I used to be one of those people with the sickeningly great commute to and from work. My 15-mile round trip biking journey gave me all of the time needed to prepare for the day ahead and also to leave work completely behind. The boost of energy, the endorphins, the fresh air — they all helped me frame my day at work and at home.
Now, I don’t have that commute anymore, but I try to get out during the day or at lunchtime for a bike ride. On weekends especially, I love taking to the trails on my bike to clear my head, explore my area, and connect with the great outdoors. Here is an introduction to just a few of my top biking trails in Virginia.
Rails To Trails and Road Biking Paths
Virginia is full of multi-use trails (walking, biking, and sometimes even equestrian) that were converted from old railways. They have the benefit of incredible scenery on relatively flat land. Some stretch for miles and miles and some are shorter, but these beautiful biking trails are a great way to see smaller towns and locally “famous” small restaurants.
Mt. Vernon Trail
The Mt. Vernon Trail is a popular trail and for good reason. Right across the bank from Washington D.C., this 18-mile trail offers beautiful views on mostly flat, paved terrain. Along the way are a number of sites to see, such as Washington’s Mt. Vernon home or any of the great shops or restaurants in Alexandria.
Virginia Capital Trail
This trail is over 51 miles long and stretches between Richmond and Jamestown. It is called the capital trail, as it links the original capital of the Colony of Virginia and the present day capital. How’s that for a fast-forward through time and history? Doing the length of the trail can take me 4 hours without significant stops, but coming back I often take the train. Beware: You can’t bring your bike on the train during rush hour!
High Bridge Trail
Stretching from Burkeville to Pamplin City in central Virginia, this crushed limestone trail is about 31 miles long and mostly flat. The reason it makes my list of one of the best biking trails in Virginia is the titular High Bridge — 125 feet above the Appomattox River and over 2400 feet long! It is one of the longest bridges in the US and worth making the trip to ride across at least once.
But what makes Virginia so great is its varied terrain. From the urban bike paths to the forested converted trails, all the way to eastern coastal oceanside bike trails and excellent mountain biking in the west, Virginia has something for everyone on two wheels.
Mountain Biking in the Blue Ridge Mountains
These picturesque mountains have so much more than scenic drives. The mountain biking trails range from very easy to expert level.
Heart of Appalachia Bike Route
I haven’t had the chance to finish this route in one go yet, but it is on my summer bucket list. The whole trail stretches 128 miles and is perfect for bikepackers looking for a multi-day adventure. This trail offers a little bit of every kind of trail — gravel roads, rail trails, single-track lanes, and some paved or on-road sections. You’ll have to see it to believe it.
Mill Mountain Full Pull and Carvins Cove
These mountain bike trail systems are just outside of Roanoke and have over 40 miles of mixed-level biking trails. You can expect more than 2000 feet of elevation changes as you explore these mountains and tear through some challenging technical sections.
I love that the climb to the top of Reddish Knob is paved. Once you make it up the mountain, you get the pleasure of one of the most fun descents in all of Virginia. Some of the descent is blazingly fast, but other parts are rocky and technical. There’s something for everyone on this downhill Harrisonburg single-track trail.
On the southern border of Virginia, Danville boasts an incredible trail system called Angler’s Ridge. The volunteers that have made and maintained the 35 miles of trails ensured a little something for everyone. This wooded land will surprise you, going from rocky and rooty to hard packed and through or over creeks galore. Unlike some trails, these are bi-directional and riding the sections in reverse offers a completely different experience.
For more, or if you are looking for more challenging trails, I highly recommend Scott Adams’ Mountain Biking Virginia for an in-depth guide by a local legend. It’s the best book that lists biking trails in Virginia that I have found so far.
Moving On, Moving Forward
By getting out and exploring my state, I’m more than able to make up for my lost commute. Each new trail is the perfect opportunity to unwind by letting go of the day-to-day and embracing the present moment on the trail. I love finding my breath on the trails and pedaling forward. That’s what keeps me in the saddle almost every day.