These days, family outings can get complicated. Not only is it tough to coordinate busy schedules, but even a simple outing like a trip to the movies can get costly. Thankfully, here in Richmond we have options for family outings that are not only fun, but free. For many Richmond families, outdoor activities like hiking are an ideal way to spend time together while exploring all of the amazing sights in the area.
If you’re looking for great hiking right here in Richmond, then be sure to check out our favorite hiking trails in Richmond. But if you want to get out of town and explore some of the surrounding areas, then we’ve found five great spots that are ideal for a family hiking expedition – all within an hour or so of the Greater Richmond area.
When choosing our favorite spots in and around Richmond, we look for hikes that offered the following features:
- Good for all ages (easy enough for little ones, but challenging enough for older hikers)
- A nice distance for the whole family (or trail options for shorter legs)
- Easy to find
- Diverse and/or unique scenery and activities.
As you can imagine, we had plenty of hikes to choose from considering all of the beautiful countryside, wetlands, forests and rolling hills that surround Richmond. The five hikes that made our list represent the best of the best when it comes to outdoor adventuring that’s fun for the whole family.
Take a look at some of the hiking trails that are within an hour of Richmond, and if there’s one you feel we should add to the list, let us know! Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s not hard to see why Rockwood Park is one of the most popular outdoor destinations in Chesterfield County. Convenient to everything, the park is the oldest in the county and offers the only county-operated Nature Center in Chesterfield. Plus, it offers tons of amenities, including ball fields and game courts, picnic shelters, an archery range, horseshoe pits, playgrounds, garden plots and much, much more. But what really makes this park shine is the extensive hiking trail system. With more than five miles of trails, featuring both hard and soft surfaces, you can easily spend a morning or afternoon – or both – exploring the beauty of local forests and wetlands. Choose from trails like the almost two-mile loop that takes you through the woods, past a pond, and over wetland boardwalks; or take the 1.3-mile fitness trail and stop at exercise stations along the way. With so many trails, some of which are even wheelchair accessible, this park allows you to find the length, level of difficulty and scenery that is just right for you and your hiking companions while enjoying one of that area’s most beautiful natural settings. And don’t forget your furry friends. Dogs must stay on a leash when on the trails, but can enjoy some time off the leash at Rockwood’s Ruff House Dog Park.
Why we love it: Aside from the obvious beauty, variety of the trails, and plentiful activities, we think the Nature Center truly sets this trail system apart from the rest. Whether you’re hiking with the whole family or going it alone, the Nature Center, located on the edge of the forest right by the trails, is a great place to stop in for information about many of the natural habitats, plants and animals you’ll see along the trails. With programs that run throughout the year, everyone from preschoolers to adults can learn how to take full advantage of the natural beauty that surrounds them along the Rockwood Park Trails.
Hiking Time: Varies depending on how far you go.
Activities: Hiking, mountain biking, trail running, bird watching, nature exploration, fitness stations
Distance from Richmond: Roughly 15 miles or 20-25 minutes driving time
Click here to download a trail map or to see Nature Center events.
3401 Courthouse Road
Richmond, VA 23236
For all of you history buffs out there, you’ll love the chance to combine a bit of historical exploration with a beautiful day in the great outdoors. In 1864, The North Anna Battlefield Park was the site of a Civil War battle. Today, the park offers two trails aptly named the “Blue Trail” and the “Gray Trail.” Along both of these trails, which wind through oak-hickory forests, you’ll find historical markers and interpretive signs that offer a first-hand look at the battle, highlighting sites where rifle pits and trenches once served more 150,000 Confederate and Union troops. The trails are heavily wooded, but allow you to see a wealth of wildlife, including birds, deer, squirrel, lizards and many other woodland creatures. In fact, the park has even been designated a Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Why we love it: North Anna Battlefield Park is the perfect place for the family that is looking for options. With two distinct trails, you can choose from a more rigorous route along the Blue Trail which covers close to four miles (down and back) and includes steep hills and some uneven terrain. Or, you can take smaller hikers along the Gray Trail, which is two miles of down-and-back hiking that is more moderate. Plus, with historical markers that clearly mark the paths, hikers will stay entertained with both natural beauty and an education in Virginia history.
Hiking Time: Between 2-3 hours, depending on the trail you take
Activities: Hiking, bird watching, nature exploration, historical exploration
Distance from Richmond: Roughly 28 miles or 30-35 minutes driving time
11576 Verdon Rd
Doswell, VA 23047
Located in the Dutch Gap Conservation Area, the Dutch Gap Trail offers four and a half miles of historic wetlands, woodlands and an abundance of wildlife. The conservation area covers more than 800 acres along a tidal inlet of the James River. Thanks to the flat surface along the water, this is an easy hike for kids of all ages, and can even accommodate strollers and wheelchairs. And while it sits only a few miles from modern civilization, the trail is actually quite close to Henricus Historical Park, the site of the second oldest English settlement in the United States. Surrounded by tranquil waterways, filled with lush vegetation and teeming with wildlife, it’s easy to imagine yourself stepping back 400 years in time and seeing the world as some of the area’s first non-native settlers might have seen it.
Why we love it: If you love birds – or even like them a little bit – then, the Dutch Gap Trail is going to make you very, very happy. The conservation area is home to a heron rookery, ut is a haven for birds of every shape and size. An observation deck along the trail provides a clear view of nesting herons, but as you hike, be on the lookout for eagles, herons, cormorants, Canada geese, ducks, red-tailed hawk, and more. You may even catch glimpses of other wildlife, including deer.
Hiking Time: About two hours
Activities: Hiking, biking, trail running, horseback riding, bird watching, nature exploration
Distance from Richmond: Roughly 17 miles or 20 – 25 minutes driving time
411 Coxendale Road
Chester, VA 23836
Williamsburg (James City County)
Although the Freedom Park Trails are the farthest from Richmond, they’re also set in one of the most diverse locations on our list, earning them a definite spot on our list. Featuring 600-acres of forested land, Freedom Park serves up a rich historical and cultural backstory. The park is home to a 18th-century cemetery, a Revolutionary War battlefield, a restored 17th-century domicile, and one of the nation’s earliest Free Black Settlements (1803-1850), complete with three authentically replicated cabins. Plus, Freedom Park hosts the Williamsburg Botanical Gardens, the GoApe Treetop Adventure Course, and an Interpretive Center that provides information about park’s history, wildlife, and more. And that’s all before you even hit the trails.
But if it’s hiking that you came to do, then it’s hiking you will find with ten trails that range from a quarter of a mile to five miles long. These trails include dedicated biking trails, as well as many multi-use trails for hiking. There are plenty of shorter trails you can take, but if you’re looking for something more rigorous, Trails A and C combine to create an eight-mile loop that is moderately trafficked by bikers and hikers alike. The trail features wildflowers, lush forest, wildlife and tranquility that is welcome in the hustle and bustle of daily life. Or take Trail D (five miles in total) for similar views, tranquility, and commune with the great outdoors. The bottom line is that you will have plenty to choose from, allowing you to find the perfect trail (or trails) to suit your family’s interests and skill levels.
Why we love it: Hiking can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Some people only feel like they’ve had a proper hike if there’s a backpack, a lot of sweat and custom hiking boots involved. Others just want to take a peaceful walk through the natural splendor so prevalent in Virginia. Whatever your definition, you’ll find it at Freedom Park. From leisurely forest walks to more rigorous trail expeditions, the park is filled to the brim with options. And when you’re done, you still have plenty to see with gardens, historical sites and park amenities like picnic shelters, playgrounds and more. And if seeing the sites from the trails isn’t enough, head to the GoApe Treetop Adventure Course for exhilarating views from the heights of the forest canopy. I mean, really. What’s not to love?
Hiking Time: Varies depending on the trails you choose
Activities: Hiking, mountain biking, trail running, wildlife observation, nature exploration
Distance from Richmond: Roughly 50 miles or 50-55 minutes driving time
Click here for more information about the park.
5537 Centerville Road
Williamsburg, VA 23185
As one of Virginia’s most popular state parks, it’s no surprise that Pocahontas State Park would also offer some of the best trails in the area. With more than 80 miles of trails winding throughout the 8,000+-acre park, the biggest challenge is deciding where to start. For other sites that offer multiple trails, we have offered a brief description of your options. But at Pocahontas State Park, there are just too many to list in one place. So, to keep this entry simple, we picked a favorite – and the winner was Beaver Creek Trail. At two and a half miles, this trail is slightly more rigorous (but still moderate enough for little legs) and winds around Beaver Lake, a man-made lake built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. As the trail makes its loop, it offers beautiful views of the lake and surrounding forests. Perfect for kids of almost any age, this trail offers an up close and personal look at forest mammals, birds and other wildlife like fish, salamanders, frogs – and maybe even a snake or two.
Why we love it: Pocahontas State Park is popular for many reasons. In addition to hiking, it offers a water park, multiple lakes, boating, kayaking, canoeing, camping, picnicking, fishing and a Nature Center, as well as 80 miles of hiking trails. With all of these activities, it can be hard to know where to start. But that’s why we love the Beaver Lake Trail. Even with all of the business of the park, this quiet forest trail offers an opportunity to retreat to the serenity of nature. With just the right mix of stimulating uphill climbs, easy downhill slopes, and lakeside views, your whole family can be part of the hike. Best of all, if you want to make your hike a little longer, it’s easy to combine the Beaver Lake Trail with any of the park’s other amazing path and trails, including the nearby Forest Exploration Trail, a relatively easy trail that takes you past Split Rock (a giant boulder near a stream that has been split in half by natural causes), a cemetery from the 1800s and multiple small stream crossings.
Hiking Time: About 1 ½ – 2 hours
Activities: Hiking, mountain biking, trail running, bird watching, nature exploration
Distance from Richmond: Roughly 23 miles or 30-35 minutes driving time
10301 State Park Road
Chesterfield, VA 23832