A trailblazer’s guide to the city

Richmond Hiking Trails

Photo by: Lauren Cassano
The North Bank Trail offers a serene environment within the hustle and bustle of Richmond.

Though the first official day of Spring does not occur until March 20, 2021, the Commonwealth of Virginia has already begun witnessing a spike in temperatures. After long months spent bundled up in the house combatting frigid conditions, the newfound warmth and bright colors elicit a sense of eagerness to spend time outdoors. The long-awaited change in weather provides an opportunity for many who longed to soak up the sun during a truly isolating winter to now refresh their daily routines. Luckily, for the Midlo community, the nearby city of Richmond serves as the perfect solution for those seeking to embark on a journey in nature and breathe in the season’s scented air. With its many hiking spots, Virginia’s Capital resembles that of an oasis for those itching to explore. From leisurely trails along the banks of the James River to treks of pure commitment, a route exists for all levels of hikers.

Texas Beach: Running parallel to the James River, Texas Beach offers hikers a serene walk along the sandy banks. To access the main trail, an old rustic toll bridge with painted murals extends over a set of railroad tracks, taking hikers to their destination. Throughout the path, there are plenty of spots to picnic or simply take in the panoramic views. Hikers will even stumble upon historic features, including a unique glimpse at the stately Maymont mansion sitting high on a hilltop overlooking the river and ruins of Foushee’s Mill, that dates back to 1819. Together, the open walkway and the river flowing alongside give way to optimal conditions for hikers, providing a gentle breeze to keep them cool in the warm temperatures of spring. 

Pony Pasture: Located on the outskirts of the city, Pony Pasture is one of Richmond’s most popular parks. Part of the James River Park System, the area provides hikers with stunning views of the waterway with the city skyline making an appearance in the background. On the drive into the park, beautifully crafted homes line Riverside Drive that leads to the secluded trails. With minimal elevation, the park’s easy-to-navigate routes are suitable for hikers of all ages. While the main trial is composed of gravel, soft dirt paths guide visitors through the inland meadows full of blooming flowers. Pony Pasture’s calm waters also represent an ideal environment for other recreational activities, such as swimming, fishing, kayaking and paddling boarding.

North Bank Trail: Acting as one of the City’s best kept secrets, the moderate trail weaves hikers through 4.8 miles of dense forest. Whether a beginner or an expert hiker, the North Bank Trail has something for everyone. Ranging from Tredegar Iron Works to Pump House Park near Maymont, the all-immersive trek forces one to forget they are in the heart of a bustling city. At about the halfway point, the trail meets the old toll bridge leading to Texas Beach, allowing hikers to extend their adventure. 

Canal Walk: For a more urban stroll through Richmond, this 1.25 paved riverfront walkway has acted as a city staple for years. With access from almost every block between 5th and 17th streets, the tree-lined concrete path follows alongside the James River and two of its interlocking canals. The acclaimed attraction displays a number of historic sites, artistic creations and impressive architecture that is sure to provide hikers with plenty of entertainment. Not to mention, the Canal Walk is also home to many restaurants with a wide variety of cuisine options for refueling. For those wishing to avoid the heat of the day, the path is illuminated at night as well, allowing hikers to soak up the sights and sounds of the city’s nightlife.

Buttermilk Trail: For a total distance of 4.5 miles out and back, Buttermilk Trail located on the southside of the James River may not look daunting, but the hike’s combination of tight, twisty, steep descents and climbs makes it one of Richmond’s most difficult feats. However, its rippling creeks, wooden walkways and rock gardeners contribute to the hike’s rich character beloved by many. Connected with the Floodwall Trail and Potterfield Bridge, trailblazers have the opportunity to add on to their exploration for an even greater challenge.

Belle Isle: Representing another one of Richmond’s most well-known areas, Belle Isle is sure to guarantee a fun-filled adventure. By crossing the pedestrian suspension bridge over the roaring waters of the James River, hikers will stumble upon old industrial factories and warehouses. Here marks the start of a 1.7-mile loop around the perimeter of the island. While most of the trek is on flat terrain, several splintering paths leading to the top of the island provide advanced hikers with more of a difficult task as the off-road paths are riddled with lots of roots and tight turns. Yet, those looking for a relaxing day trip to the popular location can find plenty of quiet spots to set up an eno with friends and take in their surroundings. 

Pipeline Trail: Open to the public for only five years, the hidden gem of the Pipeline Trail promises an experience unlike any other. At the head of the hike, a narrow catwalk running the length of a large water pipeline carries pedestrians across the James River. Before embarking on such a journey, all hikers are encouraged to check river levels prior to their arrival due to frequent flooding. When water levels permit, the rapids underneath the bridge energize hikers as they take part in the exercise activity. Also home to a variety of wildlife, Pipeline Trail’s remote location acts as the prime environment to observe nature, placing hikers in a world that feels far away from the busy city life just around the corner.