Natural Tunnel State Park

Natural Tunnel State Park was not on my radar until I began to plan a trip to Grayson Highlands. It popped up with weekend availability in the approximate area I wanted to stay and online pictures seemed nice enough. I was very pleased with my stay.

The campground features two distinct areas – one for site specific reservations and the other for generic electric/water sites reservation. The way it works (and I’m guessing this is a thing at all Virginia State Parks) is you are guaranteed a site, but you must select a specific site once you arrive. This allowed my mother and me to have adjacent sites, but this area was mostly a large field with pull-through sites. Campers were relatively far apart, but the site-specific area seems a little more private. The other weird aspect of the campground was little tent pad or sitting room in the sites located at the ends. I have always been taught that campsites run from electric post to electric post. However, end sites were forced to pitch tents on the opposite side. It didn’t matter much to me because we hung out at my mom’s fire pit, but the kids from the neighboring site were playing lawn games within feet of my fire pit and another neighbor had a stranger’s tent extremely close to his sitting area. It should also be noted that the campground had yurts, a nice primitive area, and lovely-looking cabins.

A couple trails lead directly from the campground. It turns out it is a short walk from the campground store to the Lover’s Leap overlook. We chose to drive to the visitor center and hike up to the overlook from there. It is a quick trail, but lots of great views along the way.

Descending from the Visitor’s Center is a trail down to the tunnel itself. A chair lift is an option for those unwilling or unable to hike. Campground guests received free passes for the lift due to the COVID-related pool closure. As we had the dog with us, we opted for the series of switchbacks. The natural tunnel has been home to a railroad bed since the late 1800’s and a dynamited tunnel allows for easy passage through the area. The tracks are apparently active for coal transport, and I can’t imagine sharing that limited space with a giant locomotive. The park is not aware of the train’s schedule, so such an encounter would be by luck.

The trails at the bottom of the gorge wind around the tunnels and then along the river. An old cabin has been relocated to the area.

The park also hosts several picnic areas as well as a historical blockhouse.

Natural Tunnel is a great basecamp for exploring the incredibly popular Devil’s Bathtub, but is certainly worthwhile exploring on its own as well.

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