We did a crazy thing.

My husband had been wanting to hike False Cape State Park with kids for a decade, since before we had kids. I remember it being tough in the heat and all the bugs even without kids.

False Cape State Park is in Virginia Beach, Virginia and its one of the few wilderness parks on the east coast. Even cooler, you can camp right on the beach, if you hike far enough.

We finally decided to give it a go in 2021, when our youngest kid was almost 3 and finally almost entirely potty trained. We reserved a bay side primitive campground, which required less hiking, rather than a farther, ocean side one.

The trip turned out much easier than I’d expected, mostly due to how much heavy lifting my husband, David, put into the adventure, and super fun. We picked the time of year perfectly, being June. The weather was cool and the bugs were very minimal.

And in many ways, packing was easier for this, knowing we could only bring what we could carry on our backs, than it was for the car camping trips we have taken over the years.

We invested in Osprey Ace 38 packs for both of our kids, which you can find here:

Getting ready to head out for our long hike in (we had very little idea how far it was or how long it would take, so we planned for it to take until sunset).

When we finally started moving, it came as a bit of a shock that our youngest wanted to ride the wagon straight off the bat! Luckily, his older sisters did a lot of the pulling and pushing.

Our son is finally doing a little bit of walking. We’re entering Back Bay Wildlife Refuge here.



Gorgeous views of the water, birds, and plants all around.

Several Snowy Egrets flew overhead and stalked prey in the water.

A nutria swam in one part of the bay. A nutria is a semi-aquatic, invasive mammal native to South America, spread throughout the world for it’s fur and hunting value.

Our son said he saw a red fox in this woods. We mostly believed him because he asked, “Do red foxes live here?” He does make up a lot of stories, but it seemed plausible. They do.

We finally made it to False Cape State Park. By this point, we’d already stopped at least 10 times and let the kids have snacks whenever they’d asked. Our middle child already dropped her backpack into the wagon.


We scored some delicious, plump blackberries along the trail here.

The sun was starting to get low in the sky, but we weren’t worried.


The last half mile to the campsite was shaded and our littlest decided to help us out by pulling all the extra gear for a bit.

Final stretch to the campsite!



Distance: 5.78 miles!!!

Phew! We made it! One, slow mile at a time with dozens of breaks!


We couldn’t have done this trip without our rugged, Mac Sports wagon!




Setting up camp during sunset.

A second view from our campsite.

After unloading all of the backpacks, we realized we probably overpacked on food a bit for a 3 day trip. Then, later we realized the site did have potable water! We’d carried in 5 gallons of water and a bunch of juice boxes.

Before our trip, we told our kids we were “going to the beach.” I called the backpacking part “a walk in,” since they tend to balk at the word “hiking.” Our kids knew better, I discovered on the day of. I think the fact that we bought them large backpacks and packed all our of food in them and bought an rugged wagon gave it away. 🙂

Despite all this, we experienced zero resistance before, during, or after the entire trip! It was quite unusual, let me tell you. I think I built the whole thing up properly ahead of time to get them excited and they were excited.

The other thing I did was I did not let them see the ocean AT ALL until the second day of the trip so we could get all the backpacking out of the way first. Kids tend to have lots of energy, but they burn through it fast and don’t pace themselves. I didn’t want them to spend an hour at the beach before the hike and I knew if they saw the ocean, we wouldn’t have made it to the campsite by nightfall.


Morning walk to the beach!

To the Beach!

A huge whale bone!

Wild blueberries on the way to the beach!

First view of the beach!!!

Exhausted after playing on the beach for a few hours.

Cottonmouth snake. Poisonous, yikes!

Widgeon Overlook

Widgeon Overlook

The kids found froglets near our campsite!

Gorgeous sunset on the second night near our campsite.


Final stretch back to the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge Parking lot (1 mile from there to the car on a road – which Alison walked solo since David did all the heavy lifting and the kids were beat).

Our youngest was exhausted after riding in the wagon nearly the entire five and a half miles to the car!

This was a great trip even when backpacking with three young kids! The flat hike made it very easy and the pleasant, June weather even better. I highly recommend this trip, especially if you’re looking for some peace and quiet for a few days and to see some cool animals.

We determined this park would be a very easy place to survive as well. Lot of food to forage, fish to catch, wild boars and nutria. Hunting game is not allowed in the park, but it’s still interested to know in doomsday scenario, that this would be a pretty easy place to survive – at least until a hurricane comes.


  1. Bill dutcher 2 years ago

    Thanks for sharing a Fantastic trip! The strain, gain will lock that memory in! A cottonmouth out in the sand/sun!!!memories are built!

  2. Jane Kennedy Mitchell 2 years ago

    We’ve ridden bikes there a few times and allows wanted to camp.

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