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James River - Richmond, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
6.3 mls N/A
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:

2.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
160 ft
Explore The James James River
Printable Topo Hike Map (PDF)

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e.g. 12000 Government Center Parkway 22035 or Fairfax VA
Park on Tredegar St at the Belle Isle parking area. 37.53469, -77.44803

This was a great hike to do without having to go to the mountains and if you like water, you’ll love this hike located mostly within the City of Richmond James River Park System. For an urban hike, there was a little bit of everything. There was nature with the geese, hawks, ducks, trees, and of course, the James River seen throughout most of the hike. There were also the urban distractions: traffic, people, trains, and something that we have not walked by on any other hikes on this site – 3 cemeteries. Surprisingly enough, even with all the distractions, this is a worthwhile hike. Look around as you hike and you will see some beautiful things.

The trail starts at the same parking lot as the Belle Isle hike, head under the train trestle to the sidewalk and take a right heading to the hanging bridge underneath the Lee Bridge (Route 1/301) Note: Do not park under the trestle as you may get train grease on your car.  It is about 0.5 miles to the other side of the bridge from the parking area. Stay straight as you come off the foot bridge passing an intersection on the right in about 100 yards, bear to the left past the Call Box, paralleling the Lee Bridge. You will pass another intersection in about 150 yards, stay straight and then cross the South Side pedestrian bridge.

Once on the South side of the James River, bear right and take the Low Water trail. If the river is high you will have to take the High Water trail. You will soon come to a concrete path, bear left. Continue on the trail and in 1 mile you will come to the James River Park System Headquarters and Visitor Center. Keep your eyes open on this mile long section for multiple small spur trails to view the wildlife on the many creeks that are flowing into the James River. Continue past the Visitor Center and reach the Boulevard Bridge in 1.2 miles. You will start getting closer again to this section of the James River and can see the outline of Richmond down river.

Go under the bridge and take a left over the railroad tracks, a not so obvious path will be in front of you, follow it up to the road and take a left towards the Boulevard Bridge walkway. Cross the bridge, up river is a beautiful railroad bridge, to the left and up on the hill is the Maymont House. Once across take a left towards the Northbank Trail, the trail begins near the kiosk. The next 0.6 miles of the trail will have the Maymont property on the left and the Kanawha Canal on the right. There will be a steep ramp and portion of the trail as you reach the intersection of Hampton Street and Kansas Ave. Follow Kansas Ave for 0.3 miles and take a right on Texas Ave towards the Northbank Trail parking area. Take a left into the parking area, the trail begins at the far end. At the first intersection bear to the left and the trail will go through a fence, it seems strange but that is where the trail goes. [Note: This part of the trail was a little confusing and with no blazes it made it even harder to follow. If you end up starting to go across a railroad pedestrian bridge, you have gone the wrong way, turnaround.]

Once through the fence it is about 1.5 miles back to the parking area. You will pass 3 separate cemeteries: Calvary, Riverview and Hollywood. There are some great views of the James River on this stretch of the trail. Keep heading towards the Lee Bridge and you can’t miss the parking area.

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Hiker Reviews For The James River Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the James River hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Great evening hike when you have enough daylight. Started from Legends Restaurant/Brewery then continued to Buttermilk trail, crossed Boulevard Bridge, then to North Bank trail, then to Brown Island, normally would go Pipeline Trail, but opted to follow Canal to Dock Street and cross Mayo Bridge continued to 7th Street and back to Legends. This route is about 8.5 miles and hiking time is about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Legends patio is a great place to view Richmond's cityscape in the evening. Trails were dry and daffodils blooming. 1st warm day in Richmond, so Legend's was crowded and there was a 90 minute wait for food, so skipped dinner. Note: Parking lot at Tredegar was pretty crowded the past two times I was there, and don't park under the railroad bridges (heavy greases from railcars can damage your cars paint). If you do the hiking upwards route, check out "Dead Rock" on north side of Belle Island.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, December 28, 2013
Overall great hike parking lot was full before noon. Some great views lot of people and bikers for most of the hike. It took us 3 hours to walk the trail stopping for pictures and sight seeing.

By: Adam Peat Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 30, 2011
We were in town visiting, so we did this hike one morning and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Although this was right in the middle of the city, it often felt otherwise.  There is a little bit of everything history, river view, forest, city scape.  The scenery along the south side of the low water trail was spectacular.   We did this hike on a hot day and followed the hike scenario posted on this site. On the north side, there are long periods walking along the bluffs where you are exposed to the sun.  This part of the trail, while not difficult, requires some exertion, so we were very hot when we got to the end. I would recommended doing the hike in reverse to minimize this issue.  Also, the trail markings aren't that good, so its easy to get off course.  Generally, the most traveled path is really the best one to follow, but you might easily find yourself off course.  Definitely, take along the hike summary as it will help. 

By: Bent Pole Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 17, 2011
If you want to make this a longer circuit, try the Canal Walk eastward, which is on the other side of the Tredegar parking lot, cross Mayo's Bridge southward, then come up the floodwall walk westward until you get to the staircase over the tracks that goes toward the wooden bridge to Belle.  You can either cross here and go north to Belle, or go straight and head down the Buttermilk Trail and continue west to the Boulevard Bridge, cross it northward, then head east along the North Bank trail to the Tredegar parking lot. 10 miles, maybe? I don't know... but it's definitely interesting... be prepared to people-watch.

Trails are heavily used, and nobody seems to police them.  Be prepared for the side effects... litter, erosion, unleashed dogs, people with a death wish, etc.  The usual urban hike!  You won't be bored.

By: Stephanie and Jonathan Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 12, 2011
We live in Richmond and decided to go out in the afternoon for this hike. We have been down to Belle Isle several times, so we knew the start of the trail well, but neither of us have done the High Water Trail or any of the rest of it. Due to the rains, the river was above 9' feet and most of the boulders used for sunbathing were underwater at Belle. We went about a mile or so on the High Water Trail before we hit trouble, a good section of the trail was flooded. Since we could see the other side, we decided to stay along the banks and got around it just fine. However, after only another 50 feet or so, the trail was flooded again, with no end in sight. We happened to be right next to Tower 43, so we climbed up that to the Buttermilk Trail. I'm very happy that we were forced up to Buttermilk, it adds some very nice views and a little length to the hike. We saw a few mountain bikers, but mostly had the trail to ourselves. Buttermilk leads right to the Boulevard Bridge, and we were able to hike the rest of the trail just fine. Saw a white poodle on the northside that decided to camp out in a puddle of mud, humorous to us, but not so much to the poodle's owner. All in all it was a great hike and a great short drive!

    View all 10 reviews for the James River hike
Early January
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