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Hiker Reviews for the James River Hike - 1 to 16 of 16   
Review the James River hike here!   Average Review Rating:

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, January 3, 2019
Took this trail as a spur-of-the-moment adventure. we were very glad to have the written tips from this site, as we had not hiked much in this area. Even with the tips, there were one or two spots that we found tricky. For those used to hiking on well-marked/blazed trails in the state parks and similar, it would be helpful to have these tips, as the trail at intersections/cross-trails is not always as obvious.

After crossing to the South side, only a very small portion of the concrete walkway was overflowed by the river, which we could get around over the rocks, so we were able to take the Low Water's really just a small portion. We did not see as much wildlife as I had hoped, but did see bird activity. Mostly we really enjoyed being close to the river and seeing it fairly high. When arriving under the Boulevard Bridge, you literally climb up to the railroad tracks and cross over. The tips are understated when it says, "a not so obvious path" will lead up to the bridge. When you cross the tracks, immediately under the bridge, just to the right, is the path leading up to the pedestrian walkway across the bridge, back to the north. This is probably the steepest upward climb and a bit of tricky footing because of the overnight rains. Over the bridge to the North Bank trail is easy. The views are great you just have to ignore the cars zooming by. Walking past Maymont was cool the ramp up to the street IS very steep, a bit slippery when wet. Then it actually takes you a few blocks through a residential area on the way to the North Bank Trail parking area. I would refine the trail notes here, when taking up the trail from the parking lot. at the first intersection, do take the Left trail, marked "Texas Beach". You will go down the steps built here. you will not follow the Texas Beach trail, but will find the opening in the fence that is referred to, slightly to the left, just before the railroad pedestrian bridge. After this it was smooth sailing. It seemed marshier here in some spots than on the South Bank. we have had so much rain, but never so bad that we couldn't avoid puddles, and we had light, water-proof hiking boots. Regarding hygiene facilities, for those who care porta-potties at Tredegar parking lot, parking lot just across the Boulevard Bridge, and the North Bank trail parking lot...strongly advise bring your own toilet paper these potties were very full, and had not been serviced for a while you can't be squeamish if you are going to be a hiker! Just be prepared. We really enjoyed this hike on a coolish January afternoon. It was a combination of urban, woodsy, river hiking. There is so much history in this area, this hike prompted us to want to learn a bit more about the places we went through. I have lived in Richmond my entire life but there is always more to learn, appreciate and remember. We don't do as much of this kind of thing as we would like, so in terms of difficulty I would call it mostly easy with a few spots of moderate thrown in. You must be in good enough shape to tackle just a couple of short climbs, and watch aging knees on a couple of downhills, maybe a little balance if exploring the rock field just over to the South Bank. This could be done in 2-21/2 hours by someone just out for the pure exercise of the walk. We took a very leisurely 3 1/2 hours, taking pictures, snacking, etc. Happy Hiking!

By: Diego Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Can't believe I'm giving this a 5, but looking back on it, there was just so much to see throughout the hike. It was snowing the day of the hike which was beautiful. It also kept other people away from the trails. Both of these contribute to my high rating.

I started this from the Maymont Pump House lot (37.535162, -77.482964) and hiked clockwise. There is also parking at the Texas Beach lot (off Texas Ave) and the Reedy Creek trailhead (off Riverside Drive).

Instead of the hanging bridge under Route 301 I instead took the Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge. I would recommend both routes, but the Potterfield Bridge makes it a longer hike. After crossing the bridge you have to take a footbridge over the railroad tracks to get up to Railroad Ave. The Buttermilk trail peels off of this road, going under the Route 301 Bridge, then parallels Riverside Drive for a ways. There's a 4-way intersection (near 21st st) with a bridge/stairs to the right. Go right to cross over the railroad tracks to the Reedy Creek Trail. I did not take this route on my hike but wish I did. Continuing to follow the Buttermilk trail will result in you staring at trains and not much else.

The Reedy Creek Trail will eventually lead to the Park HQ building. Go right. You can either cross the train tracks or continue on the river side of the tracks. The trails meet up a little farther down. From there you get back to Westover Hills Blvd which goes back over the river.

I liked the portion on the north side of the river the most. There are so many places to branch off and explore if you have the time - Texas Beach, Maymont, cemetaries, Brown's Island, Tredegar. It's also worth noting there are trails all over Belle Isle to explore as well.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, February 17, 2017
Just wanted to update with the December 2016 opening of the fantastic new T. Tyler Potterfield Pedestrian Bridge, which adds a new foot crossing over the James. The bridge is built on the piers of the old VEPCO levee which crosses from Brown's Island south to the Manchester wall. A short section has been open for many years but now you can walk all the way across. You get beautiful views of the city and the falls of the James. This is a very cool structure and well worth the drive to Richmond to see it. The bridge is 100% accessible from both sides. There is a warning sign for dog owners, longer nails can be caught in the bridge decking so beware.

Instead of taking the Belle Isle hanging bridge from the parking lot, go left down Tredegar Street and turn right onto Brown's Island. Follow the Potterfield footbridge across the river and continue on the path to the view from the top of the Manchester wall. Continue on the shorter footbridge over the train tracks and turn right behind the Suntrust parking lot. Follow the sidewalk and then a marked trail under the Lee Bridge. In about a quarter mile you will come to the 21st Street park entrance. Go down the spiral stairs to reach either the High Water or Low Water trails and rejoin the route in the main description.

By: Midlo Day Hiker Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, November 15, 2015
We have lived in in the suburbs of Richmond since 1997 and never hiked this trail. It is fantastic and can't wait to hike it again. It has everything a hike in the mountains has, except the elevation. We parked in the lot off Westover Hills Blvd/Pump Rd. and went clockwise up Northbank trail. The Northbank trail is very busy with walkers, runners, mountain bikers, but once you cross over to Belle Isle and are on the Low Water trail it becomes much quieter. I think the trail changes to Buttermilk Trail at some point. We enjoyed the trail, cemetaries, rock hopping, creek crossings. The whole trail is very dog friendly and my dogs particularly liked the Reedy Creek area. Highly recommend this trail.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, November 11, 2015
This was a very nice hike right in the middle of Richmond. It gives you some nice views of the river as well as lots of history along the way. Recommend taking the excellent hiking summary along as the trail is obscure in several places. It was a fun way to spend a morning. Get there early to find a place to park. By the time we finished the hike around noon, the lot was full.

By: Long Beard Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, January 31, 2015
My wife and I started this hike at the Pump House parking lot near Maymont along the North Bank trail, The weather was nice for a winter hike ,42 degrees and sunny. The views along the river were nice and there were lots of birds to view. Keep an eye out for bicyclists along the trail , as it is used quite a bit by mountain bikers and the trail is narrow in spots. Once you cross to the south side of the River be sure to follow the Buttermilk Trail, use the metal tower stairs to access the trail. We did not do this ,as I had printed the map from this site and followed its instructions . I suppose this sites map and instructions were done before the addition of the Buttermilk Trail. Since we missed this part of the trail and hiked the low water and high water trail instead ! I guess it just means we will have an excuse to go back ! Overall this is a great urban 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!

By: Bent Pole Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, February 27, 2011
Ditto what the other reviewer said about the Buttermilk Trail.  Don't miss Buttermilk!  It hooks up to the loop and is the best part of the loop, even though the HU description doesn't take you there.  Watch for mountain bikers, they come up fast sometimes.  Check it out on the James River Park system website.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, January 16, 2011
This is a great hike that doesn't require driving 50+ miles (at least for those of us in Richmond) to do.  I have lived in Richmond for several years and am familiar with the James River Park (and love it) on the south side of the river.  However, I never had a clue there was a trail on the north side.  That was a real treat to discover.  This was a winter hike so we are planning on doing it again in the spring.

By: sunshyne Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 17, 2010
Lived in downtown Richmond for over 10 years, but for some reason only now doing this hike. Took about 3 hours with a steady pace. A lot of variety in the trail. Interesting mix of nature and the urban setting. Lots of great views, easily accessible! My 5yo shepherd loved it! The description on this site is really helpful - definitely check it out!

By: Kyle Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I lived in Richmond for many years and have hiked this route quite often.  It may not have 4,000ft peaks, but it is very nice. Don't forget to explore Belle Isle and the many other trails on the South Bank.  This area (especially around Belle Isle) can be indescribably busy during the summer as VCU is only a few blocks away. 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, January 11, 2010
I hope you'll come back to Richmond for another visit. You missed quite a bit of trail on the south side of the river. After crossing the south side pedestrian bridge off of Belle Island and taking either the high or low water trail, you found yourself at the foot of a spiral staircase. if you can climbed these stairs and taken the bridge over the railroad track, you would have found yourself at the start of the single track Buttermilk Trial on the right. This trail parallels the trail that you took, but is built into the hillside above and keeps you in the woods (adds some distance and elevation gain as well) instead of on the wide gravel path. The trail will lead you all the way to the Boulevard Bridge.

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