Looking for a mountain getaway for your next family vacation? Head to Smyth County, home to Virginia’s highest peaks and coolest small towns.
Hungry Mother State Park
One of the crown jewels of the Virginia park system, Hungry Mother State Park has plenty of activities for a day trip or an overnight stay.. At the heart of the park is the 108-acre Hungry Mother Lake, which offers plenty of options for fishing, boating and swimming.
You don’t have to head to the coast for a beach trip. Every summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the park opens its sandy beach for guarded swimming. Kids of all ages will love the beach and dive tower, and nearby ice cream stand. The beach area also offers canoe, kayak and paddle board rentals.
If you’re looking for lodging, this state park offers a range of camping options, as well as cabins, lodges, and even yurts! Our insider tip: book well in advance, and request one of the charming vintage cabins constructed by the CCC in the 1930s.
Downtown Marion, VA
Just a few miles from Hungry Mother State Park, Marion is a vibrant Main Street Community with a high concentration of family-friendly restaurants and attractions. The historic, walkable Main Street is home to popular destinations like The Lincoln Theatre, a 1929 movie and arts venue, as well as fun shopping and dining, including Hester’s Country Store and Fudgery, The Wooden Pickle restaurant, a bakery, craft brewery, and vintage toy store!
Marion has a special old-fashioned charm, which encourages families to slow down, disconnect from technology, and enjoy time together. Top attractions include Park Place Drive-In Movie Theater, Putt-Putt, Hall’s Skateland Roller Rink, and an Escape Room.
Marion Downtown Association hosts a number of popular community events each year, including the Saturday Cruise-Ins and concerts in the summer, The Hungriest Mother Chili Cookoff, a Memorial Day Parade, Farmers Market and Monthly Craft Market. Downtown anchors like The Lincoln Theatre, Wayne C. Henderson School for Appalachian Arts, and the Smyth County Historical Society and Museum, plus the vibrant farm-to-table food scene, make Marion a natural stop for families on vacation.
Hike through Grayson Highlands State Park and Mount Rogers
If you’re looking to satisfy your craving for wilderness and adventure, Grayson Highlands State Park has views, trails, wild ponies, bouldering, fly fishing and the Appalachian Trail to scratch that itch. At elevations of 5,000 ft, Grayson Highlands offers stunning views above the tree line that make you feel like you’re on top of the world. Hiking options range in difficulty, offering the thrill of the summit for enthusiastic and less experienced hikers alike.
Nearby Mount Rogers is the highest peak in Virginia, and the National Recreation Area surrounding the peak gives plenty of opportunities for outdoor fun.
Families with little ones will enjoy the easy walking trails and interpretive displays at the Pat Jennings Visitor Center or the new Blue Ridge Discovery Center.
The Museum of the Middle Appalachians
This delightfully quirky museum sits in the heart of historic Saltville, VA. Its tag line is “Preserving History from the Ice Age to the Space Age,” and the exhibits deliver on that promise, with information about Saltville’s role in prehistoric history, Civil War battles, the industrial revolution, the rocket fuel that first put a man on the moon, and, of course… salt! Most popular with children are the life-sized woolly mammoth skeleton, and hands-on paleontology digs at the Salt Ponds.
While you’re visiting the museum, leave extra time to explore the rest of Saltville, including the interpretive science trails through the Salt Ponds, the Civil War history of Salt Park, the Salt Trail, a mixed use recreation trail, and of course the public playground and wave pool, open each summer.
Zip through the treetops at Hungry Mother Outdoor Adventures
Just 10 minutes from the state park entrance in Marion, VA, Hungry Mother Outdoor Adventures offers zip lines, tubing, Spacewalk bouncy houses and onsite cafe and general store.
HMOA boasts the longest, highest, and fastest zip line in the state of Virginia, with nearly a mile of lines through five sections, flying over valleys and through the treetops. Younger children (and timid first timers!) can enjoy the mini-zipline as well.
Grab a cold drink and a sandwich at the adjacent Hungry Mother Outpost.