Five Urban Virginia Outdoor Hot Spots

by Casey Higgins | Posted: Jun 24, 2013 | Updated: Apr 17, 2018

Comments: 1 Comment

If you’re a city dweller looking for exciting outdoor adventure in the midst of great culture, this list is a great starting point. Discover the outdoor fun that exists in five urban Virginia destinations.



Belle Isle Skills Area

Belle Isle Skills Area

Richmond was named the “Best Town Ever” by Outside magazine in 2012 based on the quality of living, active recreational engagement with the James River, walking and biking paths, and positive environmental stewardship.

When you visit, check out …

Belle Isle Historic Park – Belle Isle is a 54-acre island in the James River that features massive cliffs, crashing rapids and stone ruins. Hit the wooded trails for walking or mountain biking, or the flat rocks for sunbathing. This area is not suitable for swimming. Accessible by footbridge.

Pony Pasture – This local park includes trails and great riverfront access for canoeing, kayaking, swimming and sunning. It’s also a great location for birdwatching.

River City Adventures – Take a guided whitewater rafting or tubing trips down the James River with this outfitter.



Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park

Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park

Arlington sits just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., but feels a world away if you know where to find the outdoor treasures.

When you visit, check out …

Arlington’s Bikeshare – More than 175 bikeshare stops throughout Arlington and D.C. offer nearly 1,700 bikes for short term rentals. Take advantage of Arlington’s 36 miles of off-street, multi-use trails plus 49 miles of marked, on-street bicycle routes.

Potomac Overlook Regional Park – This park is the “Hundred Acre Wood” of the greater D.C. area and includes a nature center, trails, gardens, educational programs and a summer concert series.

Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park – This trail for walking, running and cycling is 45 miles long and paved. An adjacent bridle path welcomes equestrian riders as well.



Alexandria Harbor

Alexandria Harbor

Alexandria is also a suburb of Washington, D.C. and is also a booming bicycling destination.

When you visit, check out …

Bike and Roll – Alexandria’s bike rental company includes helmets, a lock and trail map to help you explore downtown and traverse the Mount Vernon Trail. Rental includes a ticket to George Washington’s Mount Vernon and a river boat ride back to Old Town.

National Bass Service Guide – Spend the day on the Potomac River and pull in a few largemouth bass. The views are great and presidential!

Huntley Meadows Park – One of the larger parks in the D.C. area at 1,554 acres, Huntley Meadows offers a wide variety of habitats – wetlands, marsh, forest, streams and a pond. Expect to find the unexpected in such a populated urban center, with more than 200 species of birds, as well as deer, beavers, herons and more calling this place home.



Tula Adventure Sports Stand-Up Paddleboarding

Tula Adventure Sports Stand-Up Paddleboarding

Virginia Beach is a bustling summer resort city offering plenty of family entertainment, great food and opportunities to do more than lay on the beach.

When you visit, check out …

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge – More than 8,000 acres serve as a sanctuary for waterfowl, loggerhead sea turtles, peregrine falcons and bald eagles. The beach dunes, woodlands, marsh and farm fields provide a diverse eco system. Kayak, hike or bike your way through this treasure.

False Cape State Park – Just south of and connected to Back Bay is False Cape. You can only get there by foot, bicycle, boat or park service, so it’s the perfect destination for true outdoor junkies.

Surf & Adventure Co. – Learn to surf, SUP (stand up paddleboard), kayak, kiteboard and more with this outfitter just south of the resort area.

Outfitters, Guides and Charter Boats of Virginia Beach



Carvens Cove Nature Reserve

Carvins Cove Nature Reserve

Roanoke is a major city along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469-mile gem that meanders south from Shenandoah National Park to North Carolina.

When you visit, check out …

Roanoke Valley Greenways – Bike or walk 26 miles of trails to destinations like the Mill Mountain Zoo and Roanoke Star.

Read Mountain Preserve – One of the best views of the Roanoke Valley comes from Buzzards Rock, the summit of Read Mountain. Hike the moderate to strenuous 1.9-mile trail and sit a spell.

Leave a comment below to tell us your favorite urban outdoor hot spot, or check out our Facebook page to share photos!




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Shawna B. Mejia Recent comment authors
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Shawna B. Mejia
Shawna B. Mejia

The Friends of James River Park are happy and proud to have our home-grown Nathan Burrell become the new park manager. Ralph White’s shoes are hard to fill, but we can’t think of a better fit. Nathan has been with us for years now, tirelessly improving the park, keeping it clean, and coming up with new ideas for expansion and betterment. We’re just happy that all that hard work has enabled him to succeed Ralph and continue making Richmond the best river town in the USA.