Bike along a downtown river, hike to a waterfall, and go skiing — all year long! Make Lynchburg the hub for your next outdoor adventure.
Glide Down the James River
Just across the James River from downtown Lynchburg, the folks at James River Adventures have a mission: “We want to share this natural resource with as many people as possible,” says Rob Campbell, a community conservationist with the James River Association. “Our mantra is: if people can enjoy spending time in this environment, they’ll want to protect it.”
The James River Adventures’ naturalists help their guests explore the James River on kayaks and canoes. “From the shores of downtown Lynchburg to the Joshua Falls Takeout Point is about a 9-mile paddle,” Campbell says. “We consider this the ‘Middle James.’ After you pass through town, you’ll see the iconic, bucolic river-bottom views with lots of wildlife and the mountains in the background.”
pack a lunch and make a day of it,” Campbell says. “As the water drops down, there are some nice, sandy beaches, and there are great places to rest, gather your thoughts, and enjoy the beautiful views.”
At the end, James River Adventures’ shuttle swoops up paddlers and their boats and gives them a ride back to their car. To be sure they’ll have kayaks and canoes ready for you, Campbell suggests calling ahead to reserve your vessel.
Explore Over 5,000 Acres of Outdoor Recreation on Liberty Mountain
Year-round, you can feel the adrenaline surge of zipping downhill at the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre. Guests of all skill levels can take advantage of the park’s artificial turf-like snow surface skiing, snowboarding, and tubing experiences from its perch on Candlers Mountain Road.
Not a snow bunny? No problem! The Liberty Mountain Trail System consists of over 50 miles of single and double track trails and logging roads spanning approximately 5,000 acres. The mountain rises to over 1,360 feet offering cross country and gravity-fed trails for both hiking and mountain biking. The trail system is open to the public during daylight hours.
Bike 40 Miles of Urban Trails
What is now a wonderland of paved and earthen trails was once an old railway system that ran alongside Lynchburg’s Blackwater Creek. Rent a bike from Bike’s Unlimited downtown and start pedaling. “Most of the trail follows the creek into the city center, but it spurs off in different directions with different creek-side trails,” Campbell says. “Even though you’re in the middle of the city, you’ll never know it because there are virtually no buildings intruding on your view. You’re in this lush green space.”
The RiverWalk trail runs through Lynchburg’s historic downtown and then over a bridge to Percival Island, used by the railroad 80 years ago as a refueling spot. After cycling across the island, you’ll continue on over the next bridge into Amherst County for the trail’s last two miles.
“All of the trails are graded and most are paved, so they’re very forgiving — great for novices and people with a lot of experience,” Campbell says.
Fish LYH and Get Expert Tips from Tale Tellers Fly Shop
Lynchburg has a variety of angling opportunities right in downtown or within an hour’s drive. you can find brook, rainbow and brown trout, smallmouth and largemouth bass, striper, the occasional walleye, musky, chain pickerel, carp, gar, the ever-present sunfish, and catfish. There are several ways to fish the James; when the water is low you are able to fish the bank and wade into the river with ease. When the water is up and in a safe flow you can float a kayak or take a larger boat up and fish spots that aren’t accessed as easily. If you want to learn more about fishing around Lynchburg, stop in Tale Tellers in Downtown Lynchburg and set up a guided tour, take a fly tying workshop, get some pointers or just pick up some gear, they’ll be happy to help to get you started with your fishing exploration!
Hike Along America’s Most-Visited National Parkway
Campbell recommends a few different hikes for exploring along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs through North Carolina and almost all of Virginia. “It just depends on how high you want to get started,” he says. At the first access point in a town called Snowden, where the James River crosses through the Blue Ridge Mountains, “you’re starting on one of the lowest points of the Appalachian Trail.”
Campbell also likes the Apple Orchard Falls Trail, which starts at milepost 78.4. On this strenuous 1.2-mile hike, you’ll pass by Sunset Field Overlook with views of Apple Orchard Falls.
A number of trails branch off from the Blue Ridge Parkway and Peaks of Otter as part of the Appalachian Trail. Park and experience the invigoration of hiking through lush forests, hopping across gurgling streams and reaching the peak of a mountain like Sharp Top or McAfee Knob. When you’re finished, return to the main metropolitan area of Lynchburg for a well-deserved lunch.
“Almost any place you go, you’ll have it all to yourself,” says Campbell, who’s lived in Lynchburg his entire life. “Lynchburg isn’t one of those places where you go see a beautiful scene and there are 500 tourists sharing it with you,” he says. “It’s one of those places where you can experience something special and beautiful, and you can carve out your own adventure.”
Make LYH the hub for your next outdoor adventure! Be sure to check out our accommodations, breweries and delicious food scene for your visit.
All photos courtesy of Lynchburg