Whether you enjoy biking, walking, riding horses, or boating, Hampton Roads has plenty of recreational trails for all tastes. Some highlight the region’s history while others connect areas of outstanding natural beauty. Several trails are national in scope while others are state and regional trails. Some of the trails are partially completed or still in the planning process and most aim to overlap or connect with other trails. On behalf of the member localities, the HRPDC staff is participating on trail planning committees for most of these efforts and working with the localities to incorporate the trails into local and regional plans.
At the national level, there are several important trails passing through Hampton Roads. First, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail highlights the voyages that John Smith took throughout the Chesapeake Bay in 1607-1609. The Smith Trail is primarily a water trail with several points of interest that can be reached by land or water. In the Hampton Roads area, Smith explored the James River, Chickahominy River, Nansemond River, Elizabeth River, and York River.
The East Coast Greenway is a planned 3-mile trail system connecting Maine to Florida and linking all the major cities along the Atlantic Coast. The goal is to create off-road multi-use paths for as much of the trail as possible. Currently, over 25% is already completed. A spur of the East Coast Greenway is proposed to pass through Hampton Roads along the Virginia Capital Trail near Williamsburg, across the James River ferry, and through south Hampton Roads along the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail.
The Dismal Swamp Canal Trail exists in both Chesapeake, VA and Camden County, NC, following along Highway 17. The two trails do not yet meet and are separated by 4 miles. A proposed connector trail will join these two existing trails together. Currently, the initial design work for the trail is being done and funding being sought to complete it. This trail is a multi-use path for bikers, walkers, and horses.
The national bike route known as the TransAmerican Bicycle Trail currently terminates in Williamsburg after a 4곞 mile run from Oregon. Planners are looking at possibly extending the trail to Virginia Beach via the proposed South Hampton Roads Trail (SHRT). The SHRT aims to connect 41 miles of varying types of facilities (rails to trails, on-road bicycle routes, widened shoulders, ferries, etc.) between downtown Suffolk and Virginia Beach resort area. Some segments of the SHRT already exist while others are still in a development phase or conceptual phase.
Another national-level trail currently in the planning process is the Southeast Coast Saltwater Paddling Trail. This blueway follows the coast along Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia before connecting to the existing paddling trail around Florida’s coast. The four states are currently working to identify a trail route along the coast that utilizes existing boat landings and other facilities such as campgrounds. It is expected that the HRPDC staff will lead development of a logo and website for the multi-state initiative.
Other recreational trails in Hampton Roads that are still in the conceptual phase include the James River Heritage Trail, Star Spangled Banner Trail, the Virginia War of 1812 Heritage Trail, and the Beaches to Bluegrass Trail.