Biking and Walking in Virginia
Places to Bike
Virginia is a favorite among bicyclists - offering a variety of scenic and historic areas, miles of rural roads, easy trails for family rides, and tracks through woods and up mountains. The information provided here will help you plan your bicycling adventure through the state. Information on bringing bicycles on trains, busses, and ferries, is available on VDOT's page on traveling with your bike in Virginia.
Planning Your Trip
A pleasant, scenic ride is generally best taken along low volume secondary routes - those numbered 600 and over. An asset in planning your trip along these routes is the state's county road maps, which show secondary roads on a scale of one-half inch to one mile. Virginia Byways, designated for their scenic, cultural, historical, or recreational value, provide attractive corridors of travel. The Virginia Byways are showcased in the scenic roads map and are highlighted on the state highway map.
On-road routes share roadways with motor vehicles, most without special accommodations, such as wide travel lanes or bike lanes. Throughout the state, scenic routes enjoyed by bicyclists are often on roads with narrow pavement, little or no shoulders, and curves and hills that limit sight distance. The off-road trails range from family-oriented outings on paved trails to rigorous climbs up heavily forested mountainsides. The safety of any of these options is not guaranteed. Bicyclists should thoroughly educate themselves about routes and areas where they are planning to ride, and then choose routes that suit their abilities.
When planning your trip, consider that the state's topography runs the gamut from mountains in the west to flat plains on the East Coast. Generally, the state has a pleasant, somewhat humid climate on the coast, with drier conditions in the west. Spring and summer temperatures range from the mid-60s to mid-90s during the day and from the upper-40s to lower-70s at night.
Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway
Many people are interested in bicycling through the beautiful Shenandoah National Park on the 105-mile long Skyline Drive. Linking Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway takes travelers through Virginia's 217 miles of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Visitors centers and designated campsites are located along both routes.
Northern Virginia presents many bicycling opportunities:
- The 17-mile Mount Vernon Trail offers a variety of places to visit, including George Washington's home on the Potomac River. A pamphlet describing the route is available from the National Park Service.
- The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) maintains many miles of biking, hiking, horseback, jogging, and nature trails of varying lengths of varying lengths in their 24 regional parks. A trail map of the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park detailing the 45-mile linear park is available from NVRPA.
- U.S. Bike Route 1, an interstate bicycle route, including 283 miles in Virginia, goes through Prince William, Fairfax, and Arlington Counties and the City of Alexandria on shared roadways and off-road trails.
- Northern Virginia Bicycle Resources
The Colonial Parkway is a 23 mile scenic roadway along U.S. Bike Route 76 that connects Virginia's Historic Triange: Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. In Jamestown, the Colonial Parkway connects to the Virginia Capital Trail, a 52 mile off-road bicycle and pedestrian trail between the Commonwealth's past and present capitals of Jamestown and Richmond.
Virginia has state parks in the Blue Ridge mountains, the hilly Piedmont area, and the flat coastal plains. Some parks, including Chippokes Plantation, Pocahontas, and Seashore State Parks, offer special biking trails. The New River Trail State Park runs through 57 miles of beautiful southwestern Virginia and is a preferred trail of mountain bike enthusiasts. Camping and travel information on the parks is available from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Some bicyclists enjoy riding unpaved or gravel roads. The best source for finding unpaved roads VDOT maintains is to consult the VDOT County Map Series available online in PDF. Please note this map series was last updated in 2004 so some of the roads have since been paved. One way to confirm whether a road has been paved is to view it in satellite imagery using an online mapping service. Dry unpaved roads often show up much lighter in satellite imagery than pavement.
Crossing the Waters
The eastern portion of Virginia features many rivers and bays. Several major river crossings are prohibited to bicyclists and pedestrians, including:
- James River Bridge at Newport News (Route 17/32).
- Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (Route 13).
- Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (I-64).
- Nice Bridge leading to Maryland (Route 301).
- Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge Tunnel across Hampton Roads (I-664).
Crossing the James River from Norfolk to Hampton can be accomplished by boarding the Hampton Roads Transit MAX Bus Route 961 which travels through the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel on Interstate 64. The Hampton stop closest to the Bridge Tunnel is Settlers Landing and Hampton Harbor. The Norfolk stop closest to the James River is the Wards Corner transfer station. Each bus can accommodate two bicycles.
A schedule of the MAX Route 961 can be found here.
The James River can be crossed upriver from Hampton Roads by taking a 15-20 minute ferry ride on the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, which is not a VDOT facility, offers a shuttle van for cyclists. The cost is $13, the same as a passenger car toll. You must call ahead at least 24 hours in advance. For more information, contact:
Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
32386 Lankford Highway
P.O. Box 111
Cape Charles, VA 23310-0111
Bicycle Access and Prohibition on Limited Access Roadways
Please note these PDFs are the best information available as of March 2012 and may not represent every limited access highway in Virginia
- Non-Interstate - Facilities Not Designated Limited Access and Not Prohibited to Bicycles
- Non-Interstate - Facilities Designated Limited Access and Prohibited to Bicycles
- Non-Interstate - Facilities Designated Limited Access and Not Prohibited to Bicycles