The rather-uncomfortably-named Hungry Mother State Park in Virginia is in a great location, has a cool history, and features lots of fun activities.
First, the location. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind, including cell phone reception, this is the perfect place since the park is tucked away near the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
Next, the story, because we know you want to hear it. A long time ago, no one really knows when, some local Indians (who were probably Yuchis) raided a Virginia settlement. One woman, Molly Marley, escaped with her young child. The two wandered through the brushes eating berries until Molly finally dropped from hunger. The child went on alone. When the young escapee reached help, all the child could say was “hungry mother.”
Apropos of nothing, another Yuchi, known as Luisa Menendez, once married a Spanish soldier and returned with him to his homeland. That was sometime around 1570, or roughly 40 years before Pocahontas married John Rolfe.
Finally, the things to do. As you can see the park has a cool history, but the outdoor activities are just as cool! Hungry Mother State Park has a huge, 108-acre lake with a sandy beach, which is perfect for a host of aquatic opportunities like fishing and boating. The surrounding, somewhat-rugged woodlands are ideal for hiking and hunting, featuring stunning views and abundant wildlife.
The park also has great accommodation options. You can choose between RV and tent campsites with full hookups or just water and electric hookups, tent-only sites, yurts, and cabins when you stay at the park. All in all, this park is a great place to spend some family time together during your motorhome road trip.
Hungry Mother State Park is just off Interstate 81, so RVers will find it easily. You'll have to drive through the town of Marion to get to the park, and you can take the opportunity to fuel up with gas, stock up on supplies for your camping trip, or grab a quick bite to eat.
The roads leading to the park from Marion are well maintained and spacious enough for your RV. The road remains paved when you enter the park, and you will easily be able to navigate the roads in your RV to your site. Just be careful along some sections of the roads, as they have some tight turns and twists in places. If you are just visiting for the day, you will find suitable parking near the entrance so you can park your RV and explore the rest of the park on foot or by bike.
Ample parking is available on the north shore of the lake. There’s also a lot of parking near the Hemlock Haven Conference Center and the athletic complex. Sporadic parking is available elsewhere as well.
Camp Burson has 50 RV and tent sites to choose from, 30 with electric, water, and sewer hookups and 20 with water and electric hookups. Most are back-in, although there are a few pull-through sites. The Hungry Mother Creek runs adjacent to Camp Burson, which is located a short distance from the lake.
Campers will enjoy stunning views in the early mornings and evenings. You'll also enjoy campground amenities like communal restrooms with flushing toilets and hot showers and a dump station. Each site can accommodate up to six people and is pet-friendly, so you can bring along your domestic pets for an extra nightly fee. Each site also has a fire pit and a picnic table, so you can enjoy spending as much time outdoors as possible. RVs and trailers up to 60 feet long can be accommodated.
Visitors looking for a unique experience can stay at one of the two yurts at Camp Burson, one of which is ADA-accessible. Each yurt can sleep up to four people with a queen bed and a twin-sized pull out bed. You will need to bring along your own linen and sleeping bags. Unfortunately, the yurt's don't have water or electricity, but there are a water spigot and an electric pedestal nearby for your use. Yurt campers can use the campground communal restrooms during their stay.
Its proximity to the lake also makes it ideal for water-based recreation. Paved and level sites make for a comfortable stay and easy set-up. But bring bug spray in the summer since mosquitoes like this area in the summer.
The Creekside Campground has 19 sites with electric and water hookups to choose from. The road leading to this campground has a very sharp turn, so make sure to drive carefully with your rig. The sites have a prime location near the water, which you pay for. If you have an RV that's on the larger side, or if you're not totally confident in your RV driving skills, it may be better to stay at Camp Burson. But if you do end up camping here, you won't regret it.
Amenities include a restroom and shower area with hot water and flushing toilets. Sites provide up to 30-amp electric, and the maximum length here is 35 feet. With picnic tables, grills, and firewood available, it's a good place to spend your evenings after a long day of exploration. Each site can sleep up to six people, so make sure to book accordingly. If shade is important to you, try to book a site in the two rows closest to the creek, since those offer the most protection from the sun in summer.
Another eight cabins can be found near the Hemlock Haven Conference Center. These can sleep between six and eight people depending on which cabin you choose, and all of them have central heat and air, fully-supplied kitchens, outdoor grills, picnic tables, and fire rings. A couple of them are ADA-accessible, and all of them are pet-friendly, so your furry friends can join you during your stay.
If you are looking for somewhere more luxurious during your stay at Hungry Mother State Park, you can try one of their cabins. The number of people each cabin can accommodate ranges between four and six people, so make sure to book a cabin that will suit your needs. Sizes range from one-room log efficiencies to large two bedroom cinder block cabins, and several of the cabins are ADA-accessible. All 20 cabins have central heat and air, fully-supplied kitchens, outdoor grills, picnic tables, and fire rings. In the summer, the minimum cabin rental period is a week; during other parts of the year, it’s four days. The cabins are also pet-friendly, so you can bring along your domestic pets.
Tent campers will enjoy the Royal Oak Campground since it features 11 tent sites and one yurt. The yurt occupies the middle ground between a tent and a cabin, with tough canvas walls over a rigid frame and better amenities than you would expect to find in a regular tent. It can sleep up to four people with its queen-sized bed and a twin-sized pull out bed. Make sure to bring along your own bedding and linen if you stay in the yurt, as it's not provided.
Each tent site has a tent pad for you to pitch your tent on, as well as a fire pit and a picnic table for you to enjoy meals out in nature. Each site has a limit of six people a night and is pet-friendly, so your furry friends can also enjoy your camping trip away.
Royal Oak Campground has a communal restroom and shower facility for campers to use and is equipped with hot water and flushing toilets. Just across the road from Creekside, the site is on a fairly steep hill. the sites have been leveled, but the road into them is quite steep, which can be an issue if you have to walk up it. Sites are shaded by tall trees, and the small size of the campground makes for a more intimate stay.
Hungry Mother State Park is one of the first six state parks in Virginia, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. One of the hiking trails available at the park is the CCC Trail, which is a 1.9-mile moderate trail that starts at the lake, runs to the Vista Trail, and then loops back. Since it’s rated moderate, hikers need some special equipment (like hiking boots) and some experience. The CCC Trail is rocky and steep at times, and there are also several creek crossings, but it's a stunning trail to hike!
Boats with electrical motors or smaller sailing boats are welcome to explore the vast Hungry Mother Lake. You will most probably need a boat launch to get your boat into the water, and you'll find one a little distance away from Camp Burson.
You are also welcome to bring along your kayaks and canoes, but if you don't have one you can rent a boat from the concession stand along the swimming beach during the summer and on weekends through October. They have a variety of boats available to rent including Jon boats, kayaks, paddleboards, canoes, and paddleboats. Gas-powered boats are not allowed on Hungry Mother Lake.
You can enjoy exploring another moderate trail that runs, wait for it, around the lake. This 5.5-mile trail is quite wide, and it features many elevation changes and sharp turns. So, hikers get a different view of the lake about once every hundred yards. The trees are particularly dense here, and that shade attracts lots of wildlife. This is the longest trail in the park, so make sure to work up some stamina on the other shorter trails before heading out to do this one.
Hungry Mother Lake is well-stocked with carp and some other species, but fishing here is still a challenge as the water is a bit cloudy much of the year. Furthermore, the lake has such a robust ecosystem that fish are well-fed and less likely to jump at the bait. Finally, state rules have changed, so there are new limits on the type and number of fish you can catch. Nevertheless, patient and experienced anglers can still expect to haul in smallmouth, hybrid striped, largemouth, and spotted bass, plus many other species. A shoreline fishing pier is roughly parallel to the swim platform, and boat fishing is allowed as well. You will need to be in possession of a valid Virginian fishing license to enjoy fishing at the park.
Swimming is permitted all year round in designated areas. The swim platform is located a little way out into the lake near the ranger station. Lifeguards are generally on duty between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend. They may be off-duty for weather or other similar reasons. A snack bar is open during the summers as well. After your swim, you can enjoy a picnic in the sun with one of the several picnic benches along the beach area.
Walker Mountain (Big Walker Mountain) has a roughly 800-acre hunting area. You will need a valid hunting license to hunt here, so remember to bring one along. The hunting area is a bit difficult to reach, and the trail is steep and rocky with leaves hiding many crevices along the trail. But the landscape is very nice and the deer and small game are quite abundant here, making it well worth the trek to get there. There’s also a private lookout tower, which visitors can climb for a fee, that’s roughly ten stories tall and offers a nice view. Make sure to check with park rangers about deer stands, sometimes they’re allowed, and sometimes they’re not.
The trail is less than a half-mile long, but it’s a rather difficult climb. It goes up to the summit of Molly’s Knob, which is the highest point in the park with an elevation of over 3,200 feet. If you want a somewhat different challenge, you can take Molly’s Knob Trail to roughly this same point. Hiking this trail may be hard, but you will be rewarded with the breathtaking views it has to offer. Make sure to bring along your camera to snap a few photos to share with friends and family.
This place is great for family reunions and corporate meetings. It’s even better for indoor-outdoor weddings. There are six meeting areas available, from 3,300 square feet all the way down to 700 square feet. Other features include stable Wi-Fi, a board room, and available audiovisual equipment. The Hungry Mother State Park Restaurant can handle event catering very well if you need catering for your event. Outside, you'll find an athletic complex (of sorts) which includes a softball field, volleyball court, tennis court, basketball court, and horseshoe pits.
Molly's Knob Trail is a two-mile, challenging trail that runs from the lodge parking area to Vista Trail. The trail is dotted with wildflowers that bloom in spring and are quite pretty, especially the pink Catawbas and white Rosebays. The hike starts off fairly easy, so you can save your strength for the steeper and narrower portions that follow. Make sure to wear proper hiking boots and bring snacks and water to refuel yourself along the trail.
Why is it every time we discuss these trails we think about Loretta Lynn growing up as a coal miner’s daughter in that cabin in Butcher Holler? Anyway, the Clyburn Hollow Trail is the easiest one in the park. It’s basically an unpaved sidewalk and runs for about a half-mile through the forests and extremely low hills. The Clyburn Ridge Loop Trail, it should surprise no one, runs along a ridge instead of a hollow. So, it’s a bit longer at four miles and also a bit more challenging. But it also goes a little higher, where there is more wildlife and the views are better. Both these hikes are worth walking, so try and do both during your visit to the park.