Yes, it is “THE BEST OF …” season. Everyone in every hobby and occupation is talking about the great stuff about 2011 and what to do in 2012. I’m sorry that I couldn’t resist jumping on the bandwagon. But, there are a few places I recommend to people who want to put their new outdoor gear to use. The trails range from an easy walk on the beach to hind parts kicking adventures and offer some of the most interesting scenery in Virginia. No, I haven’t hiked everywhere in the state. I’m only suggesting based on my experience in 2011 (and feel free to suggest some other locations you like). Print this post and keep it. It may be useful when you plan your next road trip.
1) Maritime/Vir-Mar Trail (False Cape State Park) – Getting into False Cape is an adventure on its own (no private vehicles). But, for a truly wild beach trek, this trail is hard to beat with its untouched sand dunes to the Atlantic and sunsets on Back Bay. Call the park office to plan your trip around a ranger guided program and you may be able to crash at the Wash Woods Overnight Education Center.
2) Crabtree Falls (George Washington National Forrest) – Yeah, it can get crowded on warm weekends, and for good reason. It is the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi and has gorgeous views. The trail has a challenging combination of stairs and switchbacks. I prefer starting from the bottom (plenty of parking off of Rt 58) and hiking to the top and back. Resist the temptation to play in the rushing water. Too many hikers had fallen to death here.
3) Bay Shore/Winter Water Trail (Hughlett’s Point Natural Area Preserve) – This Northern Neck jewel has one of the largest panoramic views of the Chesapeake Bay. When permitted (some very rare bird and insect species are protected here), you can make a complete loop from the beach to the lower end of bayshore. Nearby Dameron Marsh Natural Area Preserve has no trails. But, has some interesting observation points and a kayak launch.
4) Wahrani Nature Trail (New Kent Co. Parks & Recreation) – Forget your stairmaster. This frequently overlooked spot on the side of the road to the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula playgrounds (Rt 33) packs plenty of elevation changes. Use caution here because you may have to share some real estate with mountain bikers. It is a great place to warm up for mountain hikes.
5) Cold Mountain (Appalachian Trail)/Hotel Trail (George Washington National Forest) – Take the AT in and out from the parking lot for the marvelous panoramic views. Take the Hotel Trail for views of Mt. Pleasant and cool running creeks. Make a day of an almost 6 mile loop. Camp overnight. Do whatever you can. But, this place is fantastic!
6) Mattaponi/Woodstock Pond Trail (York River State Park) – Taskinas Creek Trail will reopen in 2012. But, don’t let that be an excuse to ignore fossil beach, the observation deck, and the spillway view between the pond and river. You can make it a double loop hike, or connect to Backbone to reach the trails deeper in the park.
7) Humpback Rock (Blue Ridge Parkway) – If you have never hiked a mountain, this is a good one to start with. If you have done it before, this is a good one to visit. The unique rock formation is almost like a window on the Shenandoah Valley below. There is a connection to the AT for more advanced hikers.
8) Herring Creek/Mattaponi Bluffs Loop (Zoar State Forest) – Aylett, Virginia may be the best kept secret for adventure east of I-95. This hike allows you to explore and play in cool, refreshing waters. There are trails at the main section of the state forest and you can launch a canoe or kayak down to the Aylett boat launch (or further) for a great float trip.
Thanks to all of you for visiting Baystride Images in 2011. I pray that you and your families will have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
John R. Gresham, Jr.