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Take to the Trails of Virginia Beach, Va.

virginia beach trails

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. 

photo by Shannon McGowan

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. 

photo by Ellen Kanzinger

Drive a little outside of the city’s center to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State ParkThis 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. 

Cover photo: Sandy trails at Pleasure House Point Natural Area. Photo by Shannon McGowan

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