Figured its time to share my favorite spots to catch (and possibly photograph) a sunrise in Richmond VA. This won’t cover all the spots, just my favorites or most frequented.
Open up Beautiful Sunsets in Richmond VA & Where to Catch Them in another tab for your next read. No need to squeeze all of these beautiful images/locations into one post.
Under Nickel Bridge on the James
One of the many spots I’ve found because of my love for trail running. I normally park on Riverside Road just off of Westover Hills Blvd and enter Buttermilk Trail from Riverside Road.
Head towards the Nickel Bridge on the trail and it takes you under the bridge using a rock-covered path that can get pretty slippery when wet. Buttermilk then continues up and wraps around to take you to the bridge walk path, but to get down to the river for the sunrise, you follow a trail down and around.
Once you get to the bottom, everything opens up with the Nickel Bridge above you and train tracks in front of you before the James River. There are a few angles to capture the bridge itself during the early morning.
But the best views are looking east towards the city to catch the sun reflecting off of the James. There are a set of rocks on the James River about a 5 min walk east on the large gravel walking path. They jut out just enough you won’t have to worry about tree branches messing up your view. Unless the branches add to your image’s composure.
There are always geese or ducks down there if you’re a wildlife photographer. Bring your zoom lens to catch them hanging out in the sunrise glow.
Some of the rocks are flat and smooth, making it easy to set up a tripod for long exposure work.
Manchester Bridge/Flood Wall Area
Includes a few different spots but you can hit each one pretty quickly in one route. Or break it up and focus on one location each trip.
Using the T Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge (aka T Pott Bridge) you can get to each of the locations mentioned in this section. This bridge allows easy access to Richmond’s Manchester area from Brown’s Island and offers beautiful panoramic views.
You could just simply walk the bridge and turn around but I suggest continuing to:
Under the Manchester Bridge
You’ve probably seen this spot in a lot of engagement or family sessions, but it’s also a decent spot to create some cool sunrise shots. You can get there by hopping off the T Pott bridge on the south side using the set of stairs near the Manchester Climbing Wall (yes, that wall with climbing anchors, ropes, and possibly people scaling the wall).
After taking the stairs, follow the path in front of the climbing wall that leads up to the Manchester Bridge. The path can get overgrown at times and has some rocks as steps so be cautious. But it’s better than taking the walking path all the way around.
After getting a few beautiful shots in, continue your trek onto the Flood Wall. The walking path under the Manchester Bridge leads directly to it at the river so you can’t miss it.
Here you can capture the river city at its finest.
And/or continue walking on the Flood Wall to see what else if has to offer.
Fountain Lake at Byrd Park
Haven’t been to this spot in a while (until recently) but with all the walking/running trails in Byrd Park this is an awesome spot to catch a sunrise. There’s parking at the lake for quick and easy access. (See Google Maps info here)
S Belvidere St/Lee Bridge (North & South End)
North End of the Lee Bridge
I am at this spot a ton due to its accessibility and various places to take a picture but still a get little something different each time.
I typically park in the Oregon Hill neighborhood near the Oregon Hill Overlook and walk to the bridge. The overlook offers nice views of the James River and is worth a stop before heading to the bridge.
Take the exit ramp up to the bridge (facing the city) using the sidewalk. Everything opens up once you’re above the railroad tracks and you get a beautiful view of RVA.
If taking pictures, there are a few different compositions here so make sure to explore a little bit (as much as one can on the sidewalk of a busy bridge/road/ramp)
South End of the Lee Bridge
The south end of the Lee Bridge offers up some amazing city sunrise views as well. You can either walk the whole bridge, taking in the view as you walk. Or park near an apartment complex on Stonewall Ave and walk across the street to the bridge. Again, be careful as this can be a busy road.
Here are a few places that might not come to mind first when looking for places to watch a sunrise in Richmond VA but they work as a backup or if you need something different than a sunrise on the water. (Hey, it can happen)
If you can’t quite get down the river for a sunrise, check out VMFA. Their patio/platform/yoga stage can make for a sweet spot to catch some pinks and purples. You might not catch the actual sunrise but it’s still a decent spot right in the mix of everything.
Here’s another non-river spot that I frequent quite often. (I might also be a little biased since I live so close). But the pinks and purples are beautiful over the Cookie Factory Lofts.
I love waking up early to catch the sunrise. What are some of your favorite spots? And do you prefer sunrises over sunsets?