The trip is beautiful, through the high grasses of the refuge’s marshes, where egrets, herons, ibis, and other waterbirds feed. In the winter, the refuge hosts migrating waterfowl: swans, ducks, and geese.

The park and refuge are homes to deer and feral horses and pigs. You might also see dolphins just yards offshore and a cottonmouth moccasin slither across the trail, then swim into the marsh.

Insects:

“Countless biting insects,” warns a sign on the way in.

Plant Life:

While the refuge is mainly marsh behind the dunes, the park contains the many ecosystems of a barrier island: beach, then dunes with sea oats, then scrub, then loblolly pines and live oak, before dropping again into the shallow waters of Back Bay.

Facilities:

Primitive camping is available at 12 campsites. Reservations must be made through:

First Landing/Seashore State Park

2500 Shore Drive

Virginia Beach, VA 23451

(804) 481-4836; (804) 721-2412, during December, January, and February

Bikes can be rented at Ocean Rentals ((804) 721-6210).

Parking:

No information available.

Permits:

Camping permits ($8 per night for a maximum of six people) are available at Seashore State Park.

There are also fees of $2 per person to bike through the refuge and $4 per vehicle to drive a half-mile and then park, but that parking lot is for daytime use only.

Permits must be obtained in person by 3 p.m. of the day of your reservation at:

Seashore State Park

2500 Shore Drive

Virginia Beach, VA 23451

(804) 481-2131

Policies:

  • Pets are allowed on a leash; however, pets are prohibited through the refuge on a seasonal basis (April 1 to September 30). For more information, contact the refuge at 804/721-2412.
  • Camping is limited to 14 nights in any 30-day period.
  • No open fires or charcoal grills are permitted.
  • Since access to False Cape is through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, all visitors must comply with the refuge’s guidelines. Be aware that you may be on the refuge property during daylight hours only, so plan your trip accordingly.

Hazards:

  • Bring extra-long tent stakes for beach camping.
  • Don’t expect any shade — bring a tarp, wide-brimmed hat and lots of sunscreen.
  • Haul in all your drinking water; no potable water is available. A gallon a day per person is recommended.
  • Watch for cottonmouth moccasins if you step off the trails.
  • There is no vehicular access to the park.

Leave No Trace:

  • Stay on designated trails and beach.
  • Stay off the dunes.

All LNT guidelines apply.

Maps:

Simple maps are available at Seashore State Park and at the refuge. Topos aren’t needed.

Other Trip Options:

  • Virginia Beach Marine Science Museum (804/437-4949) is an excellent place to visit.
  • There are also bike trails at Seashore State Park.
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