Fall is on its way. I know it’s hard to believe it when temperatures are still reaching the 90s, but trust me, the leaves are changing and before you know it, it will be time to pull out the scarves and sweaters. The good news is that fall in Virginia is one of the most beautiful times of year – and it’s certainly no excuse to stay indoors. Living in Richmond means you have access to some of the state’s finest arts and culture. But it also means access to outdoor adventures. With so many amazing places to explore outside, both in Richmond and in the surrounding areas, we thought we would help you narrow down the options with this list of outdoor adventures, all within an hour’s drive. Whether you’re looking for something to do for the day or for the weekend, these sites are sure to satisfy even the most adventurous thrill seekers in your family.
Outdoor Adventures: The Virginia Capital Trail
Richmond to Williamsburg
Although less than a year old, the Virginia Capital Trail is already a must-do for outdoor adventurers. This dedicated, paved path runs 52-miles along the historic Route 5 corridor from the colonial capital of Williamsburg to the present day capital in Richmond. Whether you’re an experienced road biker or you want to get the family outside for a day of exploration, the trail offers the opportunity to walk, bike or run through 400 years of history, offering countless glimpses of the sites and landscapes that shaped our state. Although the trailhead technically starts in Williamsburg, there are multiple parking lots along the way, allowing for easy entrance at any point that’s convenient for you. And with camping and lodging opportunities along the way, it’s easy to pick the trail up for a day trip or a weekend outing. To learn more, visit The Virginia Capital Trail Foundation.
If you don’t have bikes for the whole family or want to camp or stay along the trail without bikes, visit these shops for a wide variety of rental options.
Carytown Bicycle Company
3112 W Cary St.
Richmond VA, 23221
113 North 18th St.
Richmond, VA, 23223
Adventures in RVA
1912 East Main St.
Richmond VA, 23223
Root 5 Family Farms/Molly’s Bikes
7400 John Tyler Memorial Hwy
Charles City VA, 23030
James City County Marina
2054 Jamestown Rd.
Williamsburg VA, 23185
Conte’s Bike Shop
5212 Monticello Ave.
Williamsburg VA, 23188
Kingsmill Resort (guests only)
1010 Kingsmill Rd.
Williamsburg VA, 23185
Colonial Williamsburg (guests only)
101 Visitor Center Dr.
Williamsburg VA, 23185
Outdoor Adventures: Adventure Courses and Zip Lines
Greater Richmond Area
There are few things more thrilling than riding a high speed zip line more than 30 feet above the ground. Or at least that’s what I’m told. If you have a family of thrill seekers, then you’re in luck with these exciting adventure parks near Richmond.
Treetop Zoofari at the Metro Richmond Zoo
8300 Beaver Bridge Rd.
Moseley, VA 23120
Located in Chesterfield County, Treetop Zoofari is the Metro Richmond Zoo’s latest and greatest attraction and provides a view of the zoo and its animals like you’ve never seen before. Set in the forest, high among the treetops, you will experience challenges from 5-12 feet in the air that include jungle ropes, floating logs, tight wires, bridges, a Tarzan swing and more than 3,000 feet of zip lines, including one that takes you 600-feet across the zoo’s lake. With courses available for a variety of age, skill and “bravery” levels, this park is ideal for the whole family. Learn more about park hours, admission and special events at Treetop Zoofari.
Go Ape at Freedom Park
5537 Centerville Rd.
Williamsburg, VA 23188
Just a quick shot down I-64, you’ll find Williamsburg’s Freedom Park, home to Go Ape Treetop Adventures. This thrilling adventure park features five sections of treetop courses throughout the forest canopy. Navigate your way through obstacles, across Tarzan swings and along high-speed zip lines to complete these 2-3 hour courses. For adventurers 10 years of age and older, the Go Ape Adventure Course teaches skills and challenges nerves. For those 10 and younger, the Treetop Junior course offers age appropriate challenges without skipping out on the fun. Visit Go Ape to find out how to book your visit.
Outdoor Adventures: James River Trails Hiking
While Richmond is only a short drive from the beautiful mountains of central and western Virginia, Richmond offers amazing hikes right within the city limits. The James River Park System Loop is a combined five-trail loop that can cover anywhere from eight to thirteen miles. Meandering along the banks of the James River, you can see iconic views of the river and city as you hike, climb and walk across trails, rocks and bridges. Head to Belle Isle via the pedestrian suspension bridge, sunbathe on the rocks at Texas Beach or explore Maymont Park. Ideal for dogwalkers, family hikes and trail runs, the James River trails provide options for everyone from advanced hikers to beginners.
For a complete listing of parking, trails and maps, visit The James River Park System.
Outdoor Adventures: Rafting and Kayaking on the James River
Richmond and the surrounding areas
When you consider that Richmond is the only major city in the United States that offers Class III and IV rapids, it seems silly not to take advantage of an adventure in your own backyard. The greater Richmond area offers many opportunities for rafting, kayaking, canoeing and tubing. With options for beginning, intermediate and advanced water sports, you can find the perfect outdoor escape for yourself or the entire family before the cold weather hits. Try one of these local companies to get your adventure started:
6836 Old Westham Rd.
Richmond, VA 23225
* Right now, if you book at least 3 spots for a trip Friday-Sunday (10am or 2pm) with Riverside Outfitters, you can receive a $15 discount off each spot (normally $69/spot).
River City Adventures, LLC
100 Stockton St.
Richmond, VA 23224
1320 School St.
Richmond, VA 23220
Outdoor Adventures: Rock Climbing
The Manchester Climbing Wall on the southside of Richmond offers one of the area’s best climbing experiences. The “wall” is actually one of four 19th century pillars that once held up the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad Bridge. Located under the Manchester Bridge downtown, the abandoned railroad pillar has been outfitted with bolts and shuts to aid climbers. For less experienced climbers, or those interested in shorter climb, Belle Isle is another popular spot. Visit Richmond Outside to learn more about both of these climbing options.
11421 Polo Circle
Richmond is one of the few cities that allows climbing within city limits, so, of course safety is always a concern. If you are new to climbing, you may want to visit an indoor climbing facility such as Peak Experiences in Midlothian. Peak Experiences offers training courses and equipment to transition you from indoor climbing walls to proper outdoor climbs.
Outdoor Adventures: Virginia State Parks
Greater Richmond area and surrounding counties
With 37 state parks scattered throughout the state, the Virginia State Park system is undeniably one of the best in the country. Within an hour’s drive of Richmond, you can find parks that offer living history sites, hiking, biking, fishing, camping and so much more. Regardless of whether you have a few hours, a day or a weekend to spend outdoors, you’ll want to visit these amazing sites. For a complete list of parks throughout the state, visit Virginia State Parks. In the meantime, here are few well worth checking out:
Pocahontas State Park
10301 State Park Rd.
Chesterfield, VA 23832
Located only 20 miles outside of Richmond, Pocahontas State Park provides activities for the whole family including boating, picnicking, camping, cabins, hiking, and outdoor and history programs. Rent a rowboat, paddleboat, kayak, paddleboard or canoe at the 225-acre Swift Creek Lake boathouse, or simply enjoy the park’s 64-miles of hiking, biking and horseback trails. The park’s aquatic center is open from Memorial Day Weekend until Labor Day and offers a waterpark with slides, fountains and more.
Powhatan State Park
4616 Powhatan State Park Rd.
Powhatan, VA 23139
Located along the shores of the James River, Powhatan State Park offers a diverse landscape with wildlife, open fields and hardwood forests. The park offers boating, multi-use trails, picnic shelters, a playground and overnight camping. For you more adventurous types, Powhatan State Park even provides a campground with canoe-in access.
Bear Creek Lake State Park
22 Bear Creek Lake Rd.
Cumberland, VA 23040
About an hour west of Richmond in the Cumberland State Forest, you’ll find Bear Creek Lake State Park. This beautiful, secluded park offers a boat launch, a fishing pier, boat rentals and a swimming beach. For those who prefer to stay on dry land, take advantage of cabins, camping, picnic sites, hiking, playgrounds and an archery range. With miles of hiking and multi-use trails available, you and your family will have access to the 329-acre park, as well as the adjoining Cumberland State Forest.
Sailor’s Creek Battlefield State Park
6541 Saylers Creek Rd.
Rice, VA 23966
Depending on your starting point, Sailor’s Creek Battlefield State Park is about an hour to hour and a half drive from Richmond. But with such a rich history, you’ll find it’s worth every minute. This historic park is the site where, on April 6, 1865, almost one-quarter of General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army (nearly 8,000 men) were killed, wounded or captured. Seventy-two hours later, Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. Today, the park hosts a variety of historical programs and living history events. Drive or walk through the park to read historical markers or take a free tour of the Overton-Hillsman House, which served as a hospital during and after the battle.
York River State Park
9801 York River Park Rd.
Williamsburg, VA 23188
For nature lovers, York River State Park is like hitting the jackpot. Located just an hour from Richmond near Williamsburg, the park is well known for its unique and delicate habitat. Set on the York River where freshwater and saltwater meet, the park offers a rich environment for marine and plant life and is a designated Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Explore the visitors’ center for programs and exhibits highlighting Native American and Colonial history, wildlife and preservation; or enjoy 30 miles of hiking, mountain biking and equestrian trails that take you through marshes, along the river shoreline and into the forest. The park also offers boating, fishing, playgrounds and picnicking.
Outdoor Adventures: James River Plantation Tours
Richmond and surrounding counties
There are some of us (me included) who consider an “outdoor adventure” to be anything that involves leaving the comfort of air conditioning. If you’re in that category, or just want to try something different with your family, this “adventure” doesn’t require much other than a love of history and a willingness to explore. With dozens of historic plantations surrounding Richmond, from Goochland to Surry County and beyond, you don’t have to travel far to find thousands of acres of farmlands and pristinely restored plantations that represent nearly 400 years of our nation’s history.
Charles City County, along Virginia’s historic Route 5, is about 30-40 minutes outside of Richmond. This county alone provides ten sites listed by the National Park service, including Sherwood Forest (home of President John Tyler), Berkeley Plantation (site of the first Thanksgiving and birthplace of President William H. Harrison), Shirley Plantation, Evelynton (Civil War battlesite and home of Edmund Ruffin, who fired the first shot of the Civil War) and Westover Plantation (built by Richmond’s founder, James Byrd).
Visit the National Park Service to find these and many other historic homes near you.
Don’t let the threat of cooler temperatures keep you indoors. Take advantage of Virginia’s beautiful fall weather to get outside and explore all that the Richmond area has to offer. And, of course, if there are any outdoor adventures that you in enjoy in the Greater Richmond Area that didn’t make our list, we would love to hear about them!