Hiking Trails Near Richmond, VA: A Guide For Spring

Virginia is a wonderful destination if you are interesting in hiking or other outdoor pursuits. From the Blue Ridge Mountains in the west to the Chesapeake Bay in the east, our state is full of unique natural beauty for visitors and residents to enjoy. Those of us who live in Virginia may take for granted all the wonderful outdoor opportunities to be had here, but there really is so much variety. The natural wonders of Virginia could keep anyone busy for quite a long time, perhaps even a lifetime.

If you are in the Richmond area, you may be looking for opportunities to get outdoors now that the weather is finally warming up for real. Hiking is a great choice of activity if you want to get out and get active. There are plenty of hiking trails near Richmond, VA for all ages and skill levels. Whether you are looking for a nice weekend outing with the family or you want a serious, multi-day challenge, you can find it less than a day’s drive from Richmond. So lace up your hiking boots, grab your backpack, and join us for a guide to some of the best hiking trails near Richmond, VA.

RICHMOND AREA

You may be surprised to learn that there is some great hiking to be had right here in the Richmond area. If you’re looking for an easy day trip or weekend activity, there are several great options to choose from without even having to leave town. You really can have a great hiking experience right in your own backyard.

James River Park System

belle isle

The James River Park System is located along the James River, right in the heart of downtown Richmond. Just steps from the bustling, historic Shockoe Bottom neighborhood, you can find some great trails to get you started.

  • Belle Isle is a popular destination with a nice easy to intermediate 2.1-mile trail loop that should take about and hour to complete. The downtown Richmond skyline in the background makes this a beautiful hike. Belle Isle is also wheelchair accessible.
  • The Pony Pasture rapids trail is also about 2 miles, and it’s a good trail for all skill levels. In the spring and summer, you are likely to encounter local wildlife like herons and turtles, so be on the lookout!
  • If you’re looking for a longer hike, try the Buttermilk/Northbank trail loop. This 6-mile loop crosses the James River twice and begins at the overlook at Oregon Hill.

Dutch Gap Conservation Area

You can find another nice trail of moderate difficulty at Dutch Gap Conservation Area, just south of the city in Chester, VA. The Dutch Gap trail is about a 4.5-mile loop that can be lengthened up to around 6 miles if you include optional trail spurs. Bird watching is excellent at this conservation area, so come prepared to appreciate the wildlife. Dutch Gap Conservation Area also offers other activities, including fishing, kayaking, and camping, in case you’re not tired after your hike.

North Anna Battlefield Park

If you want to enjoy some history along with your hiking, you should try North Anna Battlefield Park in Hanover County. This 172-acre park was the site of the Civil War Battle of North Anna in 1864. You can choose the shorter Gray Trail or the longer Blue Trail depending on your energy and interests. Both trails include historical markers explaining aspects of the battle. The Gray Trail is approximately 2 miles long, and the Blue Trail is just under 4 miles.

Other Richmond hiking areas you may want to try include

 

BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS

We’ve shown you some entertaining and scenic hikes right in the Richmond area, which are perfect if you want to get to know the city or don’t have time to travel. But for advanced hikers or aspiring adventurers, the ideal Virginia destination for hiking is the Blue Ridge Mountain region. Stretched along the entire western border of the state, the Appalachian Mountains offer majestic vistas, abundant wildlife, and unique experiences. This region contains hundreds of trails of all lengths and difficulty levels. It would be impossible to name them all here, but we will touch on some highlights. These trails continue to draw visitors year after year, and for good reason. They feature some of the greatest natural beauty that Virginia has to offer.

Appalachian Trail

You have doubtless heard of the famed Appalachian Trail. This marked hiking trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and is over 2,000 miles long. Only a few brave souls attempt to hike the entire length; however, over 2 million people each year enjoy day hikes or other shorter hikes along the trail. Virginia is home to 544 miles of the trail, about a quarter of its entire length. You can hike sections of the trail in almost innumerable combinations, and you will see some of the Blue Ridge’s most beautiful sites, no matter what part of the trail you choose to visit.

The trail was conceived of in 1925, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy was founded that same year. This organization still preserves and maintains the trail today. The trail was originally completed in 1931, although it took many years until the whole trail was successfully maintained. Originally built on privately owned land, the Appalachian Trail is now considered a National Scenic Trail and is overseen by the National Park Service.

McAfee Knob

mcafee knob

Located near Roanoke, VA, McAfee Knob is one of the most popular destinations on the Appalachian Trail. It is probably the most photographed area of the Trail in Virginia. The hike to McAfee Knob and back is an approximately 8-mile loop. The summit offers a 270-degree view of the surrounding mountains and valley. This spectacular view is not the only advantage of the McAfee Knob trail, though. All along this hike you will encounter beautiful views and natural phenomena.

Dragon’s Tooth

Another popular Appalachian Trail hike is the Dragon’s Tooth trail. The name of this trail refers to a unique geological feature that can be seen on the hike, a large rock formation that resembles a sharp tooth.

Mount Rogers

Mount Rogers is the tallest peak in Virginia, and is the focal point of the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, located in the Washington and Jefferson National Forests. The trail to the summit of Mount Rogers is an 8.5-mile loop with an elevation change of 1300 feet. Most of the hike is moderately difficult, with the last half mile to the top being a bit more steep and challenging.

Shenandoah National Park

Over 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail run parallel to Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. The park contains over 500 miles of trails, including many other popular hikes.

Dark Hollow Falls

This 1.4-mile hike is considered moderately difficult, and is one of the most popular hikes in Shenandoah National Park. The beginning of the hike is downhill, culminating when you reach the bottom of the falls, a very beautiful sight. The return hike is up hill and will be more strenuous, so plan accordingly.

Old Rag

Old Rag

This is another very popular hike. The full hike to the summit of Old Rag Mountain and back down to your start point is about 9 miles. You have a few options on the exact route you take that can change the exact distance. This is a longer and more difficult hike, suitable for intermediate to advanced hikers. This trail is popular due to the unique features of the mountain and the spectacular views from the top.

Hawksbill Mountain

For a shorter but still challenging hike, many people enjoy the Hawksbill Mountain trail. The trip to the summit and back is only 1.5 miles, but it does climb 700 feet in elevation, so it’s far from easy.

Other popular Blue Ridge Mountain trails include

  • Devil’s Marbleyard
  • Apple Orchard Falls
  • Sharp Top
  • Barney’s Wall
  • Crabtree Falls
  • Tinker Cliffs
  • Roaring Run Trail

OTHER VIRGINIA TRAILS

High Bridge Hike

High Bridge

The High Bridge trail in Farmville, VA is located in High Bridge Trail State Park. The full trail is 31 miles long and is suited for biking and horseback riding in addition to hiking. There are multiple shorter trail sections that would make ideal day hikes. The trail is mostly level and suitable for all skill levels. Even advanced hikers may want to try this trail, though, as it features the scenic High Bridge. High Bridge is 2,400 feet long and sits 125 feet above the Appomattox River. Views from the bridge are well worth the hike.

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

The Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia Beach, VA is over 9,000 acres and serves as a conservation area for many species of waterfowl and other animals. The refuge offers over eight miles of trails that are ideal for viewing Chesapeake Bay wildlife at any time of year.

Long Creek Trail

Another fun hike in Virginia Beach is the Long Creek trail which leads to the scenic Long Creek Overlook. This 3-mile circuit is located in First Landing State Park, situated where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. The park offers several other trails as well, with a total of 19 miles of trails to choose from.

From the James River to the Appalachian Trail, wherever you choose to hike, make sure to take the proper precautions and be prepared for what you will encounter. Consult trail maps before setting out. Note the difficulty level of your chosen trail and be sure that it is appropriate for all members of your party. Make sure that you carry plenty of water and food with you, especially for longer hikes. Don’t forget to wear sturdy shoes that fit well and clothing that is appropriate for the weather and terrain. And if you will be out in the sun, remember sunscreen and hats.

Happy Hiking! Don’t forget to like and share!

Photos: Jim LukachUrbEx Richmondksteryous, Karen Blaha, Eli Christman

 

 

 

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