Thursday, October 13, 2011

Birdwatching and Trail-Running at First Landing State Park - VA Beach

Whenever I’m in Virginia Beach I try and work in a hike or run at First Landing State Park.  Located off Shore Drive within the city limits, the 2,888 acre state park is just a few miles from the busy VA Beach boardwalk, but offers visitors an escape from an otherwise bustling environment.
The park’s nine trails total 20 miles and ramble past swamps, Cypress trees, beaches, sand dunes, bays and maritime forests with Spanish moss hanging from the trees – the northernmost point on the East Coast to witness these subtropical plants.  The park is also the northernmost habitat for Live oaks and Blue Jack oaks. 

In addition to attracting trail runners, boaters, bicyclists and beach-side campers, the park is also a haven to shoreline bird and animal watchers hoping to spot egrets, herons, raccoons, possums, and the occasional fox.  Also watch out for water snakes, green snakes and cottonmouths.  I do not think they have alligators this far north, but they would not be out of place here!

My favorite trail at First Landing is Long Creek Trail, a five-mile one-way path that is perfect for the runner looking for a moderately challenging run or the bird-watcher looking for a nice hike.  The trail starts along Long Creek, follows the edge of the bay and passes through a salt marsh.  There is a boardwalk in the salt marsh with a platform for observing shorebirds.  At the top of a tall sand dune there is an amazing view of Broad Bay.  You also pass White Hill Lake with its pure, majestic views of the lake and the open wetlands that surround it.  
At the end of the 5 miles, re-trace your steps or veer off onto one of the adjacent trails to see more of the park.  The flat terrain and unique habitat throughout ensures that you’ll have a pleasant experience wherever the path takes you in First Landing State Park!

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