Outdoor Adventures in Richmond: Best Parks and Trails

outdoor adventures in Richmond parks and trails

Richmond, Virginia, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a diverse range of parks and trails that cater to all kinds of adventurers. From the scenic shores of the James River to the historic Canal Walk, there’s no shortage of green spaces and outdoor activities to explore. Whether you’re into hiking, biking, kayaking, or simply enjoying a leisurely stroll, Richmond’s outdoor attractions provide the perfect backdrop for your next adventure.

Key Takeaways

  • The James River Park System offers over 550 acres of shoreline, islands, and trails for various outdoor activities.
  • Belle Isle is a popular spot for hiking, swimming, and enjoying the scenic views of the James River.
  • Maymont combines beautifully landscaped gardens with historic architecture, making it a unique outdoor destination.
  • Byrd Park features a variety of recreational facilities, including walking trails, lakes, and sports fields.
  • The Canal Walk in downtown Richmond offers a mix of art, history, and scenic views along its pathways.

James River Park System

hiking trail along James River in Richmond with people enjoying outdoor activities

The James River Park System is a series of parks situated along several miles of the James River, encompassing 550 acres of shoreline and islands. Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities such as hiking, biking, swimming, canoeing, and kayaking the Class IV rapids. The park spans from Hugenot Flatwater to Ancarrow’s Landing, offering a vast outdoor playground right in the heart of Richmond.

Top Trails

  • Belle Isle Trails: Length: 1.3 mi, Est. 24m
  • Buttermilk Trail: Length: 5.3 mi

Popular Spots

  • Pony Pasture Rapids: Ideal for kayaking, fishing, and tubing
  • Belle Isle: Great for hiking and sunbathing on the rocks
  • Floodwall Park: Offers unique views of the city skyline

Trail Guide

Friends of the James River Park provides a handy guide and trail maps for the 22+ miles of trails in the system. Note: While parks and trails may be listed as open, we recommend checking park websites before visiting for further info, current trail conditions, and safest practices for the area.

Richmond, Virginia’s urban oasis is ready for it all. Smack-dab in the middle of bustling Richmond, the James River Park opens up 600 acres of outdoor playground to residents and visitors alike.

Belle Isle

Belle Isle park trail in Richmond with hikers and nature

Located along the James River in downtown Richmond, Belle Isle is a great place for people with a love for the outdoors, granting them the opportunity to view wildlife in its natural habitat. From wooded areas to mountain biking trails, interpreted historical sites, a granite wall for rock climbing and wheelchair-accessible fishing at the quarry pond, guests have a variety of options to choose from.


Belle Isle offers a variety of trails for all skill levels. The main loop is a 1.3-mile trail that is generally considered an easy route, taking an average of 24 minutes to complete. For those looking for more of a challenge, the Buttermilk Trail offers a difficult 2.5-mile trek. Cross the bridge and follow the path around this historic island to experience the full beauty of Belle Isle.

Bicycle Skills Area

The Belle Isle bicycle skills area is the best place in the James River Park System to polish your technique to master the more than 20 miles of local mountain bike trails. The skills area consists of beginner to intermediate obstacles, such as logs, rock gardens, and drop-offs. It also includes a beginner and full-size pump track for improving your rhythm and stamina.


Belle Isle is partially wheelchair accessible, with ramps and a bridge that are paved. The main loop is compact dirt, making it easier for wheelchair users to navigate. Pets are welcome on the island, but they must be kept on a leash.

Belle Isle is a gem in the heart of Richmond, offering a mix of natural beauty and outdoor adventure. Whether you’re into hiking, biking, or simply enjoying the scenery, Belle Isle has something for everyone.


Maymont Park in Richmond with trails and outdoor adventure

Maymont is a bucolic 100-acre estate that feels like it was transported from the English countryside, yet it’s located right in the heart of the Virginian capital. At Maymont, you’ll find impeccably maintained gardens, including the magnificent Italian Gardens and the oldest public Japanese Garden on the east coast.

Robins Nature Center

The Robins Nature Center features exhibits on the ecology of the James River, while the Maymont Farm and wildlife habitats give visitors the opportunity to glimpse animals ranging from goats and horses to black bears and bison.

Maymont Trails

You could find a new friend exploring the trails at Maymont. The trails are pet-friendly, but a leash is required. The trails vary in difficulty, making them accessible for different skill levels.

Activities and Amenities

Maymont offers a variety of activities and amenities, including:

  • Tennis complex
  • Softball fields
  • Exercise trail
  • Dogwood Dell amphitheater
  • Playground
  • Active dog park

The ponds are used for fishing, paddle-boating, or just strolling around, while the field in front of the Carillon, a WWI memorial, is a gathering spot for many visitors.

Best park for spotting local wildlife: Maymont is not just a park; it’s an experience that brings you closer to nature and history.

Byrd Park

Byrd Park in Richmond with people hiking and enjoying nature

Byrd Park is one of the most beloved parks in Richmond, offering hundreds of acres of rolling green hills, three tranquil ponds, and the picturesque Carillon bell tower. It’s the best park for leisurely strolls and jogging.

Activities and Amenities

The park is home to several ponds, soccer fields, and a disc golf course. On Saturdays, it draws crowds to its bustling farmers’ market, the RVA Big Market. You can also enjoy fishing, paddle-boating, or just strolling around the ponds.


Dogwood Dell is a popular hiking trail in Byrd Park. It is pet-friendly (leash required) and offers an easy to moderate difficulty level. The trail is open for foot traffic only and connects to Pumphouse Park and the North Bank trail.

Sports and Recreation

Located between the Carytown retail district and the Maymont Estate, the park boasts a tennis complex, softball fields, an exercise trail, the Dogwood Dell amphitheater, a playground, and a very active dog park.

Byrd Park is a perfect spot for outdoor adventures, whether you’re looking to relax by the ponds or engage in various recreational activities.

Canal Walk

scenic canal walk in Richmond park with trails and greenery

Richmond’s Canal Walk is a must-visit for anyone exploring downtown. This scenic path features art, restaurants, and four centuries of our state capital’s history depicted through fascinating medallions, statues, and exhibits. Enjoy a walk, bike ride, or a Riverfront Canal Cruise through the historic canal walk and discover Richmond’s history along the way. Don’t forget to check out the Canal Walk murals!


  • Manchester Climbing Wall: This area, under the Manchester Bridge, is a unique outdoor climbing venue. Climbers can hone their skills of leading, both trad and sport, rappelling, and self-rescue. Non-climbers will also enjoy a visit to this uncommon section of the JRPS.

Walking, Hiking, and Biking

The Canal Walk is perfect for a leisurely stroll, a brisk hike, or a bike ride. The 2.5-mile loop trail is generally considered an easy route and takes an average of 48 minutes to complete. Along the way, you’ll encounter various murals and historical markers that make the journey both educational and enjoyable.

Unique Views

From atop the Floodwall on the southern side, you can enjoy unique views of the James River, the city skyline, and historic sites. The southbank section comprises Floodwall Park, a popular spot for hikers, runners, fishermen, bird watchers, and kayakers.

The Canal Walk offers a blend of natural beauty and historical richness, making it a perfect spot for outdoor adventures in Richmond.

Pipeline Walk

scenic pipeline walk in Richmond park with trails and nature

The Pipeline Rapids walkway may be downtown Richmond’s best kept secret. It’s a wonderful place to watch nature and escape the city for even just a few minutes. From the parking lot at the end of S. 12th Street, you walk to a metal ladder then descend to the metal catwalk atop the pipeline, which offers views of the Pipeline Rapids.


  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: 3 miles
  • Wheelchair accessible: Yes
  • Pet-friendly: Yes, leash required

What to Expect

  • Scenic views of the James River
  • Opportunities for bird watching and fishing
  • A peaceful escape from the urban environment

The Pipeline Walk is a hidden gem in downtown Richmond, offering a unique blend of nature and cityscape. It’s perfect for a quick getaway or a leisurely stroll.

VA Capital Trail

scenic trail in Richmond VA with cyclists and lush greenery

The Virginia Capital Trail is a gem for both beginners and seasoned bikers. Even if you are a beginner on a bike or just looking to take a stroll, the Virginia Capital Trail offers something for everyone. Starting downtown in Shockoe Bottom at the floodwall doors at S. 17th Street, the trail parallels the historic James River and Kanawha Canal in a flat, urban landscape, then continues eastward to more rural vistas. The 52-mile mixed-use path connects Richmond’s downtown to Jamestown, for those who decide to enjoy the trail in its entirety.

Trail Details

  • Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
  • Length: 1.3 miles in Richmond, 51.7 miles total
  • Wheelchair accessible: Yes
  • Pet-friendly: Yes, leash required

Access Points

Explore this fully-paved trail that runs from the City of Richmond through Henrico, Charles City, and James City Counties. Pro tip: Richmonders can find easy access points at Great Shiplock Park and Dorey Park. Check out the Virginia Capital Trail’s planned itineraries, which include a 2.4 mile trip from Great Shiplock Park to Rocketts Landing and back.

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Ancarrow’s Landing

Ancarrow's Landing park trail in Richmond

Ancarrow’s Landing is a hidden gem in Richmond, offering a unique blend of history and nature. This park is part of the James River Park System and provides access to the river, making it a popular spot for fishing and boating. The area is also known for its historical significance, as it is located along the floodwall and slave trail, which offers a poignant reminder of the city’s past.


  • Fishing: The James River is teeming with fish, making it a great spot for anglers.
  • Boating: With easy access to the river, boating is a popular activity here.
  • Hiking: Explore the trails that wind through the park and along the river.

Historical Significance

Ancarrow’s Landing is not just a natural haven but also a place of historical importance. The site is part of the Richmond Slave Trail, which traces the route taken by enslaved Africans brought to Virginia. This trail offers a sobering yet essential glimpse into the history of slavery in the United States.


  • Boat Ramp: Easy access for launching boats into the James River.
  • Parking: Ample parking space available for visitors.
  • Picnic Areas: Enjoy a meal surrounded by nature.

Ancarrow’s Landing is a place where history and nature converge, offering visitors a chance to reflect and enjoy the great outdoors.

Abner Clay Park

Abner Clay Park in Richmond with trails and outdoor adventure elements

Playground and Green Space

Abner Clay Park is a beloved spot in the Jackson Ward neighborhood. You’ll find a playground for the kids, a RVA Bike Share station, and plenty of green space to enjoy the day.

Community Events

The park often hosts community events, making it a vibrant gathering spot for locals. Whether it’s a weekend farmers’ market or a summer concert, there’s always something happening.


The park is easily accessible, with ample parking and bike-friendly paths. It’s a great place to relax and unwind, whether you’re a local or just visiting.

ART180 Parklet

urban parklet with art installations in Richmond, people enjoying outdoor activities

Designed by local firm Walter Parks Architects, this is the first custom-designed public parklet built in the City of Richmond. Located outside of ART 180, the parklet provides a safe space for participants in the nonprofit’s youth programming to gather before and after class, and is open to the general public as well.

Community Features

The park might be petite, but it packs in the charm with lush landscaping, a community garden, and picnic tables that are perfect for enjoying takeout from nearby pizza place, 8 ½. If you’re lucky, you might even run across an impromptu concert taking place in the park.


The parklet is designed to be accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities. Its thoughtful design ensures that all members of the community can enjoy the space.

Events and Activities

ART180 Parklet is not just a place to relax; it’s a hub for community events. From youth programming to spontaneous musical performances, there’s always something happening here.

Bold: The parklet provides a safe space for participants in the nonprofit’s youth programming to gather.

Italics: The park might be petite, but it packs in the charm.

Highlight: a shopper’s paradise in augusta: from boutiques to markets. nature retreat in travelers rest with outdoor adventures and a creative hub. year-round enjoyment for outdoor enthusiasts.


Richmond, Virginia, is a treasure trove of outdoor adventures waiting to be explored. From the scenic James River Park System to the historic Canal Walk, the city offers a diverse range of parks and trails that cater to all interests and skill levels. Whether you’re hiking, biking, kayaking, or simply enjoying a leisurely stroll, Richmond’s green spaces provide the perfect backdrop for both relaxation and adventure. So, lace up your hiking boots, grab your gear, and get ready to discover the natural beauty and vibrant outdoor culture that make Richmond a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts. Happy exploring!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the James River Park System?

The James River Park System is a 600-acre urban park in Richmond, Virginia, offering a variety of outdoor recreational activities including hiking, biking, and kayaking.

What can I do at Belle Isle?

At Belle Isle, you can hike, bike, rock climb, and enjoy scenic views of the James River. It’s a popular spot for both relaxation and adventure.

Is Maymont free to visit?

Yes, Maymont is free to visit, although donations are appreciated. Some special exhibits and events may have an admission fee.

What activities are available at Byrd Park?

Byrd Park offers a variety of activities including paddle boating, picnicking, and walking or jogging around its scenic lakes.

What is the Canal Walk?

The Canal Walk in Richmond features art, restaurants, and historical exhibits along a scenic path by the canal. It’s perfect for walking, biking, and learning about the city’s history.

Can I go kayaking at Ancarrow’s Landing?

Yes, Ancarrow’s Landing is a popular spot for launching kayaks into the James River.

What is the VA Capital Trail?

The VA Capital Trail is a 52-mile multi-use trail that runs from Richmond to Williamsburg, perfect for biking, running, and walking.

Is Abner Clay Park suitable for kids?

Yes, Abner Clay Park has a playground for kids, as well as plenty of green space for families to enjoy.

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