Jellystone Park – Natural Bridge, VA
The in-laws always stay at the Natural Bridge KOA (right off I-81), which they say nice things about, but we decided to try the Jellystone because it was on the James River and because it was adjacent to some undeveloped State land/Federal park and had lots of hiking (something we always look for in the advertisements).
Jellystone takes a few more minutes to get to than the KOA. Say it’s about ten or fifteen pleasant minutes of sightseeing from I-81. You can map it, by the way, since it is on a oval connector route, so you can get there directly from either direction, north or south on I-81. You don’t, for instance, have to drive north beyond it, then exit and head south is what I mean.
Well it’s a nice place, and very large… it would take almost an hour to walk a dog around the perimeter of the whole place! There are two distinct camping areas. There’s the part by the James River, which can accomodate some big-rigs, but is mostly back-ins that are not perfectly level and sort of close together, but are literally right on the river: a nice sound to hear at night. And talk about fishing! Watch out for the poison ivy by the river.
We’ve avoided the place when it was busy because we heard from the owner it gets to be kind of “resort-y” or a destination campground for familes and kids… meaning for us, loud and too crowded. But for families with kids it’s perfect. And there’s lots that kids of all ages can do–lots of rec, minigolf, pools, old school video games (if your kids don’t bring their PSPs), fishing, hiking. I don’t know if there’s intenet access, something we look for since I bring my work with me on the laptop, and the cell phone reception reqires you do some walking around to get a signal. The other camping area is where you head to for hiking/running. It’s up, off the river, and may have been a separate purchase of contiguous property at some point. You can even bring your horse trailer, corral your horse (for free, I believe), and there are literally dozens, maybe hundreds, of miles of nice hilly trails for riding/hiking. Aside from my ddogs, I never saw another soul while in the woods–it’s private and quiet. Nature at its best.
The bathhouses in the new, upper area are a little smelly. This is where the dump station is (oh, yeah–the river front sites are twoways only–no dump hookup), and after dumping the van, I went in to wash my hands and discard the rubber gloves, and WHEW! that’s some bad smell! Had me retching. On the other hand, the big bath, laundry room, (and attached game room with pool table) just above the wading/swimming pond, near the nicely stocked camp store… is really super clean! And air conditioned! A plus when it’s hot, and it can get hot in this part of Virginia in the summer.
We’d recommend visiting here. Nice surroundings and if you’ve got a family, you’ll think it’s a treasure. It’s a little pricey, say high 30s or low 40s, but the amenities, if you use them, make it worth it. Plus the staff and management are friendly and helpful.