False Cape State Park - Unspoiled Beaches, Wildlife & More

2020-08-21 16:00:48

False Cape State ParkVisit False Cape State Park, one of the Atlantic coast’s last undeveloped areas with miles of unspoiled beaches, woods, marshlands, and more. Enjoy hiking and biking trails, boating, beach-combing, and a wealth of wildlife.

False Cape State Park, located in southern Virginia Beach, is a mile-wide barrier spit between Back Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The 4,321-acre park includes 6 miles of wild beachfront, extending south to the North Carolina border. The park is more than just one giant beach, however. Its borders encompass a variety of habitats, including dunes, woodlands, salt marsh, maritime forest, and wooded swamps.

False Cape gets its name from the fact that it resembles the safe port of Cape Henry, yet has far shallower waters. Enough 19th century mariners made the mistake for the name to stick. In fact, Wash Woods, one of the area’s first communities, was formed by survivors of a shipwreck caused by this very mistake!

Getting There

The address listed for False Cape is 4001 Sandpiper Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23451 – but you can’t get there by car.

False Cape State Park seashellsAccess to the state park is limited to hiking, biking, boating, or tramming in through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Parking for day-use guests is at the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge visitor center.

There are two primarily flat, gravel trails leading to False Cape; the East Dike and West Dike trails. Each will get you to the False Cape Visitor Center in 4.5 miles. Only one trail is open at a time, refuge signs will indicate which. Both trails are closed from November 1st to March 31st, leaving the soft sand beach as the only foot access.

If you plan to take the 3 mile beach route, aim for the 2 hours around low tide. This will give you a wide stretch of hard-packed sand to walk on.

Back Bay Restoration Foundation also offers a seasonal tram tour that includes some of False Cape, including the Wash Woods historic site. The tram operates from April 1 through Oct. 31 on a first-come, first-served basis. Call 757-426-7128 for more information.

Activities at False Cape

False Cape State Park offers a variety of easy to moderate trails, most of which are under a mile in length.

False Cape State Park heronBarbour Hill Trail crosses the barrier spit, leading through several disparate habitats. Cemetery Trail will take you to the cemetery and church steeple from the historic Wash Woods community. Follow the Sandbridge Trail to its full, 10 mile (16.09km) length to reach the North Carolina border.

Birders, nature photographers, and animal lovers will be bowled over by the extensive wildlife at False Cape.

The park is home to at least 54 rare and endangered species. Over 300 species of nesting and migratory songbirds and shorebirds also live on or visit the cape each year. Otters, white-tailed deer, red fox, loggerhead turtles, bald eagles, feral pigs, nutria, wild horses, and more benefit from the the park’s diverse habitats.

Other popular park activities include kayaking, swimming, fishing, and beach-combing.

False Cape State Park

The park is open daily, 8am to 7pm.
Be prepared for your visit by checking weather conditions and bringing plenty of water, sunscreen, and insect repellent. The False Cape State Park visitor center (open daily from 9am to 4pm) offers beverages, snacks, and other supplies available for purchase. However, it’s still a good idea to bring along your own supplies, just in case.

Learn more online at the park website.

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