Hiking in Virginia can take you from miles of Appalachian mountains to the royal rivers of Piedmont to the Atlantic Ocean. While hiking in Virginia, you will discover the state's diverse plant and animal life and fascinating human history.
With such precious natural resources, Virginia hikers want to thrive and protect those resources for future generations to enjoy. During your visit, you can help conserve these natural resources. To that end, here are ten great destinations that offer hiking for beginners, along with helpful hiking tips and green, eco-friendly advice to help you walk light on a Virginia hiking trail.
Walking distance: 3.0 miles round trip
Closest village: Austinville
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 36.883091, -80.858408
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Photo Credit: Bill Crabtree Jr.
The beginner's walk: This walk follows a historic converted railroad that leads to a shot tower – which was used to fire lead guns back in the 1800s – one of only three such towers in the United States. Start at Foster Falls, a former grinding community on the banks of the New River. Tour the assortment of ancient structures before hiking the flat New River Trail, straddling the powerful river of the same name. Reach the shot tower and appreciate the over 200-year-old structure before returning on the New River Trail to Foster Falls.
Hiking tip: Stay on designated trails. Most walkers really get lost when they leave the trail. If you become disoriented, don't panic – that could result in a bad decision and make your predicament worse. Repeat your steps if you can remember them or stay where you are. Rangers check the trails first when looking for lost or overdue hikers.
Green tip: Load PDFs of park path maps onto your smartphone, eliminating the need for paper maps. If you are using paper maps, return them to where they were originally obtained so that they can be reused by other hikers. This saves trees and taxpayer dollars.
Walking distance: 3.4 miles there and back
Closest village: Marion
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 36.736028, -81.563250
The beginners walk: This scenic waterfall hike at the Mount Rogers Recreation Area begins in the wide lower valley of Rowland Creek, which is wedged by the rocky Chestnut Ridge. The hike then gets steeper, reaching Rowland Creek Falls, a 50-foot step. Numerous rock ridges give the waterfalls a cascading effect. Be careful when spinning this long, high cataract.
Hiking tip: Always carry food and water whether you are taking a long or short walk. Food gives you energy, helps you stay warm, and supports you in an emergency until help arrives. And it is always important to stay hydrated.
Green tip: Virginia trails are great for practicing the adage “Take pictures only, leave footprints only”.
Walking distance: 2.3 mile loop
Closest village: Paris
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 38.99216, -77.96642
The beginner's walk: This hike in Sky Meadows State Park leads to scenic views of a newer state park carved out of a quaint and historic Virginia farmhouse in northern Virginia. These trails traverse a mix of forests and meadows. Plus, the views are something to behold – expansive panoramas of hills and lowlands to the east confirming your idea that Sky Meadows isn't your average state park of yesteryear. Start at the Visitor Center, head up Piedmont Overlook Trail to North Ridge Trail to Gap Run Trail, and finally join historic Boston Mill Road back to the trailhead.
Hiking tip: If you are walking in the cold, dress in layers. Remove layers of clothing while warming up and store them in your daypack. A toboggan run and gloves are a great help. I generally wear lesser clothes, a little cool at first, then warm up, rather than putting on excessive clothing and then immediately throwing out layers.
Green tip: Stay on established paths as much as possible. If there are none, stay on surfaces that will be the least affected, such as rock, gravel, dry grass, or snow.
Walking distance: 4.0 mile loop
Closest village: Berthaville
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 38,332, -77,14472
The beginners walk: Hike to a Potomac River viewpoint in Caledon State Park, an underused Virginia hiking vacation that rewards those who make their way to this designated national natural landmark known for its ancient oak and tulip trees. From the trailhead of the former plantation home, take the Boyds Hole Trail, then join the Potomac Overlook Trail to reach a cliff and a panorama above the main waterway. Return via the Hampstead Road Trail and enjoy the large trees, marshes and wildflowers.
Hiking tip: Take your brain with you. A cool, calculating mind is the single most important piece of equipment you'll ever need on the trail. Think before you act. Mind your step. Plan ahead. Avoiding accidents before they happen is the best recipe for a rewarding and relaxing trek.
Green tip: For rest breaks, leave the path so that others don't have to walk around you. If possible, move to resilient surfaces without vegetation.
Walking distance: 4.2 miles there and back
Closest village: Woodstock
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 38.92422, -78.68882
Photo credit: Jonathan Kozowyk
The beginners walk: This thrilling adventure in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forest stretches across the state border with West Virginia. The Mill Mountain Trail ridge takes you to Big Schloss, a huge outcrop with multiple dazzling panoramas – and a land bridge leading to the outer outcrop, adding to the excitement.
Hiking tip: Be careful of being overlooked. The Virginia mountains have numerous cliffs and outcrops. While these areas offer spectacular views, they are potentially dangerous. Stay away from the edge of outcrops and be absolutely sure of your grip.
Green tip: Be a happy land administrator. Look for others who have left trash so those who come after you will have a better hiking experience.
Walking distance: 4.3 mile loop
Closest village: Luray
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 38.61575, -78.35055
The beginners walk: Hike to one of the best preserved cabins in Shenandoah National Park. Leave Skyline Drive and take a trail created by the pioneers to the beautiful Hughes River and the Corbin Cabin. You can even rent it to stay overnight! Your return journey will make a steady climb up the Nicholson Hollow Trail to meet the revered Appalachian Trail, of which Virginia has more miles than any other state. Roll a bit on the AT to complete the loop.
Hiking tip: Know the symptoms of hypothermia. Chills and forgetfulness are two common indicators of this cold weather threat. Hypothermia can occur even at higher altitudes in summer. If symptoms occur, provide shelter for the victim, hot liquids and dry clothing or a dry sleeping bag.
Green tip: Do not pick wild flowers or try to transplant plant or animal life from parks and reserves. Natural preserves provide a place for plants and animals to thrive.
Walking distance: 5.0 miles there and back
Closest village: Hampton
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 37.082738, -76.275908
The beginner's walk: Explore this protected coastal swamp and beach and stroll along the coastline of Chesapeake Bay. This is a natural area, especially for bird watchers. In the spring, the largest colony of the fewest terns on the Atlantic coast nests here. The walk is 2.5 miles, a road to a sand spit and a former lighthouse. Note: The end of the spit is off limits in summer due to nesting migratory birds.
Hiking tip: Use walking sticks when walking. They help with balance, train your upper body, help you climb and descend and absorb shock.
Green tip: Hike only on open paths. Respect the closures of paths and roads. Ask if you are unsure. There is usually a valid reason when a path is closed – storm damage, mudslides, nesting area for wildlife, etc.
Walking distance: 3.5 miles back and forth including small loop
Closest village: Farm village
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 37.32394, -78.33708
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Photo credit: Large orange frame
The beginner's walk: Part of High Bridge Trail State Park, this cool hike on a rail trail starts at the town of Farmville, a must-visit in Virginia. Exit River Road and then take the flat track for a mile to reach the High Bridge over the Appomattox River. Enjoy the views from your high vantage point, then leave the trail to circle the earthworks of Camp Paradise, a Civil War defensive bastion. Go back to the trailhead and enjoy the view of the High Bridge one more time. Then head to downtown Farmville for refreshment.
Hiking tip: When sharing the trail with riders or mountain bikers, adhere to the following protocol: Walkers and cyclists yield to riders and cyclists yield to walkers. That way we can all enjoy Virginia & # 39; s trails together.
Green tip: Leave rocks in their natural state. Rock stacks and man-made pyramids distract from the natural environment and can mislead other hikers into thinking the rock stacks are for navigation.
Walking distance: 3.6 mile loop
Closest village: Coeburn
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 36.867554, -82.522983
The beginner's walk: Circuit around this 60-acre mountain dam that also offers fishing, paddling, camping and picnicking in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forest. Start at the main recreation area on the Lakeshore Trail, then hike along the water at Kitchen Rock, then use a long boardwalk to traverse the lake's upper swamp area. Meet and join the Chief Benge Scout Trail. Continue into deep forests, rhododendron and cross small creeks before hiking on top of the lake dam to return to the trailhead.
Hiking tip: Be especially careful when crossing streams. If in doubt about keeping your balance on a footlog, ford instead. When wading, use trekking poles or a sturdy limb for balance and face upstream when crossing. If a stream seems too deep, return. Whatever is on the other end isn't worth putting your life on the line.
Green tip: Honor the leash laws. Before you release your dog, think about your fellow walkers. Unleashed dogs can also prey on wildlife and may get lost.
Walking distance: 3.0 mile loop
Closest village: Petersburg
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 36.867554, -82.522983
The beginners walk: This beautiful piece of land has a little bit of everything: river views, hills, pretty streams, springtime wildflowers and marshes. Start just below Lake Chesdin Dam along a state-designated scenic section of the lower Appomattox River. Trek along the rocky, fast pockmarked river, then take a 150-foot boardwalk as you circle a swamp backed by stony hills back to the trailhead.
Hiking tip: Know as much as possible your equipment, your ability, and the area in which you hike – and then prepare accordingly. Always be self-sufficient. Most walking accidents / rescues start with poorly prepared walkers who overestimate their abilities. A well-executed trip, on the other hand, is a satisfaction for you and others. It builds your confidence and makes you want to get back on the road.
Green tip: Be weather-oriented. Always check the weather forecast before hiking. Sometimes trails are too muddy to walk. Thunderstorms can be downright dangerous to hikers and damaging the land. Don't be afraid to cancel your walk for another day.