Primitive Camping in Sky Meadows State Park
Hello world! This past weekend, Scott and I were petting sitting for our good friends and we decided that we wanted to take our new friend, Clover, out on a camping adventure. We had some difficulty finding information on campsites because most Google results provide only quick reviews like “There were woods.” “Nice camp area.” “Lots of trees.” …Well great. That is helpful. Because of this, we decided to write a nice little review of our campsite to serve as a better resource for future campers. Here is our “nice little review” of Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane, Virginia.
Sky Meadows State Park is a 1,862-acre park located near the northwestern tip of Virginia. Unlike the more mountainous regions of the nearby Washington and Jefferson State Parks, Sky Meadows is rather bucolic. The property is comprised of meadows, grazed fields, forests, and streams. Views from the top overlook farmland and the countryside.
Mt. Bleak-Sky Farm is a registered historic district within the park. The visitor’s center provides ample information about the farm’s history and remaining structures including the antebellum Timberlake farmstead, several barns, cottages, and the Federal-style Mount Bleak Mansion.
Sky Meadows describes their campground as a “unique hike-in primitive backcountry camping experience”. Indeed, camping at this park requires a 1 miles hike to reach the designated overnight areas. In the past, they provided carts to aid guests in transporting their gear, however, they have stopped this service in order to encourage bringing in only food and items which are absolutely necessary.
The campsites themselves are well dispersed leaving plenty of room between them. They vary from streamside to heavily forested, from close proximity with the bathrooms to those which are far removed from the trailhead.
We decided on (and highly recommend should you visit) campsite #10 which is situated on a hillside. Following a private trail winding through the wooded area, we arrived at our spot for the night. The camp is terraced along the hill in three sections: the lower terrace is a flattened surface for pitching our tent, the second level is a picnic table area, and the top level overlooking the whole private campsite is a fire ring. Standing at the very top, I felt like a princess in an enchanted castle with this entire woodland kingdom to ourselves!
The campground area has vaulted toilets, a water pump for non-potable water, and a supply of chopped wood ($5 for a bundle of 10 on the honors system). There are bear-proof trash bins to properly dispose of trash, which you will definitely want to do. On that note, let’s talk about bears.
“Notice: Increasing Bear Activity”
The park has recently issued a notice of increasing bear activity. While the rangers are doing their best to encourage the bears’ natural habits elsewhere, it is the responsibility of overnight guests to exercise responsible camping practices. This includes, bringing in only necessary food, and storing it in a bear-proof container or hung from a branch (at least 10 ft. high and 4 ft. from the tree trunk).
These measures are not only to protect campers, but also the bears. Wild animals naturally fear people, but when they get used to eating human food and garbage, they lose that fear and conflicts are not far behind. Such bears’ fate is often, sadly, euthanasia.
The final message on the notice read “If you do encounter a bear, do not run, but get loud, get big and back away.” We woke up at 2:30 am to hear a group of people in the fair distance yelling, hollering and howling. Had this been a “car camping” experience, I would have suspected there was some wild party we were missing out on. Because of this particular park, I had no doubt in my mind that this group had a friendly encounter with a resident bear.
Things to do
Aside from camping, there are a number of things to do at the park.
Trails– There are 10.5 miles of bridle (horse) trails, 22 miles of hiking trails, and 9 miles of bike trails. A portion of the park also overlaps with the Appalachian Trail.
Activities – The park offers a number of activities including yoga at sunset, stargazing and community bonfires. Of course, they also offer guided tours of the historic Mt. Bleak-Sky Farm.
Wineries – Although not on the property itself, Sky Meadows State Park is surrounded by wineries, all within a 6-mile radius: Delaplane Cellars, Three Fox Vineyards, Aspendale Winery, Naked Mountain Vineyards, and more. Take your pick.
Hungry? – The nearby towns of Marshall, Paris, and Middleburg have a number of dining options. If you like family-owned hidden gems. Marshall Diner has one of the best cheesesteaks I have ever tasted. It is simple, but moist and just oozing with flavor. Mmmm.
Sky Meadows Park has been one of my favorite camping experiences so far. The 1-mile hike to and from the campground with all your overnight gear in hand makes for a sweaty time. However, once you arrive at the site to catch your breath, there is a sense of increased relaxation knowing that you worked for that rest.
Sleeping at this site was incredible. Aside from the group of people hollering at a bear at 2:30 am, the campground was quiet. There was barely a rustle in the woods, no wandering lights from neighboring flashlights, no pitter patter of feet looking for a bathroom. The only sounds were crickets and the wind in the trees. I would wake up every now and then, but it wasn’t a startled jolt out of my sleeping bag. It was a gentle opening of my eyes to find the moon glowing overhead. Lying on my back and peeking through the transparent mesh of the tent, the complete night sky was in view. Feeling at complete peace, I would try to force my eyes to stay open just a little longer to take in the beauty of the stars and moon.
So thankful that no bear disturbed my zen moment….side note. Is the plural of bear..bear? or bears? I grew up saying bears (hence the Berenstain Bears), but Scott grew up saying bear. Let us know what you say in the comments below so that Scott and I can put this debate to rest!