One of the original six state parks in the nation, Douthat State Park is a real gem hidden in the Allegheny Mountains of Virginia. This beautiful park is open year-round and is the perfect destination for any family vacation. Here, visitors of all ages can enjoy exploring the beautiful mountain trails and fish, boat, or swim in the 50-acre Douthat Lake. You're able to explore two vastly different settings while camping in one state park, an experience you don't often come across.
Douthat covers about seven square miles of land and offers over 40 miles of hiking trails, many of which were originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Most of these can also be explored by cyclists and have been recognized as some of the best cycling trails on the East Coast. If you're looking to explore the area on horseback, this park should definitely be on your list!
Whether you are a history buff or just looking for breathtaking scenery in a peaceful environment, Douthat State Park is for you. If you plan to spend a few days here there are a variety of accommodation options to choose from. The park is a favorite of tent and RV campers alike and the campgrounds are lovely. Those who prefer a little more comfort will enjoy one of the many cabins or lodges built by the CCC.
After choosing from one of the 87 RV sites you can take part in one of the many nature programs offered, venture out on the mountain trails, or relax at the lake. Other places to check out within Douthat State Park include the bathhouse, Douthat Lakeview Restaurant, and the Discovery Center area.
If you've got time on your hands are keen to explore other state parks close by then visit Watoga State Park in the mountains of Pocahontas County. This park is just 55 miles to the northeast of Douthat State Park and also offers many wonderful hiking trails and outdoor adventure year-round.
Located about 6.5 miles north of Clifton Forge, Douthat State Park is easy to locate off Douthat State Park Road (SR-629). There are no restrictions for RVs and trailers along the roads in this area. This part of Virginia is mountainous, and you may have to navigate some steep inclines and declines. Drive into the little town of Clifton Forge on your way to the park if you'd like to have a quick meal or buy some supplies. You'll also find a couple of gas stations and a few ATMs here. If you forget anything or want to return to restock your fridge after a day or two at the park, Clifton Forge is a short drive away.
Some of the roads are narrow, and there are a few tight turns. These may be a little difficult to navigate if you have a big rig, so many people choose to tow an extra vehicle. Towing an extra vehicle also makes it easy to get from the campgrounds to other areas in the park including the lake and picnic shelters. Depending on what campground you are camping in you may have to cross over a little bridge, but this won't apply to all visitors. It's recommended to go slow and steady on the roads so don't try to rush or make very sharp turns. Many visitors choose to bring mountain bikes with them to get around the park and explore the trails. Scooters can also be a fun way to explore, although they should not be taken on many of the trails due to the terrain.
Several parking areas are available along the main Douthat State Park Road and throughout the park. You'll find parking areas at the trailheads, campsites, and at the lake. Day visitors are required to pay a parking fee. Don't forget to pay the parking fee before you leave your car to explore the trails as you may get a parking ticket.
Whispering Pines Campground, three miles south of the main park entrance, is made up of 23 sites with electricity and water hookups on large, level stone lots. Located just off the main road, all 23 sites are available for reservation ahead of time, but they usually stay pretty booked. Whispering Pines Campground is at the opposite end of the park than Beaver Dam Campground, and just a short distance from White Oak Campground. Even though this campground is one of the farthest from the lake and several other points of interest, it's a popular destination for RV vacationers, especially families, because it can accommodate RVs up to 50 feet on back-in sites and has a playground nearby.
The road into the campground is quite narrow with a cement bridge that you'll need to cross. As long as you drive slowly you will be fine. Many visitors find the roads within Whispering Pines Campground easy to maneuver since they are mostly straight and level. Several Trails can also be accessed from Whispering Pines Campground, including the Allegheny Highlands Multi-use Equestrian State Trail. Since no sewer hookups are available at this campground, there is a conveniently located dump station for you to use. You can make reservations up to 11 months ahead of time.
Beaver Dam Campground is a very small camping area with only 14 sites, but they all have water and 30-amp electric hookups. Beaver Dam Campground also has dump stations, showers, and toilets available that are well-maintained and easy to access. The campground is on the border of the park, and close to the cabins and lodges, but still offers plenty of privacy and serenity. This campground is especially popular with equestrians because 14 covered stalls are also available to rent at the campground, although they are rented separately from the campsites. This campground is adjacent to hiking and equestrian trails and is just a short bike ride from the lake.
Sites in this campground differ in size and can accommodate RVs and trailers large and small. The shortest driveway length is 38 feet and the longest is 100 feet, and only four are pull-through. Each site has its own tent pad, fire pit, and picnic table. Some offer full shade, and others are only partially shaded. These pet-friendly sites can accommodate a maximum of two vehicles and six people.
All of the sites can be reserved in advance, and if you want to stay here, it's recommended you make your reservation early. Reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance. If you aren't camping with a horse, you can still stay at this campground but you would probably prefer either White Oak Campground or Whispering Pines Campground because you won't be near all of the horse smells and sounds.
The campsites that are not reserved are available on a first-come, first-served basis. However, this campground usually stays pretty booked, so try to make your reservations early if you want to stay here.
White Oak Campground is a popular spot for RV vacationers, offering 31 RV sites with water and electricity hookups and gravel parking spurs. The campground is less than two miles from the lake and is in close proximity to multiple trails. There is a one-lane low water bridge that goes across Wilson Creek into the campsite. You'll need to drive slowly across this bridge, especially in your RV. Being the oldest of all the campgrounds at the park, White Oak has the most trees which provided wonderful shade in the warmer months. It is also very spacious, offering privacy and a place to take walks.
The campsites at this campground are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so even though you may not get your first choice, you will likely still be able to find one when you arrive. If it's important to pick out a specific campsite, you may want to opt for one of the campgrounds that allow reservations, such as Whispering Pines. Like the other campgrounds, no generator use is allowed at White Oak Campground and no sewer hookups are available, but there are dump stations and flush toilets. Each campsite also has a grill where you can cook or build a campfire. Firewood is available within the park, and only firewood purchased from the park should be used. The maximum RV length for this campground is 40 feet.
Campsites that are not reserved are available on a first-come, first-served basis, but there is no guarantee that any will be available when you arrive.
The Lakeside Campground is exactly where you'd expect it to be, beside Douthat Lake. It offers 19 campsites and can accommodate RVs up to 40 feet in length, but no water or electricity hookups are available. You can use the water spigots and dump station located nearby. You'll have convenient access to showers and restrooms. Plus you'll enjoy the picnic table and fire ring located at your site.
If you want to use electricity this probably isn't the best campground for you because generator use is also not allowed in the park. However, if you're up for a more primitive camping experience and want awe-inspiring views of the lake, this campground is ideal. The campsites are within 50 feet of the lake, and very close to the boat ramp and fishing pier. If you want to be close to the water for fishing and fun, and want to enjoy a great panoramic view by the fireside, this is the campground to camp at! If you want a lakeside campsite, get there early because they are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.
In the colder months when you'd prefer to be indoors and sit close to the fireplace, a cabin is a great choice. There are 35 cabins to choose from, and they can comfortably accommodate two to six people depending on their size. They have everything you need for self-catering purposes, including a microwave, fridge, and cooking utensils. The cabins are quite popular and reservations should be made well in advance.
There are three self-catering lodges available to larger groups of between 15 and 18 people in up to six bedrooms with a few bathrooms. They offer central air conditioning and electric heating, as well as a fireplace, for year-round comfort. They are rustically furnished, and all the necessary cooking utensils and linen are provided. These are comfy homes where larger groups and families can enjoy a relaxing time away together.
Six miles of the Allegheny Highlands Multi-Use Equestrian State Trail passes through the park. This is the only trail available for horseback riders, but it's a moderate trail that provides lots of opportunities to soak in the scenery and wildlife around you. The trail takes you from one end of the park to the other and loops back around, making it the longest of all the trails available and a favorite of many visitors. So if you're dying to get on horseback during your RV trip, this is the trail for you.
After obtaining a valid Virginia freshwater fishing license and ensuring that you're following all of the rules laid out, including obtaining a daily fishing permit when required, you can head over to the fishing pier to see what you can catch. The lake is stocked from November through March and common catches include rainbow trout, brown trout, bass, and catfish. There is even a special spot for children, so fishermen of all ages can enjoy casting their lines out on the lake.
Over 40 miles of trails are laid out in the park for hikers and bikers to enjoy. They vary in length and difficulty, but obtaining the trail guide is a great way to learn more about them and decide which trail to take. If you are looking for a short, beginner route, the Buck Lick Trail is one of the easier trails, measuring less than a half-mile and lacking any difficult terrain. For those looking for something more adventurous, you can attempt to tackle the strenuous Stony Run.
There are two waterfalls located within Douthat State Park on the nature trails. They are especially beautiful after a good summer rain, so you'll want to make sure you pack your camera in your camper. Located at the southern end of the park on the four-mile Stony Run Trail is a breathtaking waterfall that you can't miss. The other waterfall is located on the Blue Suck Falls Trail. Both make a great resting spot or photo op in the middle of a difficult trek. Many visitors also find it very relaxing to listen to the water cascading down the waterfall into the river below.
A boat ramp is available near Lakeside Campground and is free to use for any overnight guests. There are also boat rentals nearby so you don't have to worry about hauling your canoe or kayak in your RV. No gas-powered boats are allowed on the lake, but funyaks and Jon boats, with and without electric motors, can be rented during the in-season. Hydro bikes and paddleboards are available to rent as well, so when it comes to spending a day at the lake you have almost endless recreation options.
If you plan your RV trip to Douthat State Park during the summer, you may be lucky enough to get seated at the full-service restaurant overlooking the lake. Visitors love that you can get great quality food while enjoying the exceptional views of the lake from the comfort of an air-conditioned restaurant. The restaurant hours change depending on what time of year it is, so make sure you plan ahead and visit when the restaurant is open.