Details

  • DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2005)
  • Intrinsic QualitiesNatural, Historic
  • LocationVA
  • Length23 miles
Byway Visitor Information
National Parks Service
Statewide Byway Partners
Virginia Department of Transportation
Virginia Is For Lovers
Rusty cannons line up on a bright green lawn
National Park Service, Colonial National Historical Park Photo

Overview

The Colonial Parkway is a twenty-three mile scenic roadway stretching from the York River at Yorktown to the James River at Jamestown. It connects Virginia's historic triangle: Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. Several million travelers a year use this route to enjoy the natural and cultural beauty of Virginia. The Parkway serves as a thoroughfare unifying culturally distinct sites crossing several pristine natural environments while still maintaining the National Park Service's prime directive to conserve the scenery and provide enjoyment of the same.


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Story of the Byway

The Colonial Parkway is a twenty-three mile scenic roadway stretching from the York River at Yorktown to the James River at Jamestown. It connects Virginia's historic triangle: Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. Colonial Parkway is a meticulously crafted landscape that integrate's the region's natural and cultural resources into a memorial roadway of the American colonial experience. It marks an important change in the history of National Park Service (NPS) road-building traditions as the first NPS-designed parkway that unifies dispersed sites as part of a cohesive national park. Several million travelers a year use this route to enjoy the natural and cultural beauty of Virginia.

The Parkway's construction presented the National Park Service with a unique challenge: build a thoroughfare unifying culturally distinct sites crossing several pristine natural environments while still maintaining the National Park Service's prime directive "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same." Adding to the complexity of the project was a construction period extending over twenty-six years through the Depression, World War II, and funding shortages.

Parkway design began in the spring of 1931 with the creation of the Eastern Division of the Branch of Plans and Designs under NPS landscape architect Charles E. Peterson's direction. In 1931 a Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) field office was opened in Williamsburg to facilitate parkway construction. Special agreements with the Navy and private land owners transferred ten miles of the route between Yorktown and Williamsburg to the NPS free of charge, allowing construction to begin that spring. Despite the fortuitous start, design and routing conflicts, limited funding and war stretched construction over a 26-year period. By 1937 the road was completed only to Williamsburg. Except for the construction of the Williamsburg Tunnel and Halfway Creek Bridge, both constructed in the 1940's, it was not until 1955 that funds were available to extend the parkway to Jamestown Island in anticipation of the 350th anniversary of Jamestown's founding.

The Parkway, completed in 1957, is an NPS success story. This roadway allows motorists to appreciate the surrounding landscape, while reducing impact on the resources and providing for traveler safety.

Driving Directions

The Colonial Parkway begins at the Yorktown Visitor's Center located at 1000 Colonial National Historic Pkwy, Yorktown, VA 23690. Visitors can then drive west towards Jamestown along both the York and James Rivers. Other exits on the parkway exist through Williamsburg and just before reaching Jamestown Island.

Points of Interest

  • Yorktown Battlefield

    Site of the last major battle in the Revoluionary War.

  • Felgates Creek

    Path for bird migration, great location for birding.

  • Exit to Colonial Williamsburg

    Colonial America experience.

  • College Creek

    A tributary of the James River.

  • Mill Creek

    Near Fort Monroe

  • James River Association

    Conservation, education, and promotion of the James River, the largest river in Virginia.

  • Jamestown Glass House

    Furnace ruins and glassblowing demonstrations.

  • Jamestown Island

    Island in the James River, connected by a causeway.

  • Indian Field Creek Pullout
  • Felgates Creek Pullout
  • Jones Mill Pond Pullout
  • College Creek Pullout
  • Archer's Hope Pullout

Itinerary

  • 23 Miles of American History

    Starting in Yorktown along the Colonial Parkway, you are already in one of the most historically significant areas in our entire country. This Byway starts in the heart of the Yorktown Battlefield, and there are so many ways to experience it. Stop by George Washington’s Headquarters on the battlefield, or maybe Surrender Field where the British raised their white flags. End your time here at the Yorktown Victory Center and see how we gained our Independence. After you hit everything here, you can get right on the Colonial Parkway.

    Once you start heading northwest along the road, you are immediately greeted by the wonderful view of the York River on your right and the U.S. Naval Weapon Station on your left. Take a stop by Colonial National Historic Park as well to learn even more about our nation’s history while also in a beautiful nature setting.

    After spending time in the park and getting back on the Byway, you will immediately be at Williamsburg, which has so many different interesting places to visit. Take a walking tour of William and Mary’s beautiful campus, or just stop by Colonial Williamsburg and take in the beautiful architecture. There are also plenty of local shops and restaurants that you can stop by and enjoy!

    After you pass Williamsburg, you begin to make your way to Historic Jamestowne. Drive through one of the first settlements in the United States and take in the fascinating history of the area. Your trip along the Colonial Parkway ends here, but there is so much more to explore throughout the area!

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