S24O to False Cape State Park (bike)

Biking Camping

I’ve been visiting False Cape State Park for over twenty years doing day trips with the mountain bike as well as a few hikes and trail runs. It’s a great place and, considering it’s only about 15 miles south of the Virginia Beach resort area, makes for a quick getaway and escape from the city.

False Cape is a rather unique state park as it’s separated from Virginia Beach (Sandbridge, to be specific) by the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge on the north, the Atlantic ocean to the east, and Back Bay to the west. The park extends down to the North Carolina border where you’ll find several small communities, most notably Corova, that are only accessible by driving on the beach or boating across the bay to the east. Highway 12 begins about 10 miles south of the state line in the town of Corolla. Residents of Corova generally drive south and pickup Highway 12 or boat across Knott’s Island Bay. There are those with permits, however, that are allowed to drive the beach north, crossing into Virginia, and cutting over to Sandpiper Road near the refuge visitor center.

This little trip allowed me to check off three firsts:

  • First bike tour that began and ended at my doorstep. All my other tours have begun with either a drive or a flight. I’d always wanted to do something – no matter how trivial – that didn’t involve having to travel to the starting point. Check!
  • First time camping at False Cape State Park. Although I’d been there numerous times, I’d never camped there. FCSP is unique in that you can only get there by foot, bike, or boat which, combined with the primitive nature of the sites, makes getting there a bit more challenging than your average park. Check!
  • First time camping on the beach. If you reserve one of the sites (11-20) at Barbour Hill Ocean, you’re actually allowed to set up your tent on a half mile stretch of beach just a short distance from the designated sites. Check!

The bike ride down to Sandbridge is nothing to write home about. Lot’s of traffic and quite a bit of the route has little to no shoulder. It’s not until I actually hit the town of Sandbridge that I can actually relax and enjoy the remaining 5 miles before entering the refuge. Once in the refuge, it’s about 3 miles of gravel over either the East or West Dike (depending on which one is open), before entering FCSP. Once in the park, it’s just a bit over a mile to the Barbour Hill Ocean campsites.

Although I was planning on camping on the beach, I still took advantage of the table at my assigned site to store my bike and get my gear organized. After getting the tent set up on the beach, I returned to the site and prepared dinner which I took back out to the tent and enjoyed while listening to the sounds of the ocean. The weather was perfect with a nice breeze and not a cloud in the sky.

Later in the evening I wandered down the beach and even caught the International Space Station making a pass over the east coast. My tent, an MSR Hubba Hubba, is almost entirely netting so, with no need for the rainfly, it was like sleeping in a planetarium (but without the incredibly comfortable reclining chair).

After a wonderful night by the ocean, I began the morning with a short walk to get the blood flowing and loosen up a bit. Then it was time to pack up the tent, sleeping bag, pad, and head back to the site for breakfast. With the bike loaded back up, I hit the road and was home before noon. Another S24O in the books.

Gear Used

  • Surly Disc Trucker
  • Arkel GT-54 and GT-18 Touring Panniers
  • MSR Hubba Hubba – 3 season, 2 person tent
  • Kelty Celestial 55F/13C sleeping bag
  • Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Sleeping Pad
Biking Camping

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