Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Phone - (757) 721-2412
Website - www.nnparks.com/parks_nn.php
Admission Fee - Vehicle fee but only when dogs are not allowed in the refuge
Directions - Virginia Beach; From I-64 take the Indian River Road Exit and go 13 miles to Newbridge Road. After one mile look for Sandbridge Road and turn right. After 3 miles turn right on Sandpiper Road to refuge.
The lure of the sea has long led humans to try and live in this harsh seaside environment. After their ship wrecked off this coast in the 1800s a settlement of 300 people lived in the Wash Woods section of False Cape. They used flotsam retrieved from the broken ship to build their first homes. The settlers fished and farmed but eventually they drifted away as the shifting sands overwhelmed their village. Famous hunting clubs for wealthy Philadelphia and New York businessmen dominated the barrier islands through the mid-1900s before over 9,000 acres of coastline were protected. Today, instead of hunting waterfowl here, folks come to count them. As many as 300 species of birds have been tabulated at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
There are a cornucopia of canine hiking opportunities at Back Bay. Easy jaunts on two trails lead over to the bay, with plenty of boardwalk to get out into the marshes. The East Dike and West Dike are fine canine hikes around the refuge impoundments. Your dog will be walking on the typical gravel-and-dirt-road found in our wildlife refuges. But for many canine hikers the attraction of Back Bay will be four miles of dune-backed, undeveloped beach, heading south. The beach does not actually end there but the refuge does. You can keep hiking with your dog into False Cape State Park and complete a 15-mile loop across the False Cape Main Trail,
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: sand to dirt to paved roadway
Workout For Your Dog - Many hours to a full day possible
Swimming - Plenty of opportunity
Restrictions On Dogs - Even though happy visitors with dogs are pictured prominently in refuge publications dogs are only allowed from October 1 to March 31
Back Bay is the northernmost stop of the Charles Kuralt Trail, a driving tour of eleven national wildlife refuges and a national fish hatchery that have been established to protect the incredibly vibrant waters of the Roanoke, Tar, Neuse, Cape Fear
Ecosystem. Most stops feature a short hiking trail and wildlife observation platform. Kuralt was a native of North Carolina and longtime CBS radio and television broadcaster.
Phone - (804) 693-2107
Website - www.gloucesterva.info/pr/parks/welbvd.htm
Admission Fee - None
Directions - Gloucester; From Route 17 turn onto 17 Business into town (Main Street). Turn onto Roaring Springs Raod and follow to the main park at end. For Fahy’s Road (Route 606) trailhead, stay on Route 17, turning onto Fahy’s Road and continuing three miles.
Mordecai Cooke was the earliest English settler of this land, patenting this part of Gloucester in 1652. His descendants established several large estates in the area, including Wareham that includes much of the park property today. The Beaverdam Reservoir is of recent vintage - in 1990 a newly built earthen dam flooded the open fields and woodlands of Beaverdam Swamp to a depth of 25 feet to stabilize the Gloucester water supply. The 665-acre park surrounds the many tentacled lake.
Given just a slender band of land along the lakeshore park officials have succeeded in creating one of the Tidewater’s best trail systems. The main multi-use trail stretches 9.5 miles from the main park around the northern edge of the reservoir to Fahy’s Road and is used as a stem for a string of loop trails. If you have a car shuttle that journey through thick hardwoods makes for a solid day’s outing with your dog but otherwise you have a score of options to craft your canine hiking day. The multi-use trail is hard-packed and stony; the various spur trails are reserved for hikers and more paw-friendly. The two bridges on the route are often used as turn-around points by trail-users; Morgan’s Bridge from the main park is a three-mile round-trip and canine adventurers seeking a bigger outing can find a six-mile round trip on the loops at the Route 606 trailhead. For a relaxing inroduction to Beaverdam Park’s splendors pick up an interpretive brochure and follow the Lake’s Edge Trail from the ranger station at the main entrance
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Wooded dirt paths
Workout For Your Dog - Expect rolling terrain throughout
Swimming - Sorry, this is Gloucester’s drinking water
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed on Beaverdam trails
Film buffs may already recognize Beaverdam Park from the action thriller “Minority Report.” The waterside home of Tom Cruise’s estranged wife is on Ware Point Road, near Beulah, Gloucester. After escaping via a car production line, Cruise drives the red Lexus through Beaverdam Park.
Belle Isle State Park
Phone - (804) 462-5030
Website - www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/bel.shtml
Admission Fee - Vehicle entrance fee
Directions – Northern Neck, Lancaster; From the east take Route 3 to Lively and turn left onto Route 201. At the end of the road turn right on Route 354 and left on Route 683 to the park. From the west, turn right on Route 354 from Route 3 and right on Route 683.
John and Paul Bertrand, brothers, fled from France during the persecutions of Louis XIV and sailed to England where both were clerks in the Church of England. They next emigrated to America. John Bertrand, the elder, settled along the Rappahannock River, acquiring this property in 1692. Through the centuries the land was owned and divided among several families. Over 300 years afer settlement the Belle Isle Neck became the first property in Virginia to be purchased with funds from the Parks and Recreational Facilities bond. At the time Belle Isle was on the fast track to becoming a luxurious waterfront subdivision but the Commonwealth of Virginia saved those million-dollar views for your dog instead.
Belle Isle may be a state park but aside from a windswept picnic pavilion it doesn’t look much different than it has since the land was first cleared and the crops first planted. Most of your dog’s trotting will be down double-track, packed-clay farm roads. It is an edgy place - hiking on the edge of cropfields, on the edge of marshes, on the edge of light forests... The star ramble at Belle Isle is the 1.2-mile Neck Fields Trail that starts as a hike down a country lane and reaches the preserved pine woods at Brewer’s Point at the westernmost spot in the park. Like most of the routes here this is an out-and-back affair with no elevation changes.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Hiking trails are open to foot traffic and bicycles; horses are also allowed on many trails
Workout For Your Dog – Plenty of time romping for your dog on the former farm
Swimming - The park features seven miles of shoreline along the Rappahnnock River, Mulberry Creek and Deep Creek
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed to hike through Belle Isle
Belle Isle is a good place to learn about modern conservation practices currently in use by farmers to prevent run-off pollution from flowing into the Chesapeake Bay.
Chippokes Plantation State Park
Phone - (757) 294-3625
Website - http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/chi.shtml
Admission Fee - Vehicle entance fee
Directions - Surry; Take Route 10 West through Smithfield. Turn right on Alliance Road (Route 634) and continue to the park four miles on left.
A dozen years after the English established a beachhead at Jamestown in 1607, Captain William Powell acquired a grant to this property across the James River. He began clearing land and planting crops but was killed in a raid on Chickahominy Indians in 1623. The farm was then called “Chippokes” after a native chief who befriended the colonists and began producing grain, corn, barley and wheat. Over the years a succession of prominent Virginians owned the plantation as it expanded to 1,683 acres. The last private owner was Victor Stewart, who took over the plows in 1918. After he died his wife donated the farm to the state in 1967 to be used as a park and maintained as a working farm so visitors could experience day-to-day farm life. And so it remains. Wheat and cotton and corn and peanuts are still grown in the park and the farm is in the running for the title of “Longest Continually Cultivated Farm in America.”
This park is sure to bring out the farm dog in your family pet. No groomed trails here but plenty of chance to trot down farm roads almost four centuries old. Under paw will be some paved paths, some gravel and some dirt. And yes, you will be hiking with your dog past cattle and goats and chickens. One of the best canine hikes here is down the James River Trail. About half of its mile length is around open farm fields and half through light woods. Your destination is the James River and a long beach walk. You can use the College Run Trail to close a healthy loop or your dog may prefer to just turn around and retrace the pawprints in the sand.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Multi-use dirt and grass paths through the fields and woods
Workout For Your Dog – Plenty of room to stretch the legs on the farm
Swimming - A gently sloping crescent beach at the James River makes this one of the best places for your dog to swim in the Tidewater
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed throughout the farm and park and in the campground, but not in the cabins
In its first 200 years most of the owners of Chippokes had overseers manage or tenants farm the land for them. After Albert Carroll Jones purchased the plantation for $12,000 in 1837 he became one of the first owners to actually live at Chippokes. At first he lived in the River House, built in 1829 and still standing in the park. In 1854 he completed a handsome brick Italianate mansion house for his family. Jones planted vast orchids around the plantation, using the fruit to make alcohol and operate one of the few legal distilleries in Virginia. It is said that Albert Jones sold his brandies to both sides during the War Between The States and that is why your dog can play in front of the mansion today.
First Landing State Park
Phone - (757) 412-2300
Website - www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_ parks/fir.shtml
Admission Fee - Vehicle entrance fee
Directions - Virginia Beach; From I-64, take Northampton Boulevard/U.S. 13 North (Exit 282). Go through 8 lights, then turn right at the Shore Drive/U.S. 60 Exit (last exit before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel). Take a right on Shore Drive and go 4.5 miles to the park entrance. For the Trail Center and trails, turn right.
In 1873 a U.S. Weather Bureau Observation Center was established at Cape Henry and the next year a U.S. Life Saving Station was built. A small community grew up around the stations and it seemed like the area was about to boom. A group of Norfolk investors formed the Cape Henry Syndicate to encourage development but the popularity of Virginia Beach down the road never materialized. In 1933 the Syndicate sold 2,000 acres to the Commonwealth of Virginia for $157,000. Federal Civilian Conservation Corps workers arrived and built Seashore State Park, one of Virginia’s original six state parks. The park’s name was changed in 1997 to First Landing State Park as an homage to the first place where members of the Virginia Company landed in 1607.
The trail system at First Landing State Park, designated as part of the National Recreation Trail System, features 19 miles of dog-friendly hiking. The marquee walk is the Bald Cypress Trail that circles a cypress swamp for 1.5 miles, much of the way on elevated boardwalks. Airborne Spanish moss drapes many of the ancient giants. In 1965 the park’s natural area was included in the National Register of Natural Landmarks because of its distinction as the northernmost location on the East Coast where subtropical and temperate plants grow and thrive together, darkening the trails with their richness. Looping off the red-blazed Bald Cypress Trail is the 3.1-mile blue Osmanthus Trail, named for the American olive tree that grows abundantly on the fringes of the dark lagoon along the trail. Another worthwhile detour from the Bald Cypress Trail is the quarter-mile High Dune Trail that uses wooden sleeper-steps to ascend a steep, wooded dune. It is easy walking on these packed sand and soft dirt trails that are further cushioned to the paw by pine straw from majestic loblolly pines. There are gentle undulations that spice up the flat canine hiking along the 8 hiker-only trails and the 6-mile Cape Henry Multi-Use Trail.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: pine-strewn paths, wooden boardwalks and sandy soil
Workout For Your Dog - Level going throughout save a few tiny dune-mounds
Swimming - It doesn’t get much better than the Chesapeake Bay for canine aquatics
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed on the trails and on the beach that stretches along the Chesapeake Bay, except in swimming areas
Just off-shore are views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, one of the seven modern engineering marvels of the world. Each span of the 17.6-mile crossing utilizes more than 2,500 concrete piles to support the trestles. Construction of the bridge-tunnel complex required undertaking a project of more than 12 miles of low-level trestles, two 1-mile tunnels, two bridges, almost 2 miles of causeway, four man-made islands and 5-1/2 miles of approach roads, totaling 23 miles.
Phone - (757) 259-3200
Website - www.james-city.va.us/recreation/parks-trails/freedom-park.html
Admission Fee - None
Directions - Williamsburg; From I-64, exit onto Route 199. Follow Route 199 to Longhill Road and exit onto Longhill. Continue past Lafayette High School to Centerville Road and cross into the park. If traveling on Centerville Road, Route 614, the park is at 5535 Centerville.
William Ludwell Lee, descended of the Lee family of Stratford, was owner of historic Green Spring Plantation when he died in 1803 at the age of 27 “without issue” (no heirs). In his will Lee freed his slaves who received farmsteads in an area of the 8,000-acre plantation known as the “Hot Water Tract.” It was one of America’s earliest Free Black Settlements. Throughout the 19th century descendants of the emancipated Green Spring slaves continued to occupy farms in this area. James City County has poured over $12 million into developing the 689-acre Freedom Park whose mission is to highlight the historical experience of Free Black people here. Archeaological work is ongoing but the recreational amenities of the park have been open since 2002.
Driving along the long, winding entrance road to Freedom Park you feel as if you are entering an upscale golf resort. And any golf architect would love to build a course on this tract of woodsy, hilly terrain. But luckily for canine hikers, this is a public park. The trail system is divided into hiking trails and mountain bike trails. The two hiking loops run in opposite directions from the parking lot and total about one-and-a-half miles. Start on these trails since they are more pleasant than the bike tracks but if your dog is itching for more trail time there are two long loops and a short biking loop you can try. This is all shady, undulating canine hiking. And the wildflowers are not restricted to the Williamsburg Botanical Garden at the entrance.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Foot traffic only on the hiking trails
Workout For Your Dog – Long walks in the woods available for your dog
Swimming - The various streams are deep enough only for minnows to swim
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed on the Freedom Park trails
Where else can your dog climb into an actual battery and scan the Patapsco River just like gunnery officers who once aimed guns over the water capable of accurately firing 1,000-pound projectiles eight miles?
Grandview Nature Preserve
Phone - None
Website - None
Admission Fee - None
Directions - Hampton; From I-64 take Exit 263B onto Mercury Boulevard North. Take a left on Foxhill Road and a left on Beach Road. Continue on Beach Road for 2.6 miles, and then turn left on State Park Drive. Park along the road and walk to the entrance at the end of State Park Drive.
Winslow Lewis was a sea captain turned engineer and inventor in the early 19th century. He created a new lighting system based on Argand oil lamps and in 1812 the United States Congress awarded him a contract to equip all American lighthouses with his lamps. Lewis was soon building most of the new lighthouses in the country. He developed standard cookie-cutter plans for brick lighthouses in five sizes. He came here in 1829 to construct a 30-foot tower on Grandview Beach. The Back River Lighthouse, keeper’s quarters and a 144-foot bridge over the marsh all cost less than $5,000. In reality, Winslow Lewis knew little about accepted engineering standards and most of his lighthouses were poorly constructed or too short for their intended purpose. Most had to be replaced but the Back River Light soldiered on, illuminating the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay until it was decommisioned in 1936. The historic lighthouse was left to deteriorate, overlooked by preservationists. In 1956 a hurricane washed it away. All that remains of the Back River Light, once built safely inland, is a jumble of rocks many yards offshore. Back on land, the Commonwealth of Virginia has created a 578-acre preserve at the north end of Hampton.
You bring your dog to Grandview to hike on its more than two miles of white sand beach. A short trail through the marsh and dunes curves to the Chesapeake but you can no longer hike on the dunes so the beach is it. And that’s plenty for most dogs.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: beach sand
Workout For Your Dog – a good hike on the beach will be a workout for your dog
Swimming - The gentle surf will beckon even the most timid of dogs into the water..
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are not allowed in the Preserve from May 15 to September 15
For most true crime buffs the sensational murder case of the 1930s was the New Jersey kidnap case of Charles Lindbergh’s baby. But Grandview had its share of sensational headlines at that time as well. In September 1931, Elisha Kent Kane III, a university professor from a prominent Pennsylvania family, brought his young wife to Grandview Beach to learn how to swim. Jenny Graham Kane was apparently terrified of the water and the shallow lapping of the Chesapeake Bay seemed benign enough. But something went terribly wrong that day. Kane was soon racing his car through the streets of Hampton with his wife slumped unconscious beside him. When he reached the hospital she was dead. Kane would be tried for his wife’s murder but no one - including the jury - could decide if he was a grief-stricken husband or a cold-blooded killer. After less than four hours of deliberation Elisha Kane was acquitted but even today no one knows the real story of what happened that day at Grandview Beach.
Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Phone - (757) 986-3705
Website - http://www.fws.gov/northeast/greatdismalswamp/
Admission Fee - None
Directions - Suffolk; Head south of town on Route 13 to Route 32 for 4.5 miles and follow brown refuge signs.
How dismal is the Great Dismal Swamp? Unlike elsewhere in the Tidewater there was no need for English settlers to force the Indian tribes off the land - they had left already. George Washington was one of the first to take an interest in the money-making possibilities of the swamp. He visited in 1763 and subsequently organized the Dismal Swamp Land Company to drain and log portions of the swamp. Over the next 200 years all of the cypress and Atlantic white cedar forests would be logged at least once. Establishment of the refuge began in 1973 when the Union Camp Corporation donated 49,100 acres of land to The Nature Conservancy. This land was then conveyed to the Department of the Interior, and the refuge was officially established through The Dismal Swamp Act of 1974.
If you are looking for a place to disappear with your dog on a hike for hours, this is it. During its logging years, over 140 miles of roads were constructed through the Dismal Swamp. The best place to launch your adventure is the parking lot at the end of Jericho Lane, off Route 642. Your dog will be hiking on firm sand/dirt roads, level and easy everywhere. Shade is at a premium on hot days so pack plenty of water for your outing. You can create a hiking loop from the several ditches that join at Jericho Lane. The refuge has also developed an interpretive trail at the site of Washington’s former camp, Dismal Town. An extensive boardwalk, nearly a mile long with a couple of spurs, snakes through the heart of the swamp. Useful information boards can be consulted at the trailheads but don’t try to take your dog into the swamp without a map - it is a long way before the ditch/trails reach junctions in the 109,000-acre refuge.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Bikes can use the trails but don’t be surprised if you don’t meet another soul - human or canine - all day
Workout For Your Dog – Many hours of flat long-distance hiking out here
Swimming - Lake Drummond is the largest natural doggie swimming hole in Virginia; the ditches along the trail often contain water that can be refreshing on a warm hike
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are welcome to hike through the refuge
Without the benefit of glacial activity, Virginia is home to only two natural lakes - one is the mysterious Mountain Lake, the only natural lake in the southern Appalachian Mountains and the other is Lake Drummond in the Great Dismal Swamp. In 1665, William Drummond, governor of North Carolina, discovered the lake that bears his name. A 4.5-mile hike along the Washington Ditch will get your dog to this 3,100-acre watery playground or you can drive there from Route 17 on the eastern border of the refuge.
Hickory Hollow Nature Preserve
Phone - None
Website - www.northernneckaudubon.org/guide.htm
Admission Fee - None
Directions - Northern Neck, Lancaster; The park is west of town adjacent to Lancaster High School. Traveling east on Mary Ball Road (Route 3), the park is on the left after the school, down Regina Road; traveling west, turn right on Regina Road before the school. Preserve parking is on the left.
In the 19th century this was the site of a Lancaster County poor house. By the 1960s the poor house was evacuated and the county began selling off timber on the property. Meanwhile, Henry Bashore, a state forester began championing the abandoned site’s potential as a natural area. With a team of volunteers, he began to revitalize the woodland and build trails. For over twenty years area residents quietly enjoyed Bashore’s woodland oasis. In 1999, when the County floated plans for an industrial park here Bashore contacted the Audubon Society and triggered grass roots opposition to the destruction of Hickory Hollow. At a public meeting on the indutrial park propoal, an overflow crowd of 300 showed up to fight the development. The county agreed to sell 254 acres of Hickory Hollow to the Northern Neck Audubon for $320,000.
This is classic woodland hiking with your dog - wide, nicely groomed trails over gently rolling terrain. The mixed hardwood and pine forest is still recovering from its earlier days of deprivation so it still has an airy feel about it. There are no great destinations to be had, no lakes or astounding views. Just a great place to get out and hike with your dog. The main White Trail is a lollipop route of almost two miles with several loops and cut-offs along the way. You can bring your dog to Hickory Hollow a dozen times and never hike the same route twice.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Foot traffic only on these generally lightly used paths
Workout For Your Dog – Gently rolling terrain
Swimming - None
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed to enjoy the Hickory Hollow trails
Cabin Swamp is an exceptional quality wetland community that supports a very high diversity - perhaps 500 plant species, including several that can be found only in the Blue Ridge Mountains.No one is sure why they are growing here.Botanists have identified nine species of orchid at
Hickory Hollow. One of the rarest is the Kentucky lady’s slipper, a large, showy orchid that grows in hardwood forests in damp, low-lying areas. It flowers in early to mid-spring when there is plentiful moisture and cool temperatures.
Hughlett Point Natural Area
Phone - None
Website - www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural_heritage/natural_area_preserves/hughlett.shtml
Admission Fee - None
Directions - Kilmarnock; Go four miles north of town on US 200. Turn right (east) onto Route 606 and go about 2 miles to Route 605. Turn right (south) on Route 605 and go about 2 miles to the preserve parking area on the left. In 1994 The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation won a $654,000 grant to purchase 210 acres on this remote peninsula and save it from waterside development.
Jessie Dew Ball grew up in Ball’s Neck and was the first teacher at the Shiloh Road School (still standing at the corner of Routes 605 & 606). One day she met Alfred I duPont, one of the triumverate of cousins who turned a black powder manufacturer into the world’s leading purveyor of chemical products, who was in the neighborhood hunting ducks. Although twenty years her senior, Jessie Ball found she had much in common with the industrialist. The two married and Jessie Ball was to spend much of the rest of her life devoted to philanthropy. She donated to schools and churches in Northumberland County and gave so much to Florida that she and Alfred were named as two of the Most Important Floridians of the 20th Century.
You will start your exploration with your dog here on a wide, soft and exceedingly agreeable path through a fragrant loblolly forest. Soon you will pop out on the beach of the Chesapeake Bay where you will be excused for thinking you have just landed on Tom Hanks’ deserted island in Cast Away. Ghost trees and fallen trunks pepper the enchanted shore -ineffective guardians against the relentless Chesapeake wave action. Follow the wide, sandy woods road as it sails away to your right until you reach the beach. The beach stretches in both directions before you. Although it may not seem obvious, you can close your loop by walking across the exposed beach to your left. Of course, in times of periodic high tide you will have to retrace your steps - no part of the preserve exceeds 10 feet in elevation. Your dog can also access an observation tower at the edge of the marsh.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: woods and beach
Workout For Your Dog - Level going throughout
Swimming - Absolutely, from the beaches of the Chesapeake Bay.
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are permitted in the preserve
The beach at Hughlett Point is habitat for the rare northeastern beach tiger beetle. This large-jawed predator once could be found from Massachusetts to Virginia but now lives at only two sites outside of the Chesapeake Bay. The tiger beetle still calls 50 sites around the bay home, including here. Look for the beetles in mid-summer, leaving their sandy burrows to make short flights over the beach, almost appearing to hop or scamper across the sand in pursuit of that next meal. The tiger beetle is a little less than one inch long with a bronze-green head and those imposing jaws.
Kiptopeke State Park
Phone - (757) 331-2267
Website - http://www.dcr.state.va.us/parks/kiptopek.htm
Admission Fee - Yes
Directions - Cape Charles, Northampton County; on the eastern shore of Virginia, Kiptopeke is three miles from the northern terminus of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, on Route 13. Turn west on Route 704; the park entrance is within a half mile.
The site was purchased by the Virginia Ferry Corporation for the northern terminus of the Virginia Beach to Eastern Shore Ferry. In 1949, when the terminus was moved from Cape Charles, the site was named Kiptopeke Beach in honor of the younger brother of a king of the Accawmack Indians who had befriended early settlers to the area. Kiptopeke means Big Water. In 1950 the terminus opened after the completion of a $2.75 million pier, promoted as the world’s largest and most modern ferry pier.
More than four miles of fun trails for your dog traverse this bayside park. The Baywoods Trail slips through an uplands hardwood forest on wide, old roads and connects with expansive, sandy beaches via an extensive network of wooden boardwalks through the dunes. The southern beach is perfect for a hike but observe signs designating the special habitat area that is closed to visitors. Bicycle trails are available along the park’s entrance road and the Raptor, Songbird, Chickadee and Mockingbird trails.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Soft dirt roads, sand, asphalt and boards
Workout For Your Dog - Stairs take care of the bluffs
Swimming - Fantastic swimming in the Chesapeake Bay for dogs
Restrictions On Dogs - No dogs in the north beach swimming area; dogs are allowed in the campground but not in the yurts
Since 1963, Kiptopeke has been the site of bird population studies. Sponsored by the Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory, formerly known as KESTRSAL, and licensed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, volunteers capture, examine, weigh, band and release resident and migratory birds each year from mid-August through November. In the raptor research area, hawks, kestrels, osprey and other birds of prey are observed and banded from September through November. Kiptopeke’s hawk observatory is among the top 15 nationwide.
Mariners’ Museum- Noland Trail
Phone - (757) 591-7722
Website – http://www.marinre.org
Admission Fee – None for the park
Directions - Newport News; From I-64 take exit 258-A. Go 2.5 miles to the intersection of Warwick Boulevard and J. Clyde Morris Boulevard (Avenue of the Arts). Continue straight through the intersection and turn left onto Museum Drive. The entrance is directly ahead.
In 1930 Archer Huntington, scion to the empire built by Transcontinental Railroad pioneer Collis P. Huntington, founded the Mariners’ Museum to tell the story of mankind’s relationships with the world’s oceans. Huntington came by his love of the sea naturally - his father had also founded the nearby Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company. Archer Huntington was a scholar with wide-ranging interests. He was the nation’s leading authority on all things Spanish and he endowed the museum with a vast collection of objects and books. Outside he sculpted a natural park on the 800 acres of his museum, employing many local shipyard workers in the project. Today, the Mariners’ Museum is the largest privately owned park in the country.
The five-mile plus Noland Trail is as pretty an excursion as you can take with your dog in Tidewater Virginia. Technically the 6-foot pathway is constructed of special clay that swells when wet to prevent erosion and serves up a soft walking surface when dry but all your dog will know is that she loves it. The trail is named for Lloyd U. Noland, Jr., whose foundation donated over a million dollars for its construction in 1991 and renovation in 1999. The money comes from the family plumbing and industrial goods supply company. The Noland Trail traces the shoreline of Lake Maury, a 167-acre lake named for famed 19th century oceanographer Matthew Fontaine Maury. Along the way your dog will trot across fourteen bridges through a forest landscape that more resembles a garden. The park features every species of fern native to Virginia. In the 1930s a hull worker from the Newport News Shipyard named George Mason, a self-taught naturalist, studied the park and found every Virginia fern save four. He collected the absent foursome and transplanted them here. Mason would become park forester.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: The trail is a magnet for joggers, canine hikers and other users
Workout For Your Dog – About two hours of trail time
Swimming - The trail does touch the lake for easy access to the water at times
Restrictions On Dogs - The Huntingtons loved animals - at their estate in Myrtle Beach a bear pen was included on the grounds in addition to the horse stables and dog kennel. Dogs are welcome here.
The Lion’s Bridge is a dam that created Lake Maury. It provides a memorable view of the James River and is adorned by four stone lions designed by Anna Hyatt Huntington, Archer’s wife. The statuary were mounted on the ends of the parapets of the dam in October 1932. Anna also created and dedicated a monument entitled Conquering the Wild that overlooks the Lion’s Bridge, the park, and Lake Maury.
New Quarter Park
Phone - (757) 890-3500
Website - http://www.yorkcounty.gov/parksandrec/parks/new_quarter/1nqp_info.htm
Admission Fee - None
Directions - Williamsburg; On Lakeshead Drive, north of the Colonial Parkway. Exit the Parkway at Queen’s Lake. From Yorktown, take a right at the stop sign and left on Lakeshead; from Williamsburg take a right at the stop sign and right on Lakeshead.
This land was part of the property purchased in 1709 by Virginia planter Robert “King” Carter, one of Colonial America’s most prosperous land barons. For generations slaves tended livestock and harvested timber here. Sloops loaded with tobacco floated down the park waterways out to the Old World. Near the end of the 20th century York County went looking for its first day-use park. Officials acquired this land between folds of the Queen’s Creek and converted a private camping area into a 545-acre county park.
An elaborate trail system of 8 short attached loops awaits your dog in this pretty historic park. To complete all 8 loops will cover a bit over three miles as your dog bounds up and down across an ancient seabed. If your dog balks at tackling the entire hiking trail system, it splits at the park office/parking lot. The more attractive set of loops in this case would be Loops 5-8. Along the way you’ll pass through mature forests and meadows that have changed little in 75 years. New Quarter also sports a 5.8-mile Redoubt Trail that is designed for mountain bikes and twists hundreds of times through the park woods. Most of the park trails are narrow bands on natural, oyster-shell packed soils. Queen’s Creek is also a great place to launch a canoe with your dog.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: You will never find better directional amenities than at New Quarter Park. A color map is available and the trails are color-coded. At each trailhead a mapboard keeps you oriented.
Workout For Your Dog - Yes, working the elevation drops
Swimming - There is no place for your dog to swim along the trails but down at the canoe launch is great dog paddling in the Queen’s Creek.
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed on New Quarter trails
If you enjoy playing disk golf with your dog this is the place to come. Holes run up and down hills through a mix of woods and open spaces. Civil War fortifications from the Battle of Williamsburg can be seen on the back nine. There is a small fee to test your skills here.
Newport News Park
Phone - (757) 888-3333
Website - http://www.nnparks.com/parks_nn.php
Admission Fee - None
Directions - Newport News; From I-64 take Exit 250B North to the immediate intersection with Jefferson Avenue (Route 143). Turn left to the main park entrance on the right and the campground further on across Lee Hall Reservoir.
Faced with growing demand for its drinking water, Newport News created Lee Hall Reservoir. To protect the purity of the water the surrounding watershed was developed into Newport News Park in 1966. The city created plenty of buffering protection - at more than 8,000 acres, Newport News Park is the largest municipal park east of the Mississippi River.
Most of the 30-some miles of trail in Newport News Park are on the west side of Lee Hall Reservoir but unless you are staying in the campground you will need to park on the east side and hike across. Aside from the tiny Lakeside Trail loop near the park entrance, expect to be out on the trail for at least an hour everytime you set out onto the Newport News Park trail system. The quickest way to get into the meat of your dog’s hiking day is to cross the Dam #1 Bridge. You’ll find narrow, soft dirt trails that twist up and down hills through somewhat scruffy woods - all a guarantee of fun for your dog. One word of warning: you may want to choose a different hiking location after heavy rains. In the wake of flooding from Hurricane Ernesto so many poisonous snakes sought higher ground on the hiking trails that park officials were forced to close the trails for several days.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: The park is big enough that you can expect to go a long time without encountering another trail user
Workout For Your Dog - Long hikes available
Swimming - Not here - the lake is for drinking, not swimming
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are welcome to enjoy these trails and can stay in the campground with a current rabies certificate
Confederate major general John Bankhead Magruder prepared defensive lines here early in 1862. He also installed levees to flood the lowlands in the event of a Union incurison. The attack came on April 16, 1862, at Dam No. 1, as General McClellan launched his Peninsula Campaign against Richmond. The Federal force was stymied and never again attempted to break through the Confederate defenses along the Warwick River. One of the Union soldiers who died here was William Scott, a private from the 3rd Vermont Regiment. Scott fell asleep while on guard duty and was arrested, tried and sentenced to be shot. At the written request of his unit, Abraham Lincoln pardoned Scott and returned him to his unit to meet his fate here. A highly romanticized poem and silent movie, which had Lincoln riding ten miles to halt the execution, were later made about the incident. Over five miles of continuous earthworks remain in the park and can be seen along the Twin Forts Loop, along with interpretive battle markers.
Northwest River Park
Phone - (757) 421-7151
Website - http://www.chesapeake.va.us/services/depart/park-rec/nwrp/index.shtml
Admission Fee - None
Directions - Chesapeake; At the end of I-464 stay to left and take Route 168 south. Take Exit 8B, Hillcrest Parkway East (last exit before toll). Turn right onto Battlefield Boulevard and turn left on Indian Creek Road. The park is 4 miles on the right.
Northwest River Park is the result of the vision of the City of Chesapeake and Mayor Marian Whitehurst in 1977 who purchased three tracts of land to set aside over 700 acres for the enjoyment of nature. In years gone by the park was the hub of a booming moonshining operation during America’s Prohibition in the 1920s - its Moonshine Meadow is not for enjoying celestial lights. Sunken dents in the ground reveal where illegal booze was brewed. Park officials say more than 30 moonshine sites have been discovered on the grounds.
This paradise for canine hikers offers about 8 miles of quiet, looping trails through the park on the Northwest River. All the trails more or less connect to the 1.25-mile multi-use Shuttle Trail that runs down the spine of the park. Your dog will get about a three-mile loop from either side of the Shuttle Trail. The east side rolls gently through an airy forest on the Molly Mitchell Trail and the Wood Duck Slough Trail. It is lowlying in spots and suffers from a few too many exposed roots but otherwise is a splendid exploration for your dog. A highlight on this side of the park is a large bald cypress tree several hundred years old on the Otter Point Trail. The opposite side of Northwest River Park is dominated by the 2.5-mile Indian Creek Trail that runs past its namesake stream. The destination of choice here is an arched hickory tree hosting a resurrection fern. This fern curls up and turns brown when it is dry and bursts into a healthy green when it rains.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Wide, shady dirt and natural trails
Workout For Your Dog - Easy going with a half-day of canine hiking possible
Swimming - Swimming is not a prime attraction for your dog here. The swampy lake is not inviting. The Northwest River can be accessed for dog paddling in the middle of your loop hike
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed to enjoy the trails and can stay in the campground
Back in 1981 a story escaped from Northwest River Park of a 7-foot creature fully haired with brown fur and a foul odor sprinting through the campground. Sherry Davis told the Chesapeake Post she thought she spotted a Bigfoot. The park was suddenly on the radar of the students of Sasquatchery who made the pilgrimmage to poke around. No positive reports but as you hike these trails alert your dog to be on guard for strange smells. You never know who - or what - may be watching.
Sandy Bottom Nature Park
Phone - (757) 825-4657
Website - http:// www.hampton.gov/sandybottom
Admission Fee – None for hiking
Directions - Hampton; At the corner of Hampton Roads Center Parkway (West and Big Bethel Road (Route 600). From I-64 take Exit 261A to Big Bethel Road. Entrances are straight through the intersection or to the right on Big Bethel Road.
Although the Big Bethel Road that runs by the park has been carrying traffic between Hampton Roads and Yorktown for nearly 300 years urban development passed this area by. That changed dramatically in the 1950s when the Virginia Department of Transportation started mining sand needed to build I-64. When VDOT finally left twenty years later rain and groundwater had filled many of the abandoned water pits. The vacated property became a magnet for four-wheelers and illegal dumping. Need to get rid of that old clunker in your front yard? Hey, I know a place...
In 1994, the City of Hampton approached VDOT with an ambitious plan to create a park on the scrarred site. They came away with a deed for 250 acres and acquired almost 200 more from private property holders. With the degradation stopped, nature reclaimed the park with a vengeance and the public has responded in kind - park planners hoped to attract usage rates for the new park of around 70,000 and instead more than a half-million folks visit Sandy Bottom Nature Center every year.
Sandy Bottom Nature Park is loaded with short trails that pile upon one another around two centerpiece lakes and wetlands. The Lake Trail hugs the shore on paw-friendly pine straw and dirt for most of its journey as it ducks in and out of light woods. This is easy trotting for any dog and don’t be surprised if you wind up visiting all the park trails during your visit; the total mileage is a bit over six. Prepare your dog for the noise, however. The din of traffic from I-64 and passing jets is ever-present.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Natural surface footpaths
Workout For Your Dog – An hour or more outing can be cobbled together
Swimming - There are spots along the Lake Trail where your dog can slip into the water for a swim
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are welcome on the trails and in the campground
Sandy Bottom sports a superior dog park, set into pine trees behind the Nature Center. Dogs romp on straw and can even use agility ramps that have been set up.
Wahrani Nature Trail
Phone - None
Website - None
Admission Fee - None
Directions - New Kent; From I-64 take Route 33 East. The parking lot for the nature park will be on the right hand side, set back and somewhat obscured by the trees while traveling at high speed.
This was originally the land of the Powhatan Confederacy until English settlement and the formation of New Kent in the late 1600s. George Washington wed Martha Dandridge Custis in New Kent and the first couple often attended the Upper Church of Blisland Parish that was built here in 1703. Also known as Warreneye Church, it was in ruins by the time the Richmond Militia used it as an encampment during the War of 1812. For many years the Chesapeake Corporation owned this property and constructed a private trail system in the woods used as a tree nursery. In 2003 New Kent obtained the 150-acre woodland and renamed the park “Wahrani” to honor the region’s Powhatan heritage.
This is a wild and wooly canine hike that twists and turns through small ravines and up and around frequent knolls. The sporty track is a bit like riding a good rollercoaster where you want to jump back on as soon as the ride finishes. The trail system, however, is confusing, so come with a mind to explore with your dog. No map is currently available at the trailhead but as you start into the woods you are greeted by three bright colors of large plastic triangles, newly put in place by New Kent. You think the trail will be obvious but you would be wrong. The old trail blazes from the former private trail show up in places and the triangles disappear. The trails are essentially a set of stacked loops and the easiest way to navigate is to keep turning in whatever direction you begin at the first junction to circle the park property. Still, downed trees and detours may stop you. Chances are your dog will never notice as he races to the next ridge, eager to discover what awaits. The all natural dirt trails are completely wooded and can get narrow in places.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Lightly used park
Workout For Your Dog – Yes, especially if you miss a lightly blazed trail
Swimming - At most your dog may find some splashing in a seasonal stream
Restrictions On Dogs - None
The Warreneye Church site can still be identified on the trail at the back of the park. You will not find anything of the building where George Washington once worshipped - or at least attended, he was ambivalent at best towards religion - but there are two gravestones, one from 1736 and another 1745, that can be seen.
Waller Mill Park
Phone - (757) 259-3778
Website - www.ci.williamsburg.va.us/dept/rec/parks.htm#waller
Admission Fee - None to hike, fees for some activities and facilities
Directions - Williamsburg; From I-64, exit onto Route 199. Head south on Richmond Road (Route 60) and make a left on Airport Road, Route 645. The park entrance is on the right, just after crossing the water.
Dating to Colonial times the Waller family and others ground grain along the Queen’s Creek here. In 1911 the Oak Grove School, a one-room Negro school was built and operated for three decades until it was destroyed by lightning on July 28, 1940. Nature accomplished what the federal government would have wrought anyway since two years later the Army Corps of Engineers arrived to build a reservoir to supply water to Camp Peary. After the war the Waller Mill Reservoir was declared surplus and sold to the City of Williamsburg. Some residents groused about drinking “swamp water” but eventually Williamsburg became the only jurisdiction on the Virginia Peninsula other than Newport News to control its own surface water supply, supplying millions of gallons of water daily to quench the needs of the tourist industry. In 1963 the earth-en dam burst and the reservoir emptied. Lying at the bottom was an old mill stone that has been used to symbolize the area’s heritage. The park opened in July 1972 with 2,700 acres for recreational use.
A trio of shaded trails conspire to make Waller Park a prime destination for canine hikers. You can warm up on the Shelter Trail or Bayberry Trail, each under a mile and relatively level. The primo trail is the sporty Lookout Tower Trail that leads to the other side of the water and the namesake tower, then loops around a picturesque peninsula. The circuit is almost three miles and dishes out plenty of ups and down for your dog throughout. For the most part your dog will be trotting on paw-friendly sand dirt so he can concentrate on those water views.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Natural trails throughout
Workout For Your Dog – Absolutley on these rolling hills
Swimming - There is no swimming for your dog in Williamsburg’s water supply
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are permitted to use these trails
The Waller Mill Dog Park, located at the parking lot, is one of the prettiest of its ilk. Tucked under a grove of pines, the grounds are groomed and encased by an attractive wood fence. The dog park has two areas, one reserved for scamps under 20 pounds. There is a $2.00 daily fee for non-members to play.
York River State Park
Phone - (757) 566-3036
Website - http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/yor.shtml
Admission Fee - Vehicle entance fee
Directions - Williamsburg; From I-64, take the Croaker Exit 231B. Go north on Route 607 (Croaker Road) for one mile, then right on Route 606 (Riverview Road) about one and a half miles to the park entrance. Take a left turn into the park.
This land was settled in the 1600s as Taskinas Plantation. Local planters established a tobacco warehouse here where crops could be stored and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to England. At low tide you can sometimes see the remnants of corduroy roads built of logs where the carts once rolled. The plantation was later named Croaker for the abundance of bottom-dwelling fish that favor the muddy banks of estuaries such as the Chesapeake Bay. In 1980 York River became a state park to protect the unique estuarine environment along Taskinas Creek and the York River.
There is a massive trail system at York River State Park - over 25 miles - but it is all accessed from a single parking lot so most of the trails will only be seen by mountain bikers and equestrians. The one must-do trail in York River for canine hikers is the 1.5-mile Taskinas Creek Trail that drops down into the salt marsh and utilizes boardwalks for a close-up experience. Another satisfying loop is the three-quarter mile Woodstock Pond Trail that is actually most interesting when it leaves the beaver pond and frolics in the mixed-hardwood forest above. Serious canine hikers can strap on the backpack and head down the Backbone Trail to the multi-use trails. Here, you can choose one of several routes that lead to the park’s three miles of frontage on the York River. This is all woods hiking and expect plenty of dips and rises.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Grab a trail map so you can make sense of the park’s 16 trails, all of which are enthusiastically blazed
Workout For Your Dog – Plenty of ups and downs duing a full day's outing here
Swimming - There are a couple of points for your dog to slip into Woodstock Pond and cool off
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are permitted across all trails
Croaker Landing, inside the park, is an archeaological site that was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. Croaker Landing Boat Launch, just north of the park on Croaker Landing Road, provides public access to the York River where your dog can get in a few salt water laps.
Phone - (757) 898-3400
Website - www.nps.gov/archive/colo/Yorktown/ythome.htm
Admission Fee - Vehicle entrance fee
Directions - Yorktown; Yorktown is part of the Colonial National Historic Park. From US 17 take the Colonial Parkway to the Visitor Center.
By 1781, fighting in the Revolutionary War had continued for the better part of six years with no real resolution in sight. The British, frustrated by Nathaneal Greene’s continuing efforts to thwart their southern expedition, contented themselves with raiding parties in the Colonies.
In the summer of 1781 Lord Cornwallis set about fortifying Yorktown and Gloucester Point but on September 5 the French Navy and Admiral Francois de Grasse engaged a British reinforcement fleet and inflicted enough damage to force the British Navy back to New York.
General George Washington followed the French fleet down the coast with an Army of more than 17,000 men and laid siege to Yorktown. Without reinforcements, the 8,300 British soldiers had no choice but to surrender 19 days later, triggering talks that would end the American Revolution.
Yorktown doesn’t maintain formal hiking trails - the park is traversed by two driving loops - but there are plenty of opportunities to explore the battlefield with your dog on foot. The historic site is graced by an abundance of trees and rolling hills in a park-like setting. Turnouts and wayside exhibits afford easy access to these canine leg stretchers. A prime stop is at the reconstructed redoubts 9 and 10, which anchored the east end of the British line. The Americans under Alexander Hamilton assaulted Redoubt 10 and the French stormed Redoubt 9. After intense hand-to-hand fighting both earthen forts were overrun in less than thirty minutes. The Battlefield Tour is a 7-mile driving loop that could actually be hiked with your dog; traffic is generally light and there is plenty of room to step off the paved roadway if necessary. Footpaths also connect to the hiking trail system of the adjacent Newport News Park.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: natural grass and dirt trails
Workout For Your Dog - More than an hour of canine hiking is possible
Swimming – Not here
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are welcome on the grounds of Yorktown Battlefield.
One of the storied moments of American history was when Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, commanding officers of the Union and Confederate forces met at Appomattox to end the Civil War. Things were different at Yorktown - British General Lord Cornwallis pleaded illness and did not accompany his men to the surrender. Accordingly, George Washington sent his subordinate Benjamin Lincoln to accept the sword of surrender for the Americans. One of the best places to hike with your dog at Yorktown Battlefield is around the Surrender Field.