As this past year wound down, I found myself scrambling to fit a few final adventures into 2022. We had been sitting at 12 state park visits for a while (I still haven’t written about number 12, which was Pocahontas State Park, but will do so soon), so I decided it was time to squeeze in a 13th park. On an unseasonably warm December 30th, we headed to Seven Bends State Park for the first time.
Located alongside the charming town of Woodstock, Virginia, this newer park is in the heart of Shenandoah County. It is composed of just over 1,000 acres nestled along the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, whose winding curves give the park its name. The park has two entrance points: one at Lupton Road and one at Hollingsworth Road. Though both entrance points provide access to some of the parks eight miles of hiking trails, the entrances don’t connect to each other, meaning that you can’t drive from one end of the park to the other. I knew this prior to our trip, and while I would have loved to visit both sides of the park, I was quite aware that my 15-month-old time warden was definitely not going to permit such a plan.
Although I do hope to explore the Lupton Road entrance at some point, I opted for the Hollingsworth Road route due a kid-friendly feature found on that side of the park, which I will talk about momentarily. First, I do want to point out that this route requires traveling on a very narrow road and crossing a low-lying, one-lane bridge over the river. If you plan on visiting after the area has experienced a heavy rainfall, I do not recommend attempting to reach this entrance, as the bridge is prone to flooding.
Now, on to my reason for choosing to visit this part of the park. That would be River’s Way, a natural playground space that is visible from the parking lot. This unique play area was a collaboration between many different local organizations (read more here), and its wooden and metal elements are designed to blend in to the natural landscape. There are many thoughtful touches, such as the pint-sized version of the much taller Woodstock Tower several miles away, or the way the path loops between the equipment in the same pattern as the eponymous seven bends of the Shenandoah.
Although we happened to be visiting on a day that reached 60 degrees, the previous week’s frigid temperatures meant that there was still some snow and ice on the ground. This combination made for some slippery adventuring, but Daughter #1 had a blast hopping – and sliding! – from one activity to the next, while Daughter #2 was happy to interact with some of the drier sections of the playground.
After enjoying the playground for around 40 minutes, we wandered several hundred feet over to the Bass Bight Trail. This .88 mile, out-and-back trail winds between the river and a corn field. I carried daughter #2 in my Ergo, but I easily could have used my BOB stroller on the Bass Bight’s flat gravel surface.
The trail itself is not the most magical one we’ve ever explored, but what makes it unique is Sadie and Kiko’s Fall Adventure, a story about two dogs that visit the park in autumn and learn more about its features. The story was written by Lisa Currie, illustrated by Susie Wilburn, and translated into Spanish by Fabiana Borkowsky-French, all local women who wanted to do something special for their nearby state park. Susie and Fabiana’s dogs (Sadie and Kiko, respectively) are the inspiration for the story, which is divided up among several wooden kiosks that dot the trail.
Note that this is actually the second trail in the park to feature a Sadie and Kiko story. Sadie and Kiko’s Spring Adventure was featured on Eagles Edge Trail (accessible via the Lupton entrance) several months ago. You can read more about it here.
In any case, we got a kick out of reading the different parts of the story and pointing out the spots that each section mentioned as we passed by the kiosks. We also paused to take a couple of photos of the scenery.
By the time we finished up with the Bass Bight Trail, everyone was pretty hungry, so we decided to venture into town. We settled on the Woodstock Cafe for lunch. This cozy establishment has a food counter, a few different dining areas, a wine shop, and a space selling gifts and other items. The customers were a mix of visitors like us and locals who greeted each other by name. The menu offered lunch fare such as sandwiches, soups, pasta, salad, and baked goodies. Daughter #1 ordered a ham and cheese sandwich and chips, I ordered a veggie panini and she-crab soup, and Daughter #2 ate from both of our plates. None of us were disappointed. This is definitely a quick, tasty, family-friendly lunch place in downtown Woodstock.
After we ate, we wandered around Main Street for a few minutes. The town sponsors a holiday decoration contest, and there were cute displays in storefront windows and the front yards of different establishments.
Our last stop was the LOVEwork on the lawn of the Massanutten Military Academy. You can see how the art installation normally looks and the read about the inspiration behind it here. This is the decked-out version we got to visit:
Note that the Lupton side of Seven Bends State Park is also home to a LOVEwork, offering yet another reason why we need to return and visit that section. We also would very much like to climb to the top of Woodstock Tower as well. In addition, Daughter #1 has requested that we check out the Seven Bends Playground again in the spring. It looks like we’ll be back, Woodstock!