Claytor Lake State Park is in Dublin, Virginia and south of Radford, Virginia. Take I-81 to exit 101 and follow signs to the park. Primary activities in the park including hiking, swimming, fishing, boating, camping, and hiking with dogs. A park pass (day or annual) is required to enter the park. The visitor center and beach area have restrooms and water but the trailheads we have visited do not. Cell phone service was strong while in the park. My phone recorded a poor set of GPS coordinates but the starting and ending points show the parking lot for the hike described below.
Bent Tree trail is a 1.1 mile loop that hovers at around 1,800 feet in elevation. It is the inner loop in the picture above. From the parking lot across from the swimming area, walk a short distance on a paved trail.
The trail is wide, flat, and primarily smooth. In addition, it is very well shaded in the summer so parents don’t have to worry about their kids getting too much sun. Our group consisted of two adults, a four-year-old, and two three-year-olds. All three kids completed the loop without needing to be carried.
Near the trail, we identified two very distinctive plants. First, there is an abundance of Yellow-Poplar trees. Its leaves are alternate, simple, four to six inches long, and smooth edged. It is easy to identify because the top of leave has a flattened, square-like edge. Keep an eye out for morel mushrooms because they grow well underneath Yellow-Poplar trees.
In the fall, its leaves turn a bright yellow.
The second plant we identified was a Christmas fern. It has distinctive boot shaped leaflets.
We hiked Bent Tree trail clockwise. When we reached the following sign we incorrectly stayed to the right and starting hiking the loop again; after which our kids had had enough and wanted to be carried. Be sure to turn left when you see the sign for “Campground D”. Shortly afterward, there will be an intersection with more descriptive signs leading back to the parking lot.
After our hike, we walked over to the beach swimming area and everyone in the group enjoyed getting wet on a hot day. The beach is ideal for kids because the water depth changes very gradually. Notably, we visited the park on a weekday so the beach was not very crowded. However, it is easy to imagine the beach being very crowded on a weekend day. In addition to a park parking pass, a pass is required to enter the beach area. The building next to the beach sells them.
In sum, Claytor Lake State Park’s short, easy hiking trails coupled with its beach swimming area make it a great place for families to spend a day connecting with nature. Other kid-friendly trails in the region include:
- Heritage Park
- Deerfield Trail
- Pandapas Pond
- War Spur Loop at Mountain Lake
- Ellett Valley Recreation Area