Experience the Wonder of Virginia’s Natural Bridge
Jenn Baxter is an accomplished author, speaker, and freelance writer in Charlotte, North Carolina. She has been published in numerous print and online publications and appears nationwide at tiny house festivals, healthy living festivals, and private engagements. She is an expert on downsizing, minimalism, clean eating, healthy living, and spiritual health.
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Man-made wonders like the Taj Mahal and the Egyptian pyramids are always interesting to see, but perhaps even more amazing to behold are the natural wonders of the world – beautiful creations that were not made by man and often, defy explanation.
Located in the southern end of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, the Natural Bridge is one of those natural wonders. In fact, it has been hailed as one of the nation’s most visited natural wonders and known as one of the seven natural wonders of the modern world.
The 215-foot high natural arch that spans 90 feet has a rich history that goes back several centuries. Long before European settlers ever arrived in the area, Monacan Indians believed it to be a sacred site. Later, in the 1700’s, it was surveyed by George Washington and again in the 1800’s by President Thomas Jefferson.
It became a popular tourist attraction all the way back in the 18th and 19th centuries, when visitors would explore the bridge and the surrounding area on horseback. It was even mentioned in the classic novel, Moby Dick. In the 1920’s, a nighttime display of the bridge began under the direction of President Calvin Coolidge. Although that original display no longer occurs, there is a nighttime light and sound show that depicts the Biblical story of the seven days of Creation.
In 2013, the Commonwealth of Virginia took over management of the property and it officially opened as a state park in 2016. As such, visitors have to purchase tickets to view the bridge from below, although you can drive across it from above via U.S. Route 11. There is plenty of seating for enjoying the view, as well as a gift shop with souvenirs, a deli and visitor information nearby.
When you visit the Natural Bridge, you also have access to six miles of hiking trails, including the Cedar Creek Trail, which passes through the Monocan Indian Village – a living history exhibit where you can learn about Native American everyday life through hide tanning, meal preparation, pottery, basket weaving and more.
The state park also includes Lace Falls – a 50-foot waterfall that you can access in the area via an easy 2-mile hike and enjoy from a circular observation area.
After you’ve enjoyed the beauty of the bridge itself, there are a few other fun things to do in the area, which is also named Natural Bridge. Start by taking a tour of the breathtaking caves at Natural Bridge Caverns. Then, get some up close and personal time with animals at the privately-owned Natural Bridge Zoo where you can pet and feed many of the animals, as well as at Virginia Safari Park – a 180 acre drive-through zoo that features over 1,000 exotic animals from six continents.
Then, finish off your day by relaxing with a frosty brew at Great Valley Farm Brewery – a craft brewery that’s located within a beautiful vineyard! Although the grapes grown on the property are now sold to local wineries and occasionally used in the beers, they are planning to produce and sell wine soon. But in the meantime, you can enjoy everything from a Belgian-style ale to a German lager.