The 5 Best Hikes in Richmond, VA
Richmond's crowning jewel and nearly its defacto #1 hike. It seems like Maymont has it all with its beautifully themed sections like the crowd favorite Japanese garden. Maymont is the only one on this list that wouldn't technically be considered a hike because of its paved paths, but if your goal is to enjoy nature and stay active while doing so this definitely fits the bill. There are a ton of different things to do like feed goats, pet cows, observe foxes and birds. You could also set up a picnic in its beautifully landscaped areas and enjoy the day.
Its landscaped similarly to a high-end theme park but is totally free
Plenty to do
Great for kids
No dogs allowed
Can get crowded
2. Belle Isle
Belle Isle is just the island there, but has so much to offer. Since Belle Isle serves as a hub for Buttermilk, North Bank, Brown's Island, the Floodwall, and the Potterfield bridge I am including those routes since you will need them to access Belle Isle. Belle Isle is a great hiking destination because of its short and punchy trails combined with access to the rapids as a way to cool off. There are also a handful of small routes other than the gravel loop around the island. If you're there for an end of hike picnic and swim this is the ideal spot for you.
A great hub for hikers, bikers and kayakers
The non-gravel hiking paths aren't that crowded
Great swimming options
Plenty of history
Separate hilly and flat trail options
Low Elevation Changes
The Island is Small
Swimming can be dangerous if there is high water
3. Forest Hill Park
Although just a short walk from Belle Isle along Buttermilk trail or a gravel connecting path, Forest Hill has much more to offer than just single trails in the area. Forest Hill is the hilliest of the top 3 hikes with much of the trail system having large changes in elevation. If your goal is a hike along singletrack with natural vegetation this is by far the best option. You can find a beautiful catch and release lake, gazebos on the water, and a sheltered picnic area.
Beautiful and natural beauty
Plenty of hills
Some people drink in public near the parking lot No other activities than hiking
4. Bryan Park
Bryan Park would probably be much higher up the list if it wasn't for the fact that you can hear the highway from much of its paths. Bryan Park mostly is accessed by its paved and closed road system. Off of these paved paths, you can find a few singletrack hiking and biking trails with plenty of natural vegetation. There is also a beautiful lake surrounded by manmade landscaping. It has plenty to offer in both styles, but it's quite flat and is not exactly serene with the highway nearby.
Farmers Market Saturdays at 9AM
Paved paths can be good for your rollerblading kids
Natural and Landscaped sections
5. Powhite Park
Many Richmonders have never been here, and many others would argue this should be much higher up the list. Considering that Richmond hikes are limited in size due to being within city limits, this park is incredibly adequate and can provide everything you expect on a typical hike while still being near the city. It has plenty of natural vegetation and rolling hills and not much else. Sometimes, that's just enough!
Natural and pristine beauty
Can get noisy if you're on a trail near the highway
Nothing to do other than hike
What didn't make the list:
Capital Trail: Technically the best parts of the trail are when you walk out of the city. It is also hard to find shade on this and runs along a highway. Really its best for bikers.
Buttermilk, North Bank and Texas Beach: Due to crowds, technical singletrack routes that are full of bikers these 3 options are all adequate to access other areas like Forest Hill park, Belle Isle or Brown's Island but thats about it!
William Byrd Park: I don't think this can be considered a hike, but is definitely a beautiful area and worth the walk.
The Floodwall & Richmond Slave Trail: Between the Interstate noise and litter it is not worth making the top 5. Its a decent trail system once you pass the interstate, but since it is along an industrial zone of Richmond it is hard to ignore all of the cons. I also added the Floodwall trail onto this since they connect, which loves to flood, has no shade on hot days but provides spectacular views.
Lewis G Larus Park: I'm sure many of you haven't heard of it, but it technically is within the city limits near the Stony Point Fashion Park. Its a 1 and done park. This park offers the best opportunity to see wildlife.
Controversial Opinion: Pony Pasture is Completely Overrated...
The reasoning is simple...
1. It has no hiking trail access to get to it other than by biking or car.
2. It can be beautiful, but it can also flood with very small amounts of rain. The rain also pools and makes the area quite buggy.
3. There really is no way to resolve the flooding problem due to its location
4. The swimming can be shut down due to water height