Bicycling 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.
Planning Your Trip
A pleasant, scenic ride is generally best taken along the 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. The county maps show the secondary roads on a scale of one-half inch equals 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.
Most on-road riding opportunities share the 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 rides 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.
For a list of trails in Virginia, click here.
Beaches to Bluegrass
This statewide trail will stretch west to east from the Cumberland Plateau to the Chesapeake Bay.
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 214 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 guide of the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park detailing the 45-mile linear park may be purchased from NVRPA.
- Arlington County, next door to exciting Washington, D.C., has miles of on- and off-road trails for walking and biking. These are detailed on maps available from the county.
- US Bike Route 1
Fredericksburg Old Town
The Fredericksburg Old Town area, traversed by historic figures and soldiers of the Civil War, may be toured on three, five, and 20-mile routes. Information on the area is available from the Fredericksburg Visitor Center. Route guides are available from the Fredericksburg Cyclists.
The 22-mile long Colonial Parkway joins Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. Jamestown Island has pleasant three-mile and five-mile nature trail loops; an entry fee is charged. Sections of the restored city of Colonial Williamsburg are accessible only to bicyclists and pedestrians, making sightseeing more enjoyable. The Yorktown Battlefield was the scene of the 1781 surrender of General Cornwallis, marking the end of British rule in the colonies.
Virginia's Eastern Shore offers quiet backcountry roads connecting villages, marshlands, farms, and beaches. Birdwatchers will enjoy the variety of fowl populating the peninsula. Bicyclists can observe many varieties of wildlife while riding the trails in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and on Assateague Island National Seashore.
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, running through 57 miles of beautiful southwestern Virginia, 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.
Crossing the Waters
The eastern portion of the state features many rivers and bays. Several major river crossings are prohibited to bicyclists:
- 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 also be crossed by taking a pleasant one-half hour ferry ride between Jamestown and Scotland.
Bicyclists can cross the Chesapeake Bay on seasonal tour boats operating between Reedville and Onancock, with stops on Tangier and Smith Islands.
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:
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
State Bicycling Policy Plan
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has developed the State Bicycle Policy Plan to ensure bicyclists are an integral component of Virginia’s multimodal transportation system, and to provide bicycle policy recommendations that will guide the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of bicycle accommodations.