Trails of the Southeast

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Across unhurried creeks, up steep mountains, through rhododendron forests, and past tumbling waterfalls, the trails of the Southeast lead to some truly spectacular sights. Discover the best spots to hike, bike, and paddle in our region, plus some of the best craft beverage makers you can find. Please check with locations prior to travel for local guidelines or use this guide for future trips!

Cabin at Roanoke County’s Explore Park
Cabin at Roanoke County’s Explore Park. Photo courtesy of Roanoke County Parks, Recreation & Tourism

How to Play in Virginia’s Blue Ridge

With over 1,000 miles to hike, bike, and paddle, Virginia’s Blue Ridge is the ultimate trail destination. Blue Ridge Outdoors readers seem to agree. This year, several destinations in the region took home top honors in the 2022 Best of the Blue Ridge Awards. Discover the best spots to explore in this guide to Virginia’s Blue Ridge. 

Roanoke — Best Place to Raise an Outdoor Family

Roanoke invites adventurers of all ages to get out and explore the area. From the Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway, and Jefferson National Forest to Carvins Cove and Smith Mountain Lake, you’ll find there’s no shortage of places and ways to get outside with your family. Easy access is key to making sure everyone has a great time, and all of these destinations are within an hour’s drive from the city’s center. 

Explore Park — Best Kid-Friendly Adventure

Take the family to Roanoke County’s Explore Park, located at Milepost 115 along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The fun never stops when there’s so much to do for young kids and the young at heart. Featuring trails for hiking and mountain biking, water access for paddling, boating, and fishing on the Roanoke River, and an aerial adventure course called Treetop Quest, this is your one-stop-shop for all things outdoors. Plus, with food and beverages available at the Twin Creeks Brewpub, and cabins and campsites offering overnight lodging, you will have everything you need for a relaxing weekend getaway. 

Roanoke Valley Greenways — Best Urban Park/Greenway

There’s no need to venture far to enjoy the sights along the Roanoke Valley Greenways. Over 30 miles of trails showcase many unique local communities as you walk, run, or bike past some of the area’s most recognized landmarks, including Mill Mountain and the Roanoke Star. Several access points to the Roanoke River and local creeks also make this a great destination for paddling and fishing. 

VBR Cheers Trail — Extra Miles

When you’ve had your fill of exploring, check out the stops along Virginia’s Blue Ridge Cheers Trail. This craft beverage trail showcases more than 25 breweries, wineries, and distilleries in the area. In the city of Salem, Parkway Brewing Company and Olde Salem Brewing Co. are great options for a post-trail beer while in Roanoke, Starr Hill Pilot Brewery and Twisted Track Brewpub always have something fun brewing. 

Unlock the key to exploring the mountains and waterways of Virginia’s Blue Ridge as you spend the day on the trails. VisitVBR.com

couple strolling the Monticello Trails
Stroll the Monticello Trails. Photo courtesy of Visit Charlottesville

Hit the Trails in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Va.

What could be better than world-class hiking trails and epic mountain views paired with a flight of award-winning wines? You’ll find a captivating combination of these elements when you visit Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of central Virginia, there are countless trails to explore along the way. Discover some of the top route recommendations in the area for your next trail-focused adventure. 

Climbing high above the city on the Saunders-Monticello Trail, located at the base of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, this accessible network leads to some unforgettable sights. Cross the boardwalks, take in views of the pond, and enjoy the seasonal scenes. Just down the road, the Highland Rustic Trails at the historic home of James Monroe run across rolling hills with opportunities to encounter a variety of species and habitats as you stroll about the grounds. 

Walk, run, or bike along the Rivanna Trails, which encircle the city. You can see how quickly the scenery changes from paved, urban pathways to natural trails that’ll have you feeling like you’re in a completely different environment. For even more ways to explore, the multi-use trails at Patricia Ann Byrom Forest Preserve Park are perfect for an afternoon outing or mountain bike ride up Little Flat Mountain while Ivy Creek Natural Area is the place to be if you’re looking for a relaxing excursion. 

Head out of the city limits to the nearby Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway for miles of rocks, roots, and switchbacks. But that burning in your quads and sweat on your forehead will be worth it for the overlooks and waterfalls you’ll pass along the way. At 2.2 miles roundtrip, Turk Mountain is a nice trek with the perfect vantage point to watch the sunset or eat a picnic lunch. Keep it short up the steep climb to Humpback Rocks, providing 360-degree views of the surrounding area. From Sugar Hollow Reservoir, located at the base of the national park, the out and back to Blue Hole is another local favorite, especially during the summer when the refreshing waters will help you cool down. Other hikes along the North Fork Moorman’s River lead to additional stream crossings and waterfalls.

With more than 40 wineries in the Charlottesville area, there’s no shortage of spots to sit back and relax with a glass of wine in your hand after taking on the trails. Dozens of wineries round out the Monticello Wine Trail, all within 25 miles of the city. Many of the wineries serve up light fare, host a revolving lineup of food trucks, or allow outside food so you can refuel with some delicious bites. Make sure to sign up for the Monticello Wine Trail Passport, which makes it easy to find your next destination and tracks your visits. You can even win a special wine glass after your tenth winery. Learn more about the passport at Experience.VisitCharlottesville.org. 

Stay Awhile

You’ll find it’s easy to start planning your trip as Charlottesville and Albemarle County offer visitors a wide variety of places to stay, including resorts, hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, cabins, and vacation rentals. Stay in the heart of the city or escape to a relaxing retreat. Plus, with a schedule full of upcoming outdoor events, a thriving music scene, and countless restaurants to taste something new, it’s always a good time to visit.  

Start planning your trip today at VisitCharlottesville.org. 

Sandy Trails at Pleasure House Point Natural Area.
Sandy trails at Pleasure House Point Natural Area. Photo by Shannon McGowan

Take to the Trails of Virginia Beach, Va.

Virginia Beach welcomes you to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay where you’ll discover all types of trails leading to awe-inspiring views. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing stroll or a challenge to get your heart racing, there’s no shortage of ways to see the sights on your next getaway. 

By Land

On what kind of surface do you prefer to hike and bike? Paved? Natural? Sand? From two state parks to the Virginia Beach Boardwalk, you’ll find you can do it all from one central location. 

At First Landing State Park, the most-visited Virginia state park, there are a variety of habitats to explore along 20 miles of trails. Follow one of the boardwalks down to the water and walk 1.5 miles along the shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Or head inland on a system that will take you past bald cypress swamps, salt marshes, waterways, and an abundance of wildlife. Common animals you might spot include marsh crabs, turtles, lizards, herons, and osprey. The Cape Henry Trail is a great way to cover the most ground in the park and is open to cyclists looking to ride a fairly accessible stretch of natural surface. 

While you’re in the area, it’s worth stopping at the Pleasure House Point Natural Area just off the Lynnhaven Riverfor a quick walk appropriate for all ages. This peaceful spot is home to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Brock Environmental Center, and you can see evidence of their oyster restoration efforts up close. 

Drive a little outside of the city’s center to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park. This remote section of protected coastline provides a chance to immerse yourself in the beauty of the beach. As you walk or bike through Back Bay, keep your eyes peeled for a variety of marine wildlife amidst the wetlands and dunes. There’s even more to experience once you reach False Cape, the least-visited Virginia state park, including pollinator fields, campsites, and overlooks. Bikers will love riding through one of the last undeveloped areas on the East Coast along the Sand Ridge Trail from the park’s entrance all the way down to the North Carolina border.

Winter is an excellent time to visit this destination as thousands of species migrate south for warmer weather. From November through March, the interior trails of the refuge are closed to visitors but you can still access the park by way of the beach. Check out Surf & Adventure Co. for fat tire bike rentals made for cruising over the sand. For the road cyclists out there, Pungo Loop Trail will take you past vineyards, strawberry fields, and waterways on quiet roads.

Back by the oceanfront and the ViBe District, a bike is the best way to take in all of the excitement and sights of this coastal city. Cruise along the Virginia Beach Boardwalk, designed with separate biking and walking paths. You can even rent a four-wheeled surrey bike that takes a team of people to pedal the three-mile boardwalk. Then it’s time to hit the Bikes, Brews & Art Tour for a taste of Virginia Beach’s culinary delights and over 50 murals and pieces of public art all mapped out along a pre-planned, self-guided route. 

Discover and fish new waterways. Photo by Ellen Kanzinger

By Water and Air  

You can’t visit the beach without getting on one of the many scenic waterways around. Along the border of First Landing State Park, link up Broad Bay and Linkhorn Bay as you paddle through the Narrows. Locals know this is one of the best spots to watch the sunset from your boat. Or you can float the shallow tributaries trailing out to Back Bay where you’ll be treated to the sight of barrier islands, sand dunes, maritime forests, and marshes. 

For those feeling a little more adventurous, take to the open waters of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. Keep your eyes peeled for pods of dolphins dancing their way around the area, plus any number of other marine animals and birds. 

Your visit wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium. You’ll be flying high on the treetop trails between platforms on this self-guided ropes course and zipline tour. With 17 trails at varying difficulty levels and 258 treetop platforms, this is something the whole family can do together. 

Bonus Trail

What better way to cap off your trip than a tour of the craft beverage scene along the Virginia Beach Beer Trail? Twelve homegrown breweries boast flavors for everyone to enjoy. Sit back and relax with friends in the taproom as you savor a variety of food trucks, snacks, live music, and events throughout the year. An additional 14 stops on the trail highlight other craft beer destinations, like restaurants and shops, that should definitely be on every visitor’s list. 

With this many trails dotting the landscape, you’re going to need a few days to explore all the area has to offer. Stay at one of the many local hotels, bed and breakfasts, vacation home rentals, or campsites for a full week or weekend of fun. Whether you choose to stay right on the oceanfront or in a more remote spot, you’ll have easy access to all of the activities, restaurants, and fun happenings the area has to offer. 

No matter what time of year it is, head to the coast, hit the trails, and discover what Virginia Beach is all about for yourself. VisitVirginiaBeach.com 

Clinch River State Park
Paddle the new Clinch River State Park. Photo courtesy of Virginia State Parks

Every Kind of Trail in Virginia State Parks

Hiking trails? Check. Biking trails? Double check. Paddling trails? Triple check. You can always find a new adventure at a Virginia State Park. With 41 parks dotting the landscape from the ocean to the mountains, discover more than 660 miles of trails and 500 miles of shoreline. 

For the Hikers

At Natural Tunnel, take in the scenic beauty of southwest Virginia and the grandeur of the tunnel from Lover’s Leap, wander through the park on Purchase Ridge, or head down the steep decline to the base of the towering rock formation on Tunnel Trail. More than 40 miles of wooded trails at Douthat will lead you to tumbling waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and views of the lake. If you’re in the mood for some challenging switchbacks that lead to epic views, try the Stony Run, Mountain Top, and Mountain Sidetrails. Wander along theShenandoah River or head up the western slope of Powell Mountain into the national forest when you visit Seven Bends, one of the newest state parks. 

For the Bikers

Pocahontas features 90 miles of multi-use trails just outside of downtown Richmond, including some of the best mountain biking you’ll find in the state. At York River, there are ride sections of bike-only singletrack with great views of the water. If you’re feeling adventurous, New River Trail is a 57-miles linear park along the river. This is a great option if you’re looking to try bikepacking for the first time with its gentle grade and excellent riding surface. Plus, find extra thrills at the Hoover Mountain Biking Area.

For the Paddlers

Explore the shore of the Rappahannock River, plus the surrounding creeks and wetlands, by boat at Belle Isle. Seasonal boat rentals and guided canoe trips make it easy to get on the water here. Just down the road, Machicomoco is an ideal spot for a sunrise or sunset as you paddle Poplar and Timberneck Creek or York River. Although it’s still under development, you can visit sections of Clinch River, Virginia’s first blueway state park. Once complete, the park will connect multiple access points along a 100-mile stretch of the river so you can customize your trip length and difficulty. For now, access the water from the Airtrip Boat Launch and explore one of the most biodiverse rivers in the world. 

So, what are you waiting for? The trails of Virginia State Parks await adventurers of all ages and abilities. VirginiaStateParks.gov

Take in seasonal views. Photo courtesy of the City of Danville

A World of Adventure in Danville, Va.

Travel to the foothills of Piedmont Virginia in pursuit of a weekend filled with outdoor adventure, fine dining, and friendly faces in Danville and Pittsylvania County.  

At the Anglers Ridge Mountain Bike Trail System, discover one of the longest singletrack routes in the region. Over 35 miles of natural-surface trail weave through forested hills and across creeks with options for riders of all levels. You don’t need a bike to enjoy these award-winning trails. Lace up your shoes for a scenic trail run or outing with your dog. 

Follow the Dan River for almost a dozen miles on the Riverwalk Trail. Along the way, connect local parks, overlooks, and boat launches with the Danville Science Center and historic downtown. This paved pathway is accessible for adventurers of all ages and abilities to enjoy this charismatic community. 

While you’re in town, the outfitters of Danville are there to make sure you have everything you need for a day on the trails. Swing by The Brick for a large stock of shoes, apparel, equipment, and nutrition items that’ll keep you going through those tough climbs. At Head Up Eyes Forward, shop a wide range of apparel to fit your adventure or to inspire the next one. 

Your adventure doesn’t stop with the trails. Reserve a lane at Grizzly’s Hatchet House and try your hand at axe throwing or wander through the exhibits at the AAF Tank Museum. Plus, keep your eyes on the calendar for a schedule packed full with festivals, concerts, and races in the area. These events are the perfect opportunity around which to plan an extended stay. 

Aprés Trail

A wide variety of dining options await the hungry explorer. Whether you need a kick start in the morning or a place to refuel after the day’s activities, you’re sure to find something that matches your cravings.

The intimate setting at Links Coffee House Café provides the perfect atmosphere to sip your cup of joe and snack on a pastry. Crema & Vine is a unique offering in the area, combining a coffee shop and wine bar with the tastes from the cafe for an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re on the search for brunch, lunch, or dinner, Golden Leaf Bistro is always an elegant option with live music on Fridays and Saturdays. 

Sitting on the patio at Cotton at Riverside Mill, fill up on a menu full of delicious flatbreads, plates, desserts, and spirits as you watch the Dan River flow past. From thai curry and noodle bowls to mouthwatering entrees, you’ll want to try a little bit of everything at Moon River Thai Bistro. Don’t forget about the fresh, seasonal offerings at King Cropp Kitchen or expertly-prepared seafood dishes from the Schoolfield Restaurant. 

When you’re ready to settle in for the night, you can’t go wrong with the area’s top lodging destinations. The Bee is a charming boutique hotel, once home to the city’s newspaper, that combines cozy accommodations and modern features in a historic landmark. Experience southern hospitality at its finest when you stay at the Berry Hill Resort, featuring sweeping views of the estate, a swimming pool, five miles of trails, and bike rentals. Just steps from the river, unwind at the Courtyard Danville as you rest up for another day of exploration. 

Fill your itinerary with new sights and tastes when you escape to Danville and Pittsylvania County for a relaxing getaway in south-central Virginia. DiscoverDanville.com

Paddle the “Nation’s River.” Photo courtesy of Allegany County Tourism

Find Your Stride in Allegany County, Md.

When you travel to Allegany County, the Mountain Side of Maryland, it’s easy to see why trail lovers of all kinds flock to this destination. From internationally-recognized trail systems to hyperlocal tours, there’s something for everyone to enjoy no matter the season.

With over 200 miles of hiking and biking trails, there’s no end to the places you can explore. The Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Towpath, which converge in Cumberland, provide the perfect opportunity for an afternoon outing or multi-day excursion. Take to these gravel routes for an array of terrain and wildlife sightings. The Western Maryland Rail Trail is a more leisurely paved option that parallels the towpath for 28 miles while Rocky Gap State Park features rugged natural trails around Lake Habeeb.

For a different view of the area, the storied Potomac River Water Trail forms the county’s southern border. Whether you choose to paddle for a few miles or a few days, opportunities for sightseeing, fishing, and exploration abound on theNorth Branch and Upper Potomac. 

If you prefer to get around by car, drive the Green Ridge State Forest Scenic Overlooks Tour where you’ll be treated to some of the best sights around the area. Pack a picnic lunch and find a stunning view along the 45-mile tour. Plan to cruise around for about three hours, depending on how long you stay at each stop. You can even travel into the past as you trace the footsteps of the nation’s first president along the George Washington Trail 1753. Follow Washington’s first diplomatic mission as you stop at historical and natural landmarks through the mountains. 

Don’t forget to enjoy the best food and drinks the area has to offer while you’re in town. Start your morning off right with an order to wake you up and fill you up as you taste the delights of the Donut and Go Trail. If you’ve got a soft spot for sweet treats, check out the Ice Cream Trail for unique flavor combinations, sundaes, frozen yogurt, and more. Finish your day along the Mountain Maryland Tap and Pour Tour, featuring a smorgasbord of craft beverages from award-winning wineries, breweries, and distilleries.

By the end of your trip, you’ll be wishing you could stay longer with so much more to see and do in the mountains of Maryland. Visit Allegany County and unearth a new adventure around every corner. MDMountainSide.com

Find your favorite local brew. Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation

Sip Your Way Through Nelson County, Va.

You won’t find any switchbacks, berms, or mile markers on these trails of Nelson County. There’s no better way to keep the fun with friends rolling when you’re done exploring the Blue Ridge Tunnel, skiing the slopes of Wintergreen Resort, or paddling the James River than a trip along one of the local craft beverage trails. 

For the group that can’t decide on what it wants, Nelson 151 has a little bit of everything. With four breweries, six wineries, three cideries, and two distilleries, you’re sure to find a stop that meets everyone’s requirements at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

The Nelson 29 Craft Beverage Trail invites you to spend some time really getting to know the stops with a smaller, more intimate experience. Bop around between four wineries, a brewery, and a distillery dotting a scenic route. 

Looking to find your next favorite brew? Between the eight breweries and three cideries that make up the Brew Ridge Trail, you’ll find that’s a hard decision to make. 

As if all of that wasn’t enticing enough, add in a rotating set of live music and food trucks for good times that will last long after the sun has set in Nelson County. NelsonCounty.com

Pedal the Promised Land Trail. Photo courtesy of Tucker County

It’s All About the Flow in Tucker County, W.Va.

Slip away to the quiet mountains of Tucker County for a wonderful West Virginia adventure. There are endless ways to explore the area by foot, bike, or boat. 

For decades, mountain bikers of all abilities have traveled to the Canaan Valley for miles of scenic routes. One of the more recent additions to the scene includes the Promised Land Trail, a 5.5-mile loop in Canaan Valley Resort State Park. This flowy purpose built trail is perfect for beginners and novice mountain bikers looking to get a feel of the landscape. Plus, in the winter the resort grooms the trail for cross country skiing. It’s the perfect year round route.  

Prefer to see the area by water? The Upper Cheat River Water Trail provides access to nearly 40 miles of peaceful paddling. Here, you’ll find solitude through the Allegheny Mountains, a brilliant display of the local biodiversity, and a glimpse at the region’s storied history.

But that’s just a taste of what Canaan Valley has to offer visitors. You’ll want to visit again and again as this trail-loving community always has something new in the works. Experience the trails and beauty of Tucker County for yourself. CanaanValley.org 

Cover photo: Ride the trails of Allegany County. Photo courtesy of Allegany County Tourism

Places to Go, Things to See: