60 Hikes Within 60 Miles Richmond Including Petersburg, Williamsburg, and Fredericksburg  by Nathan Lott

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Richmond: Including Petersburg, Williamsburg, and Fredericksburg Guide Book

by Nathan Lott (Menasha Ridge Press)
60 Hikes Within 60 Miles Richmond Including Petersburg, Williamsburg, and Fredericksburg  by Nathan Lott
Hikers in Richmond and central Virginia enjoy a surprising array of choices. They have their pick of urban parks, suburban greenways, and more-bucolic settings; of tidal wetlands, rolling hills, and riparian forest; of Colonial homes, Civil War battlefields, and state parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. All this exists despite a dearth of public land. While national forest blankets the western mountains of Virginia, public land in the Tidewater and the Piedmont is at a premium (largely because the region was divvied up by royal land grants in the 17th and 18th centuries). There is no shortage of guidebooks devoted to the trails of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

© 2010 Nathan Lott/Menasha Ridge Press. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Richmond: Including Petersburg, Williamsburg, and Fredericksburg" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 60.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 60.

The 2,217-acre Amelia Wildlife Management Area (WMA) encompasses forest, rolling fields, and wide hedgerows that offer great bird-watching. The 100-acre Amelia Lake and a smaller pond entice anglers with largemouth bass, channel catfish, walleye, redear sunfish, and other species. Note: The grassy trails here are mown sporadically. If you plan to hike in summer, call to inquire about trail status. The commonwealth’s wildlife-management areas, operated by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), greatly expand outdoor-recreation options in central Virginia. With no national forests east of the Appalachian Mountains, avid hikers look to WMAs to effectively double the state-owned land at their disposal. And while these areas lack the conveniences associated with state parks, they are, as the name suggests, great for wildlife-watching.
Chula, VA - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 6.1
Though it does rely on gravel forest roads to make a complete loop, Carter-Taylor Multi-use Trail features long stretches of single-track. Three stream crossings entail some ups and downs, but the generally level nature of the trail counterbalances its length. Instead of sandy stream-beds, you'll cross beds dotted with stones. There are even black bears residing in these woods. However, your're more likely to spot their diminutive relative the raccoon, as well as white-tailed deer and wild turkey.
Toga, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 10.9
This compact jaunt showcases the natural beauty of the park’s eastern woodlands. Birds linger on the marshy eastern periphery of Bear Creek Lake, and hardwoods tower over Little Bear Creek. You can almost double this hike by continuing on to add Lost Barr Trail, which circles new cabins west of the lake. Just 326 acres, Bear Creek Lake State Park is engulfed by the 16,000-acre Cumberland State Forest. But the park has the larger lake (at 40 acres) and all the amenities to make it a popular weekend-camping destination. On crowded days, the surrounding forest makes it easy to escape the throngs for either hiking or fishing. But you may find that with everyone lounging on the beach, this hike is surprisingly serene.
Richmond, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.9
This route begins on Beaverdam Park’s nature trail, then joins its hiking path to trace the southeastern arm of Beaverdam Reservoir, bisecting numerous stream-fed marshes along the way. A return leg across forested hills on the park’s multiuse trail completes the loop. Were it solely the work of tree-felling semiaquatic mammals, Beaverdam Reservoir would be quite a feat. But in fact the 635-acre lake is the product of a human-made dam. Before its 1990 inundation, the submerged area was a tangle of creeks and wooded beaver ponds known as Beaverdam Swamp.
Gloucester County, VA - Hiking,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 5.8
In the James River, near the heart of the city, Belle Isle is a de rigueur Richmond outing, augmented here by a short stroll around Brown’s Island, itself a popular, parklike destination on the north shore of the James with an amphitheater that hosts summer concerts. For newcomers and lifelong Richmonders alike, these islands reveal much about the city’s industrial and wartime past. One of five waterside parcels jointly managed as the James River Park (see also James River Park Main Section and Pony Pasture Rapids, pages 39 and 48, respectively), Belle Isle is one of Richmond’s most historic and most popular outdoor destinations. What hard-trammeled Belle Isle lacks in wilderness, it compensates for with views of the James River and the downtown skyline across the water.
Richmond, VA - Birding,Hiking,Horseback Riding,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 2.7
Surrounded by water on three sides, Belle Isle State Park is a boon for anyone looking to cast off or cast a line into the Rappahannock River and its tributaries. However, at 733 acres, the park is also rich with agrarian history and ecological diversity, and easily accessible via wide, level trails. Belle Isle State Park, on the northern shore of the Rappahannock River, is not to be confused with the Belle Isle of downtown Richmond (see page 16), though, like the latter, it was once home to a Powhatan Indian fishing village. Specifically, the Moraughtacunds tribe inhabited the area concurrent with the earliest English colonization.
Richmond, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.3
Surrounded by water on three sides, Belle Isle State Park is a boon for anyone looking to cast off or cast a line into the Rappahannock River and its tributaries. However, at 733 acres, the park is also rich with agrarian history and ecological diversity, and easily accessible via wide, level trails. After descending the mountain-laurel-cloaked hillside to brackish Bush Mill Stream, you may think it unlikely that these quiet waterside woods were once a bustling port. Yet as its name recalls, Deep Landing once harbored large sailing ships. The forestry industry began here in the Colonial era and peaked in the early 19th century.
Farnham, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.4
Though not long, the trail at Bush Mill Stream is a valued resource for denizens of Virginia’s Northern Neck. Bring binoculars for birdwatching or a picnic lunch to enjoy on your leisurely descent through mixed forest to the marshy banks of the preserve’s namesake Chesapeake Bay tributary. Provided it’s open, start your visit to Caledon with a walk through the visitor center, where you’ll find exhibits on the property’s history and the bald eagles that roost along its stretch of Potomac shoreline. The exhibits are housed in the white-clapboard Colonial that Lewis Smoot built in 1910, shortly after inheriting the property. He lived there until his death in 1962, along with his wife, Ann Hopewell Smoot, who donated the property to Virginia in 1974.
Weedonville, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
A series of interconnected loops, the network of hiking trails at Caledon State Park and Natural Area is easily customized to a shorter loop or figure eight. This loop descends through oaks to wind along a riparian floodplain and then makes an undulating return over beechstudded hillsides. Constructed over two decades, the Rappahannock River canal system once stretched 50 miles upstream to Fauquier County. The notion of using canals to promote trade and industry along the river was first endorsed by Virginia legislators in 1811.
Falmouth, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.6
The mostly flat 5,217 acres of Chickahominy WMA do not include a trail along the namesake river. Nevertheless, a network of grassy doubletrack offers multiple out-and-back options, and gravel roads provide access to verdant Morris Creek and the wide Chickahominy River. This rustic hike can be paired with the more civilized Virginia Capital Trail (see page 138) for a great day trip. The Chickahominy River takes its name from a Native American tribe that still resides in the area. The correlation with hominy is no accident—the tribe was named for its dietary staple of pounded corn.
Chickahominy River, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.3
The pastoral environs of Chippokes Plantation State Park are positively evocative. It’s easy to imagine Native Americans paddling a canoe through the lush wetlands where Chippokes Creek meets the James, or to imagine early settlers tending the nearby fields of corn and wheat. A wealth of history awaits visitors to Chippokes Plantation State Park. Nearby Colonial- and American-history landmarks at Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown draw more than a million visitors annually. But here, just across the 5-mile-wide James River, the pace is slower and the setting bucolic.
Jamestown, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.0
Dug in at Cold Harbor, Confederate forces repulsed the Union advance toward Richmond in a protracted engagement that left 16,000 men dead. The victory amounted to a stay of execution for the besieged Confederate capital and later prompted General Ulysses S. Grant to confess, “I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made . . . no advantage was gained to compensate for the heavy loss.” Today those somber words are emblazoned on the battlefield’s visitor center. Earthen fortifications still wend their way through the now-silent woods, and an interpretive trail explains the grim reality of what in 1864 was a new phenomenon: trench warfare.
Richmond, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.0
Crump Park is a window into Henrico County’s past, often overshadowed by the county’s ongoing suburban boom. Admittedly, the park’s trails are secondary to its historical resources, but they are a welcome addition. You can step back to 1860 at Meadow Farm Museum and stretch your legs in the adjacent woods. And while you’re in the neighborhood, take the opportunity to drop by other sites of historic interest just down the road.
Glen Allen, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.9
The blufftop trail at 1,193-acre Cumberland Marsh is a bird-watcher’s delight. The grassy islands and still waters of Holts Creek are a valuable stopover for migratory waterfowl traveling the Atlantic flyway and a year-round home for herons, egrets, and raptors. The level trails encircle a small pond and traverse a recovering forest. Note: As of this writing, some trails were closed for maintenance but were scheduled to reopen before publication.
New Kent, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.5
Though it does rely on gravel forest roads to make a complete loop, the Cumberland Multiuse Trail (CMT) features long stretches of singletrack. A creekside picnic shelter near Winston Lake and subsequent stream crossings invite you to rest and refuel. Though the hiking-only Willis River Trail is also within the forest, the CMT has the significant advantage of a loop configuration. The bulk of Cumberland State Forest, like much of Virginia’s state-forest system, was purchased from struggling farmers by the federal government under the New Deal–era Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act. In accordance with the act, the federal government granted Virginia a 99-year lease to the land in 1939.
Cumberland, VA - Hiking,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 8.4
Shrouded in suburbs, Deep Run Park is a welcome retreat, and the throngs of families, dogwalkers, and couples who flock here on sunny weekends attest to its popularity. The centerpiece of Deep Run Park, nestled within Richmond’s sprawling West End, is a bilevel pond encircled by a paved trail. Couples stroll by as youngsters timidly cast breadcrumbs to a gaggle of Canada geese that has made a permanent stopover of the small pond. Rambunctious schoolchildren frolic on the playground uphill, and teens play three-onthree on the adjacent basketball court after class. Fitness-conscious suburbanites tackle the exercise trail on their way home from work, and after-dinner dog-walkers make their daily rounds.
Glen Allen, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.7
Just south of Richmond International Airport, Dorey Park is a model county park. The well-maintained facilities cater to a range of interests, from T-ball to horseback riding. By combining a stroll around the pond, a brief jaunt into the woods, and a loop of the exercise trail, it’s easy to string together a couple of miles on wide gravel paths. Elongate your hike by venturing onto the singletrack in the southern reaches of the park, near the discgolf course.
Richmond National Battlefield Park, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.1
The 810-acre Dutch Gap Conservation Area abuts Henricus Historical Park (see page 70), site of an English settlement just four years younger than Jamestown. The area’s present topography bears the scars of four centuries of human manipulation, beginning with the moat-building project for which it was named. Yet nature persists undaunted, and this hike, which traces a tidal inlet of the James that was formerly an oxbow bend in the river, affords you the chance to escape civilization into a marsh teeming with wildlife.
Richmond National Battlefield Park, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.5
A descent from the eastern trailhead to a pebbled shoal on the Rivanna River affords hikers an up-close encounter with the waterway they will only glimpse through the trees for most of this out-and-back. After running along hilly bluffs between recovering forest and a riparian floodplain, the route ventures to a second overlook at Burke Creek then uphill to the former Haden farmstead. Fluvanna’s history is inseparable from that of the Rivanna River, which bisects the county and meets the James on its eastern border. Besides providing water to farms, the river powered mills and carried crops to market. Fluvanna Heritage Trail traces the river’s western shore, opposite the hamlet of Palmyra, itself a tribute to the area’s rich past.
Palmyra, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 7.7
The twists and turns along the park’s interconnected singletrack loops nod to the mountain bikers who first blazed the trail. A predominantly doubletrack multiuse path stays to higher ground and encircles the parking area, but the longer trail explores both the recovering forest uplands and a stream valley that drains west to Colby Swamp. James City County’s newest park, 675-acre Freedom Park is popular despite minimal amenities. Mountain bikers and trail runners frequent the park after work and on weekends. The singletrack network is hospitable to hikers at all but the most crowded times.
James City County, VA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3