After doing so much reading about First Day Hikes, I was pretty psyched to start off the New Year with a family hike in a state park. Since we arrived in Colonial Beach on New Year’s Eve, we decided that our first hike of 2021 would take place 25 minutes away in Westmoreland State Park.
Located in the Northern Neck town of Montross, VA, Westmoreland State Park is composed of more than 1,300 acres along a mile and a half of Potomac riverfront. Although we have been to Colonial Beach many times (read my homage to this lovely town here), and we even stayed in Montross for a long weekend last fall, this was for some reason our first visit to Westmoreland State Park. Had we known what we were missing, we would have visited much sooner.
We parked at the visitor’s center, which sits on a bluff high above the river. Near the parking lot was the entrance to Big Meadow Trail, a .6 mile out-and-back (1.2 miles round trip) trail that leads to Fossil Beach.
We hopped on the trail and headed towards the water. Big Meadow is a pretty, wooded trail that is home to a variety of wildlife. It is downhill the whole time, but it was gradual enough that we weren’t too worried about the return trip. We saw several families with very young children, so this trail seems to be a popular option for people of all ages.
Of course the big draw of the trail is that it ends at Fossil Beach. The beach is aptly named, because as the cliffs that protect it erode, million-year-old shark teeth and other fossils fall into the water and wash up on shore.
We did a little digging in the sand, but it was a bit too chilly to pan around in the water for fossils. I do want to mention that when we visited a nearby beach in a different part of Montross this fall, we did turn up two shark teeth after just 30 minutes of searching. In other words, the possibility of finding such treasures is very real, especially when the water temperature is more hospitable.
Down by the beach, you can pick up the 2.3 mile long Turkey Neck Trail. We had no intention of adding a lot of length to our hike, but we headed down the first leg of Turkey Neck for a little while due to its boardwalks that run along grassy marshland (anyone who has read my posts about Huntley Meadows and Mason Neck knows that we are huge fans of boardwalk trails).
Once we had our fill of Turkey Neck, we returned to Big Meadow Trail and headed back up to our starting point. After having a snack on a log-hewn bench overlooking the river, we hopped in our car to explore the rest of this large park. We passed a playground and quite a few cabins on our way down to the main beach, which is easily accessible from a parking lot. Also near the beach are a seasonal pool, snack bar, and boat launch.
The combination of beautiful scenery with seasonal and year-round amenities make Westmoreland a great place to visit at any time. We will definitely be adding this state park to our itinerary on future Colonial Beach visits. What a great way to start off 2021 – cheers to a new year and new adventures!
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