**Revised 07/02/2021 (Originally posted Aug 22,2017)**
I have been an avid trail runner since middle school but wasn’t introduced to the wonderful Richmond trails until closer to the end of college. A really good friend that I ran with in high school, and still actively run/hike/hang out with, first introduced me to the North Bank Trail on the James River. The rest was history.
Most of these trails can be hiked, biked, or run on. Some can be pretty technical but they’re also a great way to get out and explore so close to the city.
I say most because certain sections or parts of trails might be specifically for bikers or specifically for hiker/runners. But they’re all pretty well marked.
Enough chit chat, let’s jump right into the best Richmond trails!
North Bank Trail
It’s mostly single track with a good mix of shady trail under tree cover and wide open beautiful James River views. The trail is approximately 3 miles long, starting behind the Belle Isle Parking Lot and ending at the Nickel Bridge near Pump House Park. Or you can start/end in reverse, whatever your preference.
You can hop on the trail at the Texas Beach Parking Lot.
The trail itself is pretty friendly to hikers/walkers and runners. There’s a couple technical spots but nothing super crazy. The views are well worth it! And you may even be able to spot the black bears at Maymont Park, as the trail goes right beside the enclosure for a bit.
North Bank Trail can then be connected to Buttermilk Trail by crossing Nickel Bridge to the south.
Once you start the Buttermilk Trail from the Nickel Bridge, it loops under the bridge and continues down along Riverside Dr.
This trail is definitely my favorite as it tightly weaves through the lush riverside greens and makes you feel as if you’re not in the city. There’s not as many ‘views’ as North Bank Trail but the tunnels of green more than make up for it.
The trail runs about 3 miles and loops back to North Bank Trail on the other end via Belle Isle. Or you can enter in the middle via the Reedy Creek Parking Lot.
If you park at Reedy Creek you can also check out another 3 mile loop on the other side of the Riverside Dr, Forest Hill Park Trail Loop.
Forest Hill Park Trail Loop
This Richmond trail is pretty tough with a lot of climbs and can be pretty difficult. But if you’re trying to get a ‘mountain’ hike without actually going to the mountains, this is right up your alley.
The trail loop itself is about 3 miles and can be a little confusing to follow your first time out. It’s best to think of the loop as a circle and to always use the outer most trail when given a choice. But make sure to check the map board before jumping in.
You can also hike on a paved trail around the lake. It offers some really pretty views in the spring.
If you’re out on a Thursday evening, between 4 and 7pm, you should check out the South Of The James Farmer’s Market. It’s an awesome open air local market with a bunch of good food and vendors.
And if you’re feeling super adventurous. You can even combine the Forest Hill Loop with the Buttermilk Trail and North Bank Trail to form a super 10 mile trifecta loop. These are easily my favorite running trails in Richmond VA.
You’ll use a section of Belle Isle if you wanted to connect Buttermilk with North Bank, but it’s also possible to complete a decent loop without including those trails.
By parking at the Belle Isle Parking Lot you can cross the Belle Isle Pedestrian Bridge and hop on a wide hard packed trail that loops around the isle. The loop itself is a little less than a mile but it offers great views of the James River, especially around sunset!
You can also get off the main hard packed trail and up into the center of Belle Isle using a confusing set of single track trails. I say confusing because they seem to be laid out like a spider-web. But you need worry about getting lost because it’s a pretty small network and will all lead out back to the main loop eventually.
“Poop Loop” (Ancarrow’s Landing)
I’ve only run this a few times a while back so I’ll need to check it out again soon and update this further. But this section is super popular with bikers and runners, even though it holds true to it’s name, since it’s close to the city’s waste water treatment plant.
It’s approx. a 2.5 to 3 mile loop starting at Ancarrow’s Landing within the Manchester neighborhood of Richmond.
If you’re interested in checking the “Poop Loop” visit the RRRC’s Poop Loop 4ish Miler race page for a good loop you can try. Not sure if it’s running again this year (2021) but you can use the map and directions on that page.
Dogwood Dell Loop Mountain Bike Trail
Love this little simple loop. It’s not as busy as some of the other Richmond trails and it’s super easy for me to get to. Especially on shorter trail days.
Just a straight shot down down Belvidere to Pump House Park and park in front of the actual Pump House. The loop itself is about a mile but you can add in the Carillon or Byrd Park exploration if you like.
There’s a few climbs here and it’s only one way so if you’re hiking/walking/running, keep an eye out or for bikers coming up behind you.
James River Pipeline Trail
Almost did not include this because I wouldn’t consider it a classic trail. But it’s a pretty cool experience, has great views and can be tied into the Canal Walk or combined with Belle Isle and the trifecta loops.
You can park pretty close to it just past Casa Del Barcos on the Canal Walk but that parking can get pretty tight. You’re better off parking at the Belle Isle Parking Lot then walking down Brown’s Island to the Canal Walk area then past that to the big flood wall. You’ll see a trailhead then a short ladder climb down to the pipeline.
Hiking Trails Pretty Close to Richmond VA
If you’re looking to go just outside the city, but still within a 10-30 min drive. Check out a few more options below.
Pocahontas State Park
Pocahontas is huge! There’s a lot of different hiking/biking/running trails to choose from so I’d recommend checking out their site/map for the best information.
I used to run cross country races out there in high school. But now I don’t make it out there as much unless I want to get in a really long run.
It’s about a 25-30 min drive if you’re in Richmond city.
Powhite Park Loop Trail
Powhite Park Loop Trail is about a 2 mile trail tucked away near Chippenham Hospital, about 10 mins outside of the city.
It’s really popular with bikers. And has a sweet section where you get to ride through a dried out creek bed.
Rockwood Park Trail
Rockwood was my favorite trail running spot growing up in Chesterfield. They have a lot of paved trails for hiking/walking. But they also have some pretty decent trails for hiking and trail running.
You generally start off on the paved section of the trail depending on where you are in the park, but eventually there’s a number of paths that lead to the trails. These trails run beside a pretty big pond. Watch out for snakes in the summertime!
I love having so many trail options within the city. And still get the feeling not as many people know about them. Although with everything going on with COVID the trails have gotten a little busier. So make sure to listen out for “runner up” or biker’s ringing their bells when hiking/walking the trails.
Enjoy the pictures and maybe I’ll see you out there!