Frontiersmen used to call a passage through the mountains a “break.” Such breaks were a rare thing indeed, offering the early settlers an opportunity to take their frontier lives to a new level. Layer upon layer of history welcomes today’s visitor, as does the still resplendent beauty of this unique 4600-acre park. Established in 1954 by an act of Congress initiated by the efforts of the two states it crosses, Virginia and Kentucky, it is now one of only two such interstate parks in the USA.
Visitors come to us year-round to enjoy the many recreational delights, whether they are bent on an active, sporting experience, or one more contemplative, such as our seven gorgeous overlooks. Wildlife abounds, as does the warm welcome, in cozy accommodations that feel just right in their setting.
Activities & Recreation:
More than 25 miles of hiking trails lace the park, varying from easy to difficult. Most are less than one mile long, but interconnected trails offer the more ambitious hiker a good choice of routes over varying terrain. Maps with descriptions of each trail are available at the Visitor Center. Trail names give clues to the outstanding physical features of each: Cold Spring, Geological, Grassy Creek, Grassy Overlook, Lake, Loop, Overlook, Prospectors’ Ridge, River, Towers, and Tower Tunnel. Both the Ridge and Geological trails are self-guided, with booklets available at the Visitor Center that detail points and notes of interest. But if you would prefer, guided hikes are scheduled throughout the summer. Additionally, if you call ahead, our Visitor Center staff will be happy to plan a guided hike to meet your family’s or group’s schedule.
Elevations measured many years ago show heights varying from 870 feet at the Russell Fork River in the canyon bottom to 1,978 feet at Clinchfield Overlook (where the Overlook Trail begins.) The advent of modern GPS units shows the elevations to be higher. Surfaces are hard-packed dirt and rock, and are well maintained with steps and handrails where needed. All are marked with colored blazes, with no intersecting trails having the same color. Cautions: Pets must be leashed and we ask that visitors stay away from exposed overlooks during thunderstorms. Bicycles are permitted only on the Mountain Bike Trail.
The extraordinary range and variety of trails offered the hiker in our park is significant. Below we offer detail on each to help you choose your path. And enjoy every step!
Biking (Mountain Bike Trail) & Rentals
The Mountain Bike Trail offers breathtaking scenery. The trail is a stack loop trail system offering up to nearly 12 miles of riding, from moderate to difficult. Depending on the route chosen, bikers may plan rides of varying length, with the possibilities of good climbs and long downhill runs. Positive reviews for this trail are posted regularly on the websites for hiking enthusiasts.
If you’d like to try out our Mountain Bike Trail or simply want to ride around the park but don’t have a bike, no worries! You can rent either a regular mountain bike or an e-bike for a half day (5 hours) or for a full day (10 hours).
Horseback Riding & Carriage Rides
On the wing, in the soft and sometimes tempestuous air. Nested in the sheltering canopy of the Appalachians. What do you see and what might you hear? With a two-note shriek, or more muted and varied cry, our feathered friends also reign here.
As a part of the Virginia Birding and wildlife trail, Breaks Interstate Park is home to a wide variety of birds. Some of those include the Swainson’s Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Black and White Warbler, Yellow Rumped Warbler, Turkey Vulture, Red Tail Hawk and Osprey.
In 2007, Peregrine Falcons were released into the park as the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries reintroduced the species into Southwest Virginia and Southeast Kentucky. These birds had been wiped out in the Eastern United States due to the use of pesticides and chemicals such as DDT in the 1940’s and 50’s. Until the reintroduction effort, the last documented sighting in the state of Virginia was at The Towers in Breaks Park. In April 2011, a pair of Peregrine Falcons were again spotted at Towers Overlook offering hope that members of the species has returned to its historical nesting spot.
Each winter the park participates in the National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. The information collected is reported to the Audubon Society, where it is used to determine increases or declines in area species. We welcome public participation in this event. Should you wish to join us, more information is available by contacting the park Visitor Center.
A checklist detailing the different species found here, as well as our ongoing Recent Sighting List are available at the Visitor Center.
Pedal boats, hydro bikes, and canoes are available seasonally for rental by the hour or half hour on beautiful Laurel Lake. Visitors may use these boats as a means to explore, or for fishing.
Laurel Lake, Beaver Pond, and the Russell Fork River offer a variety of fishing experiences, and the promise of a good catch. Laurel Lake, a twelve-acre man-made lake, and our two-acre Beaver Pond are stocked with bluegill and bass. The Russell Fork River is stocked with Rainbow Trout by Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries officials.
Laurel Lake is located adjacent to Splash! in the Park. The Lake Trail circles Laurel Lake, ensuring many access points for fishermen.
Beaver Pond is located near the cottages. It may be accessed by the Deer Trail, which goes around the perimeter of Beaver Pond.
The Russell Fork River may be accessed at several points, including Garden Hole and Ratliff Hole, both of which are within park boundaries, but located outside the entrance to the park’s facilities.
Fishing licenses are required. Temporary licenses are available at the park Visitor Center.
Further information may be obtained by contacting the Visitor Center.