My son and I recently explored Caledon State Park in King George County. It’s a coastal state park set on the Potomac River in the northeast section of Virginia’s Northern Neck.
This National Natural Landmark is best known for its majestic bald eagles, and the best trails for seeing bald eagles are the Boyd’s Hole Trail and Jones Pond Loop.
We did not see any bald eagles on our hike on the Boyd’s Hole Trail, though I did purchase the iron-on patch for this state park, which prominently features a bald eagle.
Still, this was a relaxing hike through old growth forest that led to a lovely picnic area right on the Potomac River. It was the perfect spot to take a break for lunch.
|Elevation Gain||171 feet|
|Terrain||Mostly dirt & gravel trails|
|Fee||$5 per vehicle|
|Driving Directions||Click Here|
Arriving at the Trailhead
There is one central parking area for Caledon State Park. It’s in front of the visitor center. Here you’ll find plenty of parking and overflow parking spaces.
From here, you’ll see a large Caledon State Park trail map to the left of Smoot House. This historic building houses the visitor center with bald eagle exhibits and a gift shop.
Continue past the map to the end of the gravel road. You’ll see a blue sign for the Boyd’s Hole Trail, then a large sign welcoming visitors to the Chesapeake Bay Gateway.
The First Steps
The hike begins at the “Explore Your Chesapeake” sign and gently descends along a gravel road through an old growth forest of tulip popular and oak trees.
A wooden bench appears at the .1-mile mark, then the trail forks a few steps later at the .2-mile mark. The trail on the right leads to the primitive hike-in campground.
Stay on the blue-blazed Boyd’s Hole Trail. You’ll reach another relaxing bench at the .4-mile mark. Then, the loop on this lollipop hike begins at the .7-mile mark.
It doesn’t matter which way you begin on the loop. We stayed to the left. In a few more steps, you can veer left to take the Caledon Marsh Trail to the Rookery Trail.
The Rookery Trail is also quite well-known for spotting eagles. I’d like to come back another day for this trail, but for now we were eager to reach the Potomac River.
At the 1.4-mark, a swinging wooden bench turns up on the right (yes, please). On the left, you’ll see the foundation for what was once a colonial plantation in the 1600’s.
The plantation and farm were owned by the Alexander family. The family later spent more of their time in Northern Virginia. The town of Alexandria was even named for them.
Mallows Marsh, a scenic wetland area, turns up on the right at the 1.6-mile mark. A few steps later, you will arrive at a small picnic area on the Potomac River.
At the picnic area, you’ll find five picnic tables, as well as a wooden overlook, a trash can and recycling bin. Since this trail is also open to bikes, you’ll find a couple of bike racks, too.
There are no designated swimming areas at Caledon State Park, but you can wade into the river at the shaded picnic area. I also highly recommend bringing a hammock.
We spotted a woman and her young daughter lounging in a hammock. I was envious. Thankfully, we had brought our hammocks too for our camp-out later that day.
From here, continue along the gravel loop trail. You will close the loop at the 2.7-mile mark. Turn left to slowly re-trace your steps to the trailhead. Your hike is complete.
From the Caledon parking area, this leafy hike through an oak and tulip poplar grove took us nearly 90 minutes, including time spent eating lunch by the Potomac River.
After this Coastal Virginia hike, we hiked the Hampstead Road Trail with our backpacks to the primitive camping area with 5-6 large tent pads. It’s a 3-mile hike (one-way).
There are more than a dozen Caledon hiking trails, many with woodsy names, like Laurel Glen, Cedar Ridge and Fern Hollow. Here is the Caledon trail map (PDF).
The Caledon State Park entrance fee is less than other parks in the Virginia State Parks system at just $5 per car year-round. It’s a real bargain.