Breaks Interstate Park

My expectations for this park were as high as the magnificent peaks surrounding it. And let me tell you, Breaks Interstate Park far exceeded those expectations and quickly jumped to the favorite park spot for my family. I booked this park several months before our visit because we decided to devote a week-long trip to this place. And I highly recommend doing just that. Even after a whole week, I still wanted more time! 

Dubbed “The Grand Canyon of the South” - this park has it all. Technical hiking, breathtaking overlooks, a river AND a lake, mountain-biking trails, zip lines, waterpark (seasonal), elk tours (seasonal), boat rentals (seasonal), a restaurant, a lodge, cottages, cabins, a yurt, and many full-hookup sites with sewer.

Breaks Interstate Park is jointly operated by both Virginia and Kentucky and is one of only two interstate parks in the country. We learned from Ranger Colleen (who was super helpful!) that because Breaks is an interstate park things work a little differently, and they do not receive as much funding as other state parks. Therefore, Breaks receives much of its revenue from offerings such as the Splash in the Park waterpark (kids loved this), Canyon Rim Zip Line (which we did not take part in, because two of the four of us - me included - are not a fan of heights), Rhododendron Restaurant (where we enjoyed a dinner), and Elk Tours (which is not offered in the summer due to the vulnerability of the calves being born during this time). They also provide kayak, canoe, and paddleboat rentals on Laurel Lake. 

Another difference to be aware of is that you will make your reservation on the Breaks Interstate Park website, not in the same reservation system as the rest of the Virginia State Parks. Therefore, your Customer Loyalty Points cannot be applied here. And this park is not listed in the Trail Quest program.

Most of the park property lies in Virginia, with the exception of one short trail leading into Kentucky and one of the Russell Fork River access points. Both of these spots were big highlights for us. We took the short drive across the border to the Center Creek Trailhead parking and accessed the infamous Bottom of the Breaks Trail by way of Center Creek Trail. This is the most strenuous hike in the park with creek crossings, rocky terrain, and very steep switchbacks. I am so proud of my nine and ten-year-olds for conquering this adventure! Just past this trailhead on KY 80 is Ratliff Hole. This place is a must. I’m so glad one of the park staff members recommended we stop there after our hike because we would have missed out on a gem! The perfect swimming spot with picnic benches, kayak access, a couple of small sandy beaches, tube shoots, rocks to jump off of, and canyon walls to admire. This section of the river is fairly tame, especially compared to the “gorge” just before it which is rated class IV for those crazy people… I mean whitewater kayakers. 

This was a jam-packed week for sure. And I’ll share all my notes below. We also took one day to drive to three other Virginia State Parks (that don’t offer camping) in that part of the state, so I’ll provide those details as well. But first here are a few tips that might be helpful to you when you plan your trip to this amazing park!


Lodging and Amenities

Hiking and Ratliff Hole/Russell Fork River

Fast Facts (and Opinions)

Location: Breaks Interstate Park - Breaks, VA

Equipment: Travel Trailer

Date: July 2023 (Week of Independence Day)

Weather: One hard rain during the night, overcast, sunny, one chilly morning

Kid-Friendly: Yes (ours were ages 10 and 9)

Dog-Friendly: Yes (We have a big dog and a little dog)

Site: B17


Cell Service: Yes (Verizon) but only at the campground

Park Highlights:

Click here to watch highlight reel.

Area Highlights:

Park Hikes:

Area Hikes:

Other Campsites:

Things to Do Next Visit (Because There's Just Never Enough Time!):


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