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Top 10 Bike Trails in Virginia

Map of Virginia with map markers of top 10 places to bike.

Virginia is home to some of the nation’s best biking trails, featuring rich historic landmarks, famous locations, and great amenities to enjoy along the way. Whether you call Virginia home or you’re visiting for a while, check out these top 10 places to cycle.

1. Virginia Creeper Trail – Abingdon to Whitetop, VA

View of cyclist on bridge at Virginia Creeper Trail.

The Virginia Creeper Trail is easily one of the best rail-trails in the state, featuring 34 miles of beginner-friendly cycling through spectacular scenery. Whether you want a two-hour ride or an all-day, 66-mile affair, this is one trail you don’t want to miss.

The Virginia Creeper Trail may have a strange name, but it’s named for a steam engine that used to chug along the railroad. It’s also named for the Virginia Creeper vine, which is common in the area. One of the main reasons this trail made our list is because it’s a relatively flat, gentle, and enjoyable ride for everyone, whether you’re an expert cyclist, a beginner, or a family with young kids. Plus, there are plenty of access points along the route to refuel with water and snacks and make a trip to the bathroom. The path also winds through a beautiful backdrop of farmland, the rolling Appalachian hills, and the serene waters of the White Top Laurel Creek. There are also bike shops in Abingdon and Damascus if you need to rent a bike.

The easiest place to start your ride is at The Creeper Trail Welcome Center in Abingdon, where you’ll find free parking and easy access to the trail.

Tips: Although this is an excellent trail for families and cyclists of all abilities, just remember that it’s also heavily used by hikers and equestrians. Bikers should always yield to horses to avoid spooking them. 

2. Mount Vernon Trail – Theodore Roosevelt Island Park to Mount Vernon, VA

View of Mount Vernon Trail on Dyke Marsh.

The Mount Vernon Trail is a highly-trafficked route that features 18 miles of paved path connecting Theodore Island Park to George Washington’s estate in Mount Vernon. The trail runs along the Potomac River, offering fantastic views of the Washington D.C. skyline across the river and historical landmarks along the way.

As you bike the Mount Vernon Trail, you’ll pass through cozy neighborhoods, wetlands, wooded forests, narrow bridge crossings, and more. Most of the path is paved, but some parts are a boardwalk. The middle point of the trail is Old Town Alexandria, where you’ll ride on the street for a bit, but you’ll also get to check out the area’s waterfront parks, shops, and restaurants. The Mount Vernon Trail continues under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and onto the estate in Mount Vernon. However, you can take a quick detour to explore the National Harbor area in Maryland, which offers everything from an outlet mall to a ferris wheel, a casino, and frequent live music.

You can access the Mount Vernon Trail from Theodore Roosevelt Island, Old Town Alexandria, or the Mount Vernon Estate.

Tips: You’ll need to dismount your bike at some of the bridge crossings along this trail. Certain parts of the path are also very narrow, so use caution when passing others in these areas.

3. Big Walker National Scenic Byway Ride – Wytheville, VA

The Big Walker National Scenic Byway Ride is a moderately challenging 16.2-mile bike ride through the gorgeous Jefferson National Forest, historic homesteads, and up to Big Walker Mountain, showcasing the natural beauty of southwest Virginia.

Biking the Big Walker National Scenic Byway is quite the workout, but the scenic mountain vistas are well worth the burn you’ll feel. As you climb the 3,787 feet to the top of Big Walker Mountain, you’ll enjoy lush forest scenery and the serene, natural landscape of the area. Waiting at the top, you’ll find the Big Walker Country Store, which rewards your hard work with cold drinks, snacks, hand-dipped ice cream, and shady outdoor seating areas. While you’re there, you can also check out the Big Walker Lookout for more breathtaking views and some beautiful photo ops.

Many people start this ride about five miles north of Wytheville at Route 717 and Interstate 77, where the byway begins.

Tips: If you cycle this route, consider making it into an overnight trip by staying at the Stony Fork Campground. It’s adjacent to the Big Walker Mountain Scenic Byway and offers camping sites along the Stony Fork Creek.

4. Douthat State Park – Millboro, VA 

Douthat State Park is an IMBA Epic in the Appalachian Mountains of south-central Virginia. The park is home to more than 4,500 acres, surrounded by the George Washington National Forest.

At Douthat State Park, mountain bikers enjoy exploring more than 40 miles of primarily singletrack trails for varying skill levels. With a 3,427-foot elevation climb up and 3,423 feet down, riding here is essentially climbing up the mountains and back down, with an incredible mix of climbs, descents, and switchbacks in between. The ride here begins with an unrelenting climb up, surrounded by dense forest, and features several thrilling descents, heart-pumping climbs back up, and breathtaking views of the mountaintops and Douthat Lake.

The address of Douthat State Park is 14239 Douthat State Park Road, Millboro, VA 24460. You can find detailed directions for getting there on the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation website.

Tips: This area is very remote, but there are camping facilities like cabins with full kitchens if you decide to stay overnight.

5. New River Trail State Park – Pulaski to Galax, VA

View of start of bike path at New River Trail State Park - Pulaski to Galax, VA.

One of the best rail-trails in the state, the New River Trail State Park is a southern Virginia gem for cyclists. It’s a state park that follows the New River through Grayson, Carroll, Wythe, and Pulaski Counties, offering 57 miles of cycling through rugged, thick forested scenery.

The New River Trail State Park has a crushed stone surface and features several scenic railroad trestles along the way. You’ll cycle through Foster Falls at the New River State Park Headquarters, and at the Galax Trailhead, a sole red caboose awaits you, highlighting the trail’s rich railroading history. Other distinctive features and sights along this trail include gaping tunnels, towering dams, and the historical Jackson Ferry Shot Tower.

You can access the New River Trail State Park from the Galax Trailhead, the Dora Junction trailhead in Pulaski, or the Fries trailhead.

Tips: Most of this ride is very isolated, so you’ll want to bring any supplies you might need with you, including lots of water, snacks, first aid supplies, and a bike repair kit.

6. Virginia Blueridge Railway Trail – Piney River to Tye River Depot

Bike path at the start of Virginia Blueridge Railway Trail.

Another popular rail-trail is the Virginia Blueridge Railway Trail in central Virginia, which follows the rail bed of the former Virginia Blue Ridge Railway. This seven-mile route is an easy, scenic ride that offers lovely views and access to unique historical railroading sites.

Starting at the northern trailhead in Piney River, you’ll find a renovated train depot, a visitor’s center, and a trail kiosk for kids with nature information. You can also explore the new Historic Railroad Park here. As you set off down the trail, you’ll enjoy wooded scenery featuring deer and other local wildlife. The Piney and Tye Rivers consistently accompany you as you cross five different bridges and pass interesting historical sites, including rail cars and a railroad weighing scale. There are plenty of benches and places to rest along this ride, and cyclists get a great view of the gorgeous open farm country and lush, green fields splattered with the vivid colors of wildflowers during the spring.

This trail is conveniently located halfway between Lynchburg and Charlottesville. The Piney River Trailhead is at 3124 Patrick Henry Highway, Piney River, VA 22964.

Tips: There is no exit at the southern end of the trail, so you’ll have to turn around and bike back to the Piney River trailhead.

7. Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park (W&OD) – Arlington to Purcellville, VA

The W&OD crushed bluestone bridle trail just east of the junction with Wiehle Avenue (VA-828) in Reston, Virginia.

The Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park is one of the most popular trails in the suburban Washington D.C. area. Linking the nation’s capital with Virginia’s historical and rural past, this sprawling 45-mile rail-trail follows the route of the former W&OD Railroad.

This enjoyable rail-trail has something for everyone. With urban, suburban, and rural sections to ride, the W&OD is extremely well-marked, featuring signs at every half mile and interpretive signs along the trail that tell the stories of historical people and places along the route. While you ride, you’ll also spot several old cabooses and pass through the communities of Vienna, Reston, Herndon, Leesburg, and more, many of which feature great shops and restaurants to explore while you take a break. It’s a comfortable journey on the W&OD, with various amenities, including parks, picnic areas, drinking fountains, and restrooms. The 10 miles between Leesburg and Purcellville feature beautiful rolling hills through the farmland, and the crowd on the trail also tends to die down.

You can start your ride at the southern end of the trail in the Shirlington neighborhood of Arlington. Or, you can begin at the opposite end in Purcellville and park near the Purcellville Train Depot.

Tips: You’ll pass right by the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens while cycling the W&OD, which are open daily during all seasons and are definitely worth stopping to check out.

8. Virginia Capital Trail – Jamestown and Richmond, VA

Bike path on Virginia Capital Trail.

The Virginia Capital Trail is a 52-mile trail that runs from historic Jamestown to Richmond, the state capital. It’s a very popular trail that offers an incredible historical tour through several noteworthy sites, plantations, and communities that played an essential role in our nation’s history. If you’re a cyclist and a history buff, this trail is for you!

This trail follows the James River and State Route 5. If you start in Jamestown, you’ll bike through the city of Williamsburg and the battlegrounds of the Revolutionary War as you ride. You’ll also pass the beautiful 140-acre Chickahominy Riverfront Park, where you can soak up views of the James and Chickahominy Rivers. Across the Judith Stewart Dresser Bridge, you’ll ride past the Sherwood Forest Plantation, where President John Tyler lived, and see many other colonial plantation homes. At the Richmond end of the trail, the trail runs parallel to Dock Street through Shockoe Bottom, one of the country’s oldest neighborhoods, and also provides easy access to several great hiking spots in the Richmond area.

There are several different access points and places to park along the Virginia Capital Trail. This map provides accurate details for parking and all nearby amenities for the trail.

Tips: Near the Richmond end of the Virginia Capital Trail, you’ll pass through the community of Varina, home to Varina Farms, established by the English settler John Rolfe, who married Pocahontas.

9. Southern Traverse – George Washington National Forest

Paved path in the Southern Traverse - George Washington National Forest.

The IMBA Epic Southern Traverse is a worthwhile challenge for even the best mountain bikers. With 3,000 feet of formidable climbing and more than 36 miles to ride, this trail is guaranteed to test your endurance and skills.

The Southern Traverse is the southernmost part of the Shenandoah Mountain Trail, located in the Dry River and Deerfield Districts of the George Washington National Forest. The route starts with a strenuous four-mile climb at a steady grade. As you work your way up toward the summit, you’ll push through tight, twisted sections of singletrack, with some scattered rock gardens that require plenty of technical work to get through. From there, the Shenandoah Mountain Trail heads around North Sister Knob and wraps up to South Sister Knob at about 3,088 feet. You’ll want to prepare yourself for the rip-roaring 1,100-foot descent to where the trail ends at Scotchtown Draft – Route 627. It’s quite the thrill!

The USDA Forest Service provides detailed directions on how to get to the Shenandoah Mountain Trail.

Tips: There’s only one bailout option at the Southern Traverse, so just make sure you’re up for the challenge before you head out on this adventure.

10. High Bridge Trail State Park – Rice to Pamplin, VA

View of High Bridge Trail State Park - Rice to Pamplin, VA.

The High Bridge Trail State Park is a popular cycling route centrally located in Virginia, about an hour’s drive from both Lynchburg and Richmond. The perfect day trip adventure, this 32-mile route is excellent for cyclists of all skill levels.

Not surprisingly, the High Bridge Trail State Park is named for the bridge it crosses for a portion of the trail. The High Bridge dates back to the Civil War and was a strategic point for Union and Confederate soldiers. This bike ride takes you through Virginia’s native woodlands and rural farmland for a peaceful ride. Although it does lack some visual variety, the bridge is the highlight of the adventure. The High Bridge towers 125 feet over the Appomattox River and stretches about a half-mile across it, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding country landscape. 

There are several trail access points and parking spots located in Farmville, Tuggle, Rice, and other communities along this route. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation provides detailed directions here.

Tips: If you want a shorter and more leisurely ride, you can start biking from the town of Farmville. From there, you’ll only have to cycle about 4.5 miles before reaching The High Bridge.

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Photo Sources:

Metayel, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Bobco85, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Virginia State Parks staff, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
vastateparksstaff, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Augusthorsesdroppings10, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

References:

  1. https://visitabingdonvirginia.com/landmarks/virginia-creeper-trail 
  2. https://www.nps.gov/gwmp/planyourvisit/mtvernontrail.htm
  3. https://www.traillink.com/trail/mount-vernon-trail/ 
  4. https://www.virginia.org/listing/big-walker-mountain-scenic-byway/6406/ 
  5. https://www.scenicbeauty-va.com/national-scenic-byway/ 
  6. https://www.mtbproject.com/trail/879616/douthat-state-park-imba-epic 
  7. https://www.traillink.com/trail/new-river-trail-state-park/ 
  8. https://www.traillink.com/trail/virginia-blue-ridge-railway-trail/ 
  9. https://www.virginia.org/listing/virginia-blue-ridge-railway-trail-nelson-county/6319/ 
  10. https://www.traillink.com/trail/washington-and-old-dominion-railroad-regional-park-(wod)/
  11. https://www.virginiacapitaltrail.org
  12. https://www.traillink.com/trail/virginia-capital-trail/ 
  13. https://www.singletracks.com/bike-trails/the-southern-traverse/
  14. https://www.mtbproject.com/trail/169815/southern-traverse-imba-epic 
  15. https://www.traillink.com/trail/high-bridge-trail-state-park/ 

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