Caledon State Park is one of the 41 state parks in Virginia and offers primitive camping, a beautiful natural play area, fossil beach and challenging trails.
Caledon is a small park with a lot to offer and a great day trip for families or a very interesting overnight trip for an experienced hiker.
Visiting Caledon State Park (Tips)
Caledon State Park is located an hour and a half from Richmond and an hour and a half from Washington DC and is a great place to recharge if you are visiting the big cities.
Caledon offers only primitive camping and no parking for RVs, so plan to tent camp and hike out.
1. Pay To Park
The parking at Caledon is a honor system drop box. There are parking fees based on the size of your vehicle, but the rates are very reasonable.
The sign clearly gave instructions and it was easy to deposit the parking fee.
The parking lot is small and there are two main parking areas, park by the visitor’s center so you will have access to a nice bathroom and water fountains.
2. Arrive Early
On busy weekends the parking area fills up and you may have to park on the grass.
There are only about 25 parking spaces available in the two gravel lots, so during holidays or special events you would be wise to arrive early.
3. Soak Up the History
Caledon has 4 historic buildings on the property with the largest one being the visitor’s center.
The building is open to the public from April to the end of the season.
The building dates to 1659 and was the home to the Alexander family who established Alexandria.
The visitor’s center has lovely museum quality displays to introduce you to the history of the area.
4. Play Like a Kid
When you enter the park you will see a large sign for the “Natural Play Area” no matter your age, head to the sign and enjoy the very well maintained play area.
The area features checkers, drums, imaginative play shelter, sand pits and many other delightful areas to inspire play.
The area is covered by trees and not visible from the parking area, so it is easy to miss.
5. Choose Your Hike Wisely
The trails at Caledon are very well marked and well maintained.
The hikes are easy to moderate difficulty depending on your experience. These trails are not suitable for strollers or other wheeled vehicles.
The hikes are designed to loop back at several distances for a very choose-your-own-adventure vibe.
6. Bring All Your Water
Campsites are a 3 mile hike from the visitor’s center and have no drinking water available. There are several water fountains around the parking area where you can fill up your water containers before your hike.
If you are equipped to treat water you will have access to the Potomac river.
7. Campsites are Remote
Campsites are a 3 mile hike and not accessible by car. They have no electricity or water. When you book your site they will tell you all these things, but if you book online you may not be aware.
The campsite area does have a portable toilet and firewood that can be purchased with an honor system box.
8. Portable Toilets are Available
Portable toilets are available by the picnic shelter and at the campsites. While not glamorous they are very convenient.
9. Star Parties Are Regular
The Rappahannock Astronomy Club hosts monthly star parties at Caledon. These events are listed on the park website.
Clubs and organizations can request an educational presentation by the club as well.
Do not plan to camp after the star party as it will be completely dark and the hike to the campsites is 3 miles.
10. Bathroom Is Always Open
The visitor’s center has a very clean and temperature controlled bathroom that has its own entrance and it is open overnight.
11. Visitor’s Center Closes Early
While the bathroom is open for visitors overnight the visitor’s center has pretty limited hours.
The website does not list the hours and the building is closed for much of the year.
Call ahead to find out what the hours are for the day you will be visiting.
12. Rent the Picnic Shelter
The picnic shelter at Caledon has a beautiful fireplace. It is a wonderful place for a club meeting, family reunion or cozy family dinner.
The rental fee is very reasonable and the fireplace is remarkable. You can purchase wood at the visitor’s center.
13. They Have a Little Library
The Natural Play Area holds a “Free Little Library” that was well stocked with kid’s books.
This is a great place to pause and read some books with your kids.
14. Food Close By
When you are driving into the park you can find snacks at Sheetz or Family Dollar on Dahlgren Rd.
There is also a local landmark called Horne’s where you can get lots of classic diner favorites.
15. Look for Eagles
Caledon is well known to have a large Bald Eagle population.
Caledon is a natural habitat for Bald Eagles and preservation of this habitat is one of the main reasons for this natural preserve.
16. Schedule a Kayak Tour
The Potomac River offers some really great kayaking, but there are no kayaks available for rent. There are kayak tours offered regularly and that is the best way to get on the water in Caledon.
Be on the lookout for Bald Eagles when you are on the water as this is a common nesting spot for Bald Eagles.
Caledon State Park Rockhounding
Rockhounds will want to take the hike to Fossil Beach
17. Fossil Beach Is A Hike
Take the 3 mile hike out to the Potomac to explore the shore where you can find fossilized shark and alligator teeth and fossilized shells.
Caledon was once on the ocean floor and the geology of the area has resulted in a very fossil rich beach area.
If you arrange a kayak tour the ranger can give you tips for finding fossils.
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