Trail Review: Beaver Lake Trail / Pocahontas State Park

On the way home from the babysitter’s last Friday, Kairi and I were going through our normal run-down of which grown-ups she would be with over the coming days. Saturday would be a mommy day. Sunday would be a family day. I asked her what she wanted to do on our family day, and she said “go for a hike!”

 

Well, that was easy. ❤

 

Billy and I had already planned on a hike at a state park on Sunday, since REI and Virginia State Parks are running a partnership right now where REI members get free entry, and Saturday night we decided to give Pocahontas State Park a shot. I haven’t been there since I was a girl scout (despite it being incredibly popular), and he had never been there. I think I tend to forget just how many opportunities there are for hiking in the Richmond area since I always look to the mountains when planning a day hike, and we are trying to get better at finding places that don’t involve such a long drive, for both time and environmental reasons.

 

We chose the Beaver Lake trail for a few reasons. First was length—most of the trails there are pretty short, and we wanted one that would at least give us time to get some walking in before stopping for lunch. The second was this was a hiking-only trail, so no worries about getting in the way of bikers. And the third was the lake—scenery that is more interesting to a little one.

 

We parked in the wrong place, which added maybe a total of a quarter mile to our walk, which I was okay with—plus we parked near one of the playgrounds, and Kairi really wanted us to go somewhere that had a playground, so this was not a bad choice at all!

 

The hike starts by the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum. We took the left route down towards the lake, and headed down a winding paved path until we got to the lake itself. Kairi immediately wanted to stop and eat lunch, and to get her feet in the water, and she was fascinated with the lily pads and wanted to wade out and touch them. After letting her get her feet wet, we convinced her to walk a little more before we stopped, and followed the trail around the left side of the lake, past a spillway, and uphill, briefly away from the lake (into the “deep deep woods,” according to Kairi.) A little over half a mile in we went ahead and stopped for lunch at a really nice overlook, where Kairi was happy to search for mushrooms, throw sticks into the water to create ripples, and we even saw a frog. Both kids really made my day as well. Sebastian was kind of toddling around when we first started eating, before walking over and plopping down beside me to stare out at the lake with the rest of us. He does things like that every once in awhile that show me he’s starting to view himself as part of the family unit—he knows he’s one of us, instead of us just being these people he loves who keep him safe and fed. I commented on this to Billy, and Kairi followed up by saying that she loved us, and that her favorite thing to do was spend time with her family. With us both working, I get very easily caught up in thinking about all the things we *don’t* get to do, that I often forget to appreciate the things we *do* get to do, or to see things from Kairi’s point of view. And she sees weekly family hikes, or trips to the park, or even just time at home, and she sees those as the highlight of her week.

 

Three-year-olds. Just when they get so frustrating you can’t even, they go and say things like that.

 

Back on the trail Kairi was starting to get tired and we had forgotten a carrier for her, but she did pretty well—splitting her time riding on daddy’s shoulders and walking. There is enough variety in the trail environment that it held her interest pretty well. After our lunch spot we walked beside the lake for a few tenths of a mile before heading uphill into the woods again, and then winding down to a stream—with tiny bright pink mushrooms, and a lot of sand! This was approximately the halfway point, and from there we started winding to the right, over several long footbridges. According to the Virginia State Parks website, this lake is slowly turning into wetlands, and will eventually be a forest again. So walking over the footbridge over the marsh, we saw a lot of neat bugs and a whole clearing FILLED with dragonflies. We all appreciated those, and the serenity of the whole environment, and Kairi thought the long bridges were really fun to walk over.

 

Most of the path back wound alongside the lake again, with a couple of forks where the path split briefly, before heading back up to the CCC museum—and then to the playground. 😊

 

Overall I would probably rate this trail 4/5. It’s kid-friendly, and is very well maintained—it’s almost stroller friendly, because it’s so wide and free of obstructions. It’s rated as “moderate,” which I think is a fair rating as far as central Virginia goes. Most of the trails in parks around the city are so flat they feel less like trails and more like, well, a walk in the park. This one had enough changes in elevation to actually break a sweat at one point (although that could have just been the humidity…), and while it did not feel as remote as Powhatan State Park, near the back of the trail we did get a good sense of being in nature—which is something else I find often lacking when going to local parks instead of driving out to the mountains. The trail is EXTREMELY well marked, and Kairi had a lot of fun running up to the trail markers and telling us which direction to go next, and that kept her motivated, especially towards the end. We would do this one again. What the trail lacks in isolation, it makes up for in length, view, and variation. I would love to come back in the fall or winter especially, where you can see more of the lake through the trees, or see the fall color reflecting off the water, and when there are fewer people in the park overall.

Published by Whimsy & Wilderness Photography

I am a photographer and writer based in Chattanooga, TN, and adventuring around the southeastern United States with my husband and two children.

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