I grew up in a northern suburban city near Cleveland, Ohio. Suffice it to say, there were some outdoor opportunities (yeah MetroParks!), but not a ton. As I grew older and had some opportunities to travel a bit (thanks mission trips and youth conferences!), I discovered a natural world filled with sunshine, lakes, mountains, and most importantly hiking trails! Having access to the natural world has increasingly become more important to me as I have now lived in some wonderful communities around the world. To be honest, I couldn’t imagine living in a place without it.
Believe it or not, Lynchburg, Virginia, is a fantastic place to live for those who enjoy the natural world. Tucked away in the foothills of the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains with the Appalachian Trail (AT), this growing city of about 100,000 has access to hiking, biking, running, swimming, kayaking…or anything else for that matter easily within an hour’s drive. The weather in this part of the world is relatively mild compared to the rest of the country, with long beautiful springs and falls, sunny summers, and mild winters with maybe one or two big snows a year (these would be considered ‘normal’ snows in the north).
There are tons of great websites filled with pertinent information on our local hikes, but the biggest problem I have when I’m looking for a new hike is simply where to find that information on the internet. So this is not meant to be any new information; it’s more a list of hikes with appropriate links to other sites that have taken the time to share some wonderful information. I tend to use a website called ‘Hiking Upward’ (many pictures from ‘Virginia Trail Guide’) just because they provide a lot of great free information. This is a list of some of my favorite hikes around the Lynchburg and southwestern Virginia region. Enjoy!
Sharp Top is probably the most popular of day hikes in the area because of its location on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Bedford, short distance of under 2 miles one way, and bang for your buck. After a strenuous, steep, hike, you are amazed at the 360 degree view from the top! Watch out for domesticated deer and nosy black bears. If you wish to add an adventure to the hike, be sure to stop by Buzzard’s Roost, and the WWII bomber wreckage.
This is not very close to Lynchburg, but still one of my favorite day hikes. A great way to stay cool on a summer’s day as you hike along a stream that will lead you to one of the most beautiful waterfalls within the eastern United States. Don’t confuse this with the cascades hike near Peaks of Otter; you will be disappointed.
This is one of the most pictured locations on the entire Appalachian Trail for good reason. The hike itself is mediocre, but the view makes it worth the trip time and time again. Be sure to arrive early or late, as the trail head parking will fill up on weekends.
I feel like this hike is overlooked because of its proximity to McAfee, but this is one of the most fun hikes around. There are some rock scrambling opportunities and even some great views on this lesser-traveled hike just a few minutes down the road from the McAfee trailhead.
I was introduced to this location on a multi-day AT hike, but this is also a fun day hike from the Mount Pleasant trail head. Enjoy some fantastic views from atop a mountain bald and hike along the AT past shelters and streams. The road to the trailhead itself is pretty rough; I suggest a car or truck with ground clearance!
The falls get a LOT of tourist action, as the hiker is greeted by the waterfall as soon as he or she begins! Lots of steps, but lots of fun. There are a few other hikes nearby that can be added for a circuit, but the up and down is a great way to spend a day with friends and family. Please be sure not to step onto the wet and slippery rocks next to the falls; there have been far too many injuries and deaths related to poor judgment.
Again, this may not be considered a ‘local’ hike, but the Shenandoah National Park is within distance for a few great hikes for day hikes or longer. The Rip Rap trail was a pretty fun loop that will put you in front of great ridge line views and then send you down to some fun water experiences.
The Marbleyard is tons of fun for a day of rock scrambling, or you can turn it into a nice loop hike. Again, caution is urged on the boulders, as there are wildlife and plenty of cuts, scrapes, and broken bones waiting for those who don’t pay attention!
For those that just want some walking in the woods and to stay local, you can get the outdoor experience within a few minutes on the backside of the Liberty University Snowflex. Be sure to pay attention to your journey as many of these trails criss-cross and are not always labeled very well.
Just want a nice walk in the woods through town? This is the trail for you.
Again, this is just a list of a few of my favorites. There are SO MANY other hikes in the area, especially along the AT or within the George Washington and Thomas Jefferson National Forests. Feel free to comment with additional suggestions, and happy hiking!