James River State Park, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, not far from Cumberland State Forest and Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest, offers acres of rolling meadows and miles of beautiful shoreline along the historic James River. This Virginia state park is about 50 miles south of Charlottesville, and it features countless opportunities for adventure on land and water alike—making it the perfect destination for your next RV vacation.
With 15 miles of multi-use trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, as well as a full-service canoe livery within the park, James River State Park has an outdoor adventure in store for every kind of visitor. Hikers and bikers will enjoy following the trails up to Tye River Overlook, visitors with horses will appreciate the bridle trails and horse stalls, and paddlers can relax as they float down an eight-mile stretch of the James River. Anglers can enjoy fishing in the river and the park’s three freshwater ponds, while history buffs will revel in the area’s historical significance: Monacan Indians, the earliest known settlers in the area, relied on the James River for fishing, hunting, and travel, while colonists in the 17th and 18th centuries used a flat-bottomed boat known as the bateau for travel and shipping along the river. Visitors can check out a replica of the bateau in the park’s Visitor Center.
The park offers 40 RV sites spread across two campgrounds, available from early March to early December. The park is open year-round, but campers hoping to take advantage of the boating opportunities available along the James River should plan to visit the park during the warmer months, from late April to late October.
James River State Park is a fairly remote destination, 20 miles from the nearest towns of Appomattox and Amherst. The isolation pays off in the form of stunning views and unparalleled adventure, but visitors should be prepared for narrow roads as they near the park on SR-605 and SR-606. The park itself has a camp store and gift shop, but visitors in need of more supplies can visit the country store in Bent Creek about seven miles south of the park, or head out to the nearest grocery stores and restaurants in Appomattox and Amherst.
Once inside the park, you can plan to park your rig at your campsite or one of the overflow parking areas inside the park. There is parking available throughout the park at Dixon Landing, the canoe livery, and along Park Road near Taylor Pond. Many of the RV sites in Red Oak Campground and Horseshoe Campground are pull-through, making them relatively easy to navigate.
If you plan to bring horses with you, you’ll want to stay at Horseshoe Campground, which offers 10 RV sites and 20 covered horse stalls. The sites here are pull-through and can accommodate rigs of up to 40 feet, and allow two trailers to share a common area between them. All sites offer water and electric hookups, but visitors will have to use the dump station near the entrance of the park. The campsites here have a picnic table, lantern hanger, and fire-ring grill, and offer easy access to a full-service bathhouse with hot showers. Guests can shop for necessary supplies in the park’s camp store at the canoe livery, open seasonally. The sites here are available from the first Friday in March to the first Monday in December. Reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance.
Located near Taylor Pond, Red Oak Campground offers 30 RV sites with water and electric hookups. The sites do not have sewer hookups, so guests will have to make use of the dump station near the entrance of the park. Most of the sites are shaded and come with large tent pads and wide driveways, accommodating rigs up to 40 feet. Many of the sites are pull-through, and all campsites in this area have a picnic table, a lantern hanger, and a fire-ring grill. Red Oak Campground also has a coin laundry facility, as well as a full-service bathhouse. If you spend the night here and need to stretch your legs, plan to do a short hike along Taylor Pond Loop, which can be easily accessed from the campground. The sites here are available from the first Friday in March to the first Monday in December. Half of the sites can be reserved, while half are assigned on arrival.
For those looking to ditch the motorhome for a few nights but still get an authentic camping experience, there are 18 cabins available for rent at James River State Park. The cabins offer luxurious amenities, including full kitchens with appliances, linens, towels, a fireplace, and a free bundle of wood, heat, airconditioning, and a wrap-around deck. The cabins vary in size from two bedrooms up to six bedrooms. These cabins are open year-round, and reservations are required.
Visitors looking to learn more about the history and environmental significance of James River State Park will be happily entertained by the offerings at the park’s Visitor Center, which serves as a great resource for anyone interested in taking a deeper dive into the background of this historically-rich part of Virginia. The Visitor Center offers comprehensive displays on the park’s natural and cultural heritage, as well as an aquarium and a replica bateau. Guests might also enjoy the Visitor Center’s frequent educational programs, community events, workshops, and interpretive programs, so be sure to check out the park’s calendar for the latest updates.
No matter what time of year you visit James River State Park, you can’t miss checking out the park’s most iconic view: the view from the Tye River Overlook, which looks out onto the confluence of the Tye River and the James River, with the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains as the backdrop. The trail to this breathtaking view is ADA-accessible and covered in smooth, crushed gravel; the trail is only 0.11 miles from the Cabell Trail in the northeast section of the park.
Anglers will be happy to hear that there are plenty of fishing options available year-round at James River State Park. Whether you’re looking to fish along the historic James River from shore or your boat, or you’re more excited about fishing from a pier into one of the three freshwater ponds for an even calmer experience, James River State Park has something for you. After the rig is parked and camp is set up, anglers can try their luck at catching smallmouth bass, catfish, panfish, and river gar.
Virginia is known for having some of the best fall foliage in the country. So if you find yourself at James River State Park for an autumn RV retreat, you won't want to be without your camera. For stunning views of the rivers and the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Tye River Overlook should not be missed. Visitors searching for some unique nature shots and fall color shows should head to the Branch Pond Loop for an authentic nature experience. If you wander along the River Trail, you may get the chance to capture a photo of some local wildlife, including deer, otter, beavers, muskrats, and a variety of waterfowl.
The real centerpiece of James River State Park is its three miles of beautiful shoreline along the historic James River, which the park makes extremely accessible for a wide range of water activities. If you didn't haul your own flotation device along in the Airstream, don't fret. The park’s full-service canoe livery, James River Outdoor Adventures, rents kayaks, canoes, and tubes, and offers shuttles for those bringing their own equipment. Visitors can canoe or kayak down a two, six, or eight-mile stretch of the river, and float on an inner tube down the two-mile stretch between the park’s two landings. The park has a car-top launch in the canoe landing area, as well as a boat launch at Dixon Landing.
James River State Park’s 15 miles of trails are multi-use, so avid equestrians should plan to bring their horses along on their RV vacation and soak in the beauty of this central Virginia gem on horseback. The park does not have any horses available to rent, though, so make sure to bring your horse with you if you hope to make the most of the bridle trails. The park offers overnight horse facilities, so your horses will have a safe place to spend the night if you decide to bring them along.
Within its 1,500 acres, James River State Park has 15 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and bridle use. Routes on these trails range from easy to moderate in difficulty, so hikers of any ability will be able to find a trail that fits their interests. Visitors can check out Green Hill Pond Trail for an easy, kid-friendly hike that follows a boardwalk over the water and features a floating fishing dock. Hikers looking for a more intense challenge can check out Cabell Trail, the longest loop in the park and the most direct route to the Tye River Overlook, and can also use connector trails to extend hikes throughout the park.
If you're seeking adventure, you've come to the right place. James River State Park has over 15 miles of trails open to mountain bikers. Trails vary in length and difficulty, so bikers are sure to find what suits them best within the park's trail system. Kerr loop is an easy, family-friendly trail that can also be used as a warm-up route for more challenging routes. Experienced bikers looking to get their adrenaline pumping should ride the Burnside Loop and look for connecter trails to extend their ride. Bike rentals are not available at the park, so those looking to hit the trails should haul their own equipment with them in the campervan.