Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sky Meadows State Park

Sky Meadows State Park straddles land in Fauquier and Clarke counties on an eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The name Sky Meadows comes from former owner Robert Hadow, who named the property "Skye Farm" after a site in his native Scotland.

Totaling more than 1,800 acres, the park has 12 miles of hiking trails and offers direct access to the Appalachian Trail, which crosses Rt. 50 just west of the village of Paris. The park is a three-day hike from Harper’s Ferry, WV, and two days from Shenandoah National Park. Close to northern Virginia's center of equestrian culture, it includes riding trails, as well; two bridle trails traverse six miles of paths (separate from the hiking trails). There are facilities for pond fishing and picnicking.

Annually the Delaplane Strawberry Festival is held here on the Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.

The park is in Delaplane, less than two miles south of Paris, Va., via Rt. 50 to Rt. 17 South (or seven miles north of I-66, Exit 23 on Rt. 17 North). Although the park lands are on both sides of Rt. 17, the park entrance proper is on Rt. 710. There are no cabins or campsites with hookups at this park, but primitive camping is allowed by reservation.

The historic Mount Bleak House not only serves as the park's visitor center and office, it is furnished as a middle-class farmhouse, giving visitors a glimpse of middle-class life during the 1850s. From the rear of the house is a spectacular panoramic view of mountains and rolling hills. Picnic tables, restrooms, and gift shop are located behind Mount Bleak House.

Mount Bleak House, built in 1843, is open for guided tours on weekends and holiday afternoons from mid-April through October. In 1731, Lord Fairfax sold a 7,883-acre tract of land just south of Ashby’s Gap to James Ball. Isaac Settle of nearby Paris bought land from the descendants and in 1812 built a large estate house called “Belle Grove.” In 1842, he sold Belle Grove farm to his son in-law, Lewis Edmonds, who subsequently sold 148 acres to Settle’s son, Abner, who built Mount Bleak House. In 1868 Mount Bleak became the property of George Slater, who had been in Mosby’s Rangers during the Civil War. Slater and his son lived there for 55 years.

In 1975, Paul Mellon of Upperville purchased and later donated this 1,132-acre tract to the state for development as a state park, sparing the land from real estate development. Another 248 acres were acquired in 1987, thus providing access to the Appalachian Trail. In 1991, Mr. Mellon donated another 248 acres, designated the Lost Mountain Bridle Trail Area.

Click image to enlarge:

Sky Meadows State Park

Photo above courtesy Rob Tabor

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