Hampton Roads is a wonderful place to live! The winters are fairly mild and there are plenty of beaches to escape the summer humidity. Hiking trails are a great way to get out and enjoy the best that southeastern Virginia has to offer. Though the urban sprawl has taken many areas, the city planners have been careful to leave us places of great beauty to wander through nature. Grab your water bottle, we’re going for a quick tour of some local favorite hikes!
Easy access from I-64, Sandy Bottom Nature Park is located at the corner of Hampton ROads Center Parkway and Big Bethel Rd. This 456-acre wetland preserve is home to many wild animals, as well as a 10,000 square foot nature center and a dozen miles of hiking and biking trails. Sandy Bottom has two lakes, canoe, kayak and paddleboat rentals, as well as campgrounds and yurt rentals. Take a stroll around the lake, or stay for the night!
Tucked away on the eastern side of the city, Grandview is a quiet and enjoyable beach park that covers 570 acres of the Chesapeake Bay beachfront. Be prepared to make a short quarter mile walk through tidal marshes to get to the beach, but once you arrive, you will be able to enjoy one of the most serene beaches in Hampton Roads.
Circling Hampton’s Golf Course, this three-mile fitness trail is a hidden gem in the city. The Matteson Trail is fully paved, which allows easy access for everyone, and fitness equipment situated along the way can make this circuit a fun way to get your blood moving!
So many lists hold the Noland trail at the top spot, and for good reason. Found near the intersection of Warwick and J. Clyde Morris, this 5-mile circuit trail follows the shores of Lake Maury. Even on the hottest and most humid days, the Noland Trail is a pleasant hike through a mostly tree covered trail. The Mariner’s Museum often holds walking tours that highlight the local flora and fauna, as well as a history of the park.
Among the largest municipal parks east of the Mississippi, Newport News Park is nearly 8000 square acres. Scenic overlooks, campgrounds, and miles of trails are only a handful of the reasons to enjoy this gem. There is something for every outdoorsy person (except mountains… you’ll need to venture a bit west to find those!) Rent a boat, or bring one of your own (no petroleum fuelled engines) and enjoy the central lake. Other activities include an archery range (bring your own bow), disc golf, the 30-acre aero model flying field, or on more inclement days you can duck into the arboretum filled with seasonal flora.
Williamsburg and Points North
Located between I-64 and Route 60 in Williamsburg, Waller Mill Park is a 2700 acre park with more than 6 miles of trails around a central reservoir. Hiking, kayaking, and fishing are popular pastimes here. Enjoy the local wildlife, including fox, deer, turtles, and more.
At the northern edge of what might be called Hampton Roads, York River State Park is unlike any other park in the area. Horse trails, hiking trails, and bike paths roll through the undulating landscape that borders the east side of the York River. If you’re looking for a great hike with a little elevation, the Taskinas Trail is a fantastic loop trail that covers 2.6 miles with 262 feet of elevation change.
Foresty nature walks are not in the top things that people think about when you mention Norfolk. The Botanical Gardens are a special place in town where folks can enjoy miles of well-paved trails through native flora around a central lake. This is no local’s secret, and the trails are well trodden with 400,000 visitors a year. Even with such a high volume of traffic, one might still find themselves hiking or biking alone on the 12 miles of paved and mulched trails. If you find yourself near the Norfolk International Airport with a little spare time, the Gardens are a good bet.
If you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably read another or will read another. First Landing can be found on every list, and often with less than stellar reviews. If you are not looking for solitude, you should not let this deter you. Located on Cape Henry in Northern Virginia Beach, First Landing offers many great activities. 19 miles of trails criss cross the nearly 3000-acre park, and yes, many are heavily traveled. Even with all the visitors tramping through the woods, you will still find plenty of animals and plants to ooh and ahh at. The trails traverse wetlands, dunes, forests, and the bay shoreline, with terrains to please most hikers.
Between Back Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, and extending down to the North Carolina line, False Cape State Park has far less traffic than it’s northern counterpart. As their website says, “Bring plenty of water, sunscreen and insect repellent.” False Cape prides itself on remaining as primitive as possible, though there is an environmental education center, a tram, and a large beach rover called “The Terra Gator.” For hikers, there are 15.3 miles of hiking trails traversing this narrow slip of land.
142 acres of Portsmouth along the Hoffler Creek shores has been carved out for the love of nature. Featuring vast wetlands, forest, and a saltwater lake, Hoffler creek is an uncommon place. This is the last wilderness preserve in Portsmouth and the only place in the area where hikers can enjoy undisturbed walking trails. The thriving wildlife habitat includes a wildlife meadow, butterfly garden, an oyster garden, and a wildlife observation tower.
There are many trails that wind through the Great Dismal Swamp. Rather than rambling on about all these, we’ll start you at Washington Ditch Trail. Just outside Suffolk, this trail is a great place to start. The trail is fairly straight wooden boardwalk and is not a strenuous 7.5 miles. Be sure to bring your bug spray if you are hiking through the spring and summer months!
Tucked away on the west bank of the James River, Chippokes Plantation is a beautiful place to take a short hike. Many of the trails are fairly short, just about a mile in length. Whether you want to stroll along the river, through a garden, or take a forested hike, there is something for everyone here!
Whether you are looking to take a leisurely stroll, or enjoy a lakeside jog, there is sure to be a trail nearby. This list is a great starting point, but by no means an exhaustive list of places to hike in Hampton Roads. Do you know a local trail that I missed? Let me know!