Schools are officially out for Winter Break! My daughter is thrilled to have the next two weeks off, and my head is already swimming in a bubbly mixture of Christmas movies and outdoor adventures. Since the weather had warmed up enough for us to explore a bit, we decided to kick off the holidays with a day trip to Leesylvania State Park .
Located in Woodbridge, Virginia just a few miles from Exit 156 on I-95, Leesylvania State Park is a 500 acre stretch of woodland and shoreline along the banks of the Potomac River. The area was once the childhood home of Light Horse Harry Lee, a revolutionary war soldier, congressman, and former governor of Virginia (as well as the father of Civil War General Robert E. Lee). Today, the park is a local favorite for hiking, camping, boating, and playtime. It costs $7 per vehicle to enter, but as I mentioned in my last post, we are now the proud owners of a Virginia State Parks Pass that got us in for free.
We got a late start and didn’t arrive at the park until around 3:00pm, so we did our best to take full advantage of the remaining few hours of daylight. Our first stop was the park’s playground, which is nestled among dozens of picnic areas, all with a view of the river.
Then we hopped across a manmade wetlands pond in the direction of the nearest stretch of beach.
The coastline is made up of a series of sandy coves which are connected by a low rock wall. Rather than simply walking along the convenient and accessible Potomac Trail from cove to cove, my child naturally insisted on using the rocks as her own personal balance beam. The rock walls that protrude out into the water have No Trespassing signs, but the one running parallel and adjacent to the shore had no such signage, so I indulged her. She happily scrambled from one rock to another like a little monkey while I lost my footing every few steps, but it definitely was a fun way to explore (for big kids, at least).
We paused at each cove to examine driftwood, including a neat hut that someone had constructed in the sand.
While the views were lovely, my daughter and I were both a bit surprised to see litter in several of the coves. It was hard to tell if the litter came from visitors to the beach or if it washed ashore from the river – probably some combination of the two – but it was disheartening to see people’s carelessness affect such a pretty place. The rest of the park was otherwise very well-maintained and in beautiful condition, so my hope is that the litter we did see is not the norm.
The coves and rock wall eventually lead to the dock area, where people can launch and moor watercraft. There was also a fleet of small vessels with a sign advertising sailing lessons. We paused for a snack at a nearby bench and eyed the soaring seagulls while we ate.
Then we decided to squeeze in a quick hike on the Bushey Point Trail. Bushey Point is an out-and-back trail that is roughly two miles long. It begins at a looped fitness trail, which can easily become an adventure course for little ones.
The trail itself is a level course through the forest that traverses wooden bridges and passes by sandy nooks and crannies along the river. We went as far as the railroad bridge (which runs above trail – quite an exhilarating spot to stand when a train passes overhead), before heading back the way we came. It was a fun little hike that was definitely very family friendly.
By the time we returned to our car, dusk was starting to fall and the park was only about 40 minutes away from closing. We decided to make one last stop at the wooden pier before leaving for the night. Since the state line between Maryland and Virginia is roughly the waterline on the western bank of the Potomac River, the pier actually features signs that tell you when you’re crossing from one state to another. My daughter found it hilarious to run back and forth between Maryland and Virginia, while I enjoyed taking in expansive views of the river.
We were glad that our Annual Park Pass prompted us to explore Leesylvania this weekend, and we were even more pleased that the weather cooperated with our plans. Stay tuned for more outdoor adventures, and if you’ve been to Leesylvania State Park, let us know what you think!