Alex is a marine biologist, aquarist, lover of animals, an experienced veterinary assistant, and has a Bachelor of Science in Biology.
Getting to False Cape is no easy feat. There are only two routes: land or sea. With the exception of the park rangers and the Back Bay tram there are no vehicles allowed to travel to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Since you need to get through Back Bay to get to False Cape there are no vehicles allowed in False Cape. Almost all routes start in Back Bay. You can use the boat launch and kayak or boat in. If you are familiar with this body of water you can also come from the North Carolina side of the water. To enter the park on foot or by bike you need to start in Back Bay. There is no entry fee to get into False Cape, but there is a small charge to park or hike through Back Bay.
The trail is about 6 miles to get to the entry to False Cape. You can hike it or ride a bike. By foot it takes about 2 hours and by bike it takes 45 minutes, with a few stops here and there to take in the abundant wildlife. While biking is much quicker and less tiring than hiking, the bumps in the trail can take their toil on your backside. I'd recommend having a good seat on your bike before setting out on the journey.
There is very limited tree cover in Back Bay. After all, Back Bay is mostly marshy area. The trails are made up of a white gravel. While this make for a picturesque view it also makes for a killer sunburn as all the sunlight reflects off the gravel and into your face.
While False Cape allows dog on leashes Back Bay does not, so they must come by boat or in a basket on a bike. I can honestly say that I have never seen a dog at False Cape.
What Should You Bring?
I strongly recommend sunscreen. You may not think you will need it, especially if it is cloudy out, but trust me you will. There isn't a lot of cover, and what cover there is in False Cape is sparse. Considering you'll be outside in the direct sunlight for several hours getting there alone.... bring the sun screen.
If you a visiting in any month outside the winter time you will want bug spray. This is a primitive place, not to mention it is marsh. What I mean to say is there is nothing preventing those bugs from being there. No HOA sprays. There isn't a lot of foot traffic to prevent them. And I swear, summertime mosquitoes in Virginia Beach must be the size of a small car and they are voracious little suckers.
Make sure you bring plenty of water. There is n potable water between the visitor center at Back Bay and the visitor center at False Cape. Once you have entered False Cape there is only potable water in three locations. I am a fan of the camelback water bladders since you can bring 2 liters with you.
I also recommend bringing some snacks. Granola bars, beef jerky, and trail mix are easy to pack and quick to eat. We typically strap a small cooler to the back of one of the bikes and have a picnic on the beach. There's rarely anyone else there, so it is quite peaceful. There are also picnic tables in the trees around the visitors center for False Cape.
What's At The park?
There are several miles of hiking and biking trails. Depending on the tides you may even see the remains of some of the many ship wrecks in the waters at the southern most part of the park. The park is a paradise for all sorts of animals. In the winter there are snow geese and tundra swans that have migrated all the way from the arctic. In the summer you can see river otters, various wading birds, and turtles. Year round you can watch osprey and bald eagles hunting. There are also the elusive bobcat, black bear, and foxes that inhabit the park. There was one outing where a seagull dropped a spot (type of fish) on my head.
If you enjoy beach combing you will love this beach. Since it is so remote the shells are present by the thousand. You will find scallop, mussel, oyster, clam, and even whelk shells. I've found shells there the size of my hand, which is quite large for this area. While I've never found any, I've heard of people finding shark teeth as well. I've also never found beach glass, but that's no matter.
There are many locations with benches and sun shelters. These spots are perfect for taking a moment to enjoy the nature around you.
There are several campsites in the park. Only two of the locations have potable water, though all have access to non potable water for washing. There are also pit toilets near the campsites. Since this park is so remote it is recommended that only experienced campers stay the night. After all, you have to lug all your gear several miles on foot, bike, or kayak. Not to mention there are no trash cans, so everything must come back out with you as well. It is important to note that while there are rangers that do patrol from time to time you are mostly on your own should you have an emergency.
Why I Love This Park
I just love nature. I love that this park is untouched, almost, entirely. You cannot hear any cars, there's hardly any people, at night there is no light pollution. This is one of the only places I've been able to visibly see the Milky Way.
The Virginia state park system knows that this park is visited by a lot of people on bike. They installed a bike repair station at the visitor center. It has all the tools you need to make repairs and an air pump, free of charge. I really appreciated it on our last trip when my seat kept falling on the trip to the park.
There are several rocking chairs on the porch of the visitors center. It was so nice to take a few moments to enjoy the breeze. Not to mention to have access to a flushing toilet.
This park is typically visited by nature enthusiasts and fitness buffs. The guests take care of the park. I've never seen litter in False Cape or Back Bay. And that is impressive.
I don't know why, but I just love the trees in the maritime forests. They are the same trees that grow at First Landing State Park, which is the way on the other side of Virginia Beach at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. I love how they grow low to the ground, the branches wonder, and they have an other worldly feel about them.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 18, 2021:
This sounds like a beautiful and very interesting place to explore. Thank you for sharing the information, including the precautions that are necessary.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 18, 2021:
Thanks for showing us photos and telling us about visiting False Cape State Park. It does sound like a great place for nature lovers.
DW Davis from Eastern NC on April 18, 2021:
Thank you for an excellent introduction to False Cape State Park. My son is an avid backpacker and hiker and is always looking for new parks to explore. I will definitely pass this info along to him.
Liz Westwood from UK on April 18, 2021:
This is a well-illustrated and useful guide to False Cape State Park. It sounds like a great place to visit.