5 Local Trails Worth Checking Out
While “social distancing” continues, you might be searching for some new outdoor activities. Central Virginia is home to so many incredible hiking options—from easy hills to challenging climbs—but we particularly love these 5 local spots.
The Alpine Trail at Lynchburg’s Riverside Park
Take care of your body and your mind with a hike on the Alpine Trail, the first dedicated hiking trail in Lynchburg. The Alpine Trail was built during the 1920s and ’30s when visitors could cross the James River onto “YMCA” island, which is now known as Treasure Island.
This secluded path winds through the steep, wooded hillside of Riverside Park off Rivermont Avenue—offering spectacular views of the James River. Nature lovers will also adore the frequent sightings of woodland birds, including migrating hawks.
Length: 1 mile
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Restrictions: Since the slope of the hill drops almost vertically onto the railroad tracks hidden below, this trail is not recommended for small children or individuals with disabilities. Strollers and bicycles are prohibited.
Where to Enter: Look for a marked entrance sign just past the Riverside Park Overlook. An entrance to the other end of the trail is found near the Fink Deck Truss Bridge.
New London Tech Trails in Bedford County
Perfect for hiking, trail running and mountain biking, the New London Tech Trails—built in 2017—is one of the area’s newer outdoor destinations. Although the trail system was designed as a “power lunch” option for employees in the New London Business and Technology Center park, it is open to the public as well.
With 6.5 miles of multi-use trails on 500+ acres, you have plenty of room to explore with friends, family, or even your furry companion.
Length: 6.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate. These are smooth rolling terrain trails with limited trip hazards and clear lines of sight.
Options: There are 5 color-coded trails to choose from—the longest loop is 4.3 miles.
Where to Enter: The New London Business and Technology Center park is located off U.S. 460 at Meade Road.
The Cole Mountain Loop in Amherst County
Wait—or is it Cold Mountain? Apparently both names are acceptable for this hike in the George Washington National Forest. (But Cole is the “official” one.)
Hikers of all skill levels are welcome on this loop that’s a part of the Appalachian Trail. You can make it a workout… or take it slow and observe nature along the way.
The best part about this hike—the Cole Mountain apex is a nod to The Sound of Music (you know, the part at the very beginning where Julie Andrews is running through the field surrounded by gorgeous mountains).
After making the trip up to the top, Cole Mountain hikers reach a wide-open pasture with panoramic views on all sides. It’s the perfect backdrop for selfies, professional shoots, or even a song from your favorite musical. Once you see the view, you may be moved to do pretty much anything.
Length: About 6 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 1,500 feet
How to Get There: Take Route 60 west out of Amherst. Turn right on Coffeytown Road and then another right on Wiggins Spring Road. (Note: Wiggins Spring Road is a forest service road. The drive can get bumpy.)
Where to Enter: The parking area is at the end of the trail but you enter about .2 miles north, on the blue-blazed Hotel Trail. Follow those blue blazes to stay on track.
Take It a Step Further: Make the hike longer by combining the Cole Mountain loop with the nearby Mount Pleasant hike on the next ridge. Together, they make an 11.3-mile circuit. Be sure to pack a backpack and plan accordingly for this longer journey.
Sharp Top Trail in Bedford County
With its impressive summit offering a 360-degree view of the region, Sharp Top Trail at Peaks of Otter is a bucket list hike for Central Virginia natives. Park at the Visitor Center to begin your journey.
Length: 1.5 miles
Time: Allow two hours for hiking up and one hour for hiking down. Add an extra half-hour for the spur trail to Buzzard’s Roost, which is a series of large rock formations offering different views of the area.
What to Pack: Water—none is available at the top. Professional camera—to capture amazing photos.
Mike Donahue Trail in Campbell County
Part of the Liberty Mountain Trail System, this particular trail is one of many you’ll find near the Snowflex Centre. We like it because it’s an easy 1-mile loop without a lot of elevation changes. (So you wouldn’t have to worry about getting stuck carrying a complaining child, for example.)
Length: 1 mile
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Where to Enter: The Trailhead is located at the parking lot of the Snowflex Centre.
Take It a Step Further: For those wanting more of a challenge, try out the Lake Trail and Dirty Ridge trails nearby.
Nearby Attractions: Once you’ve finished your hike, take the family over to the LU Monogram and grab some photos as you overlook the city.