Don’t let the out-of-towners who are here for the UCI Worlds have all the fun cycling the roads in and around Richmond. These 10 bicycling routes offer options for every level of cyclist, from the casual to the committed, so get out and see the region and some of Virginia from the seat of your bike!
1. River Route
Pony Pasture (Photo by Jay Paul)
This hybrid, part road/part path route along the James River is best done when it hasn’t rained recently, as the paths in The Wetlands on the south bank can get soggy. Road bikes aren’t appropriate here, but a hybrid or mountain bike will work well. Depending on how comfortable you are maneuvering around vehicles, the route can extend west along Riverside Drive to include one of the prettiest stretches of this scenic road. Summer Saturdays can be hectic here, and commuters use the road, too, so keep in mind Riverside Drive is not the best place for young, inexperienced cyclists.
Things to See and Do
Jump in the river when the temperature and water depth are just right. Rock-hopping at Pony Pasture is popular, as is fishing (with a permit, of course). Take time to enjoy the gorgeous river views at Half Moon Beach or find some rocks to sit on near the boat put-in at Pony Pasture: The rapids and the people playing in them are mesmerizing. Bird-watching along the paths and at the duck blinds is a fun diversion. You might even see bald eagles wheeling above. At the overlook on Riverside Drive, notice the Rice House across the river. The home, which was donated to the Science Museum of Virginia, was designed by modernist architect Richard Neutra, and is one of a handful of Neutra homes east of the Mississippi. If you plan ahead, you can arrange for stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking or rafting with Riverside Outfitters here or at Huguenot Flatwater.
Feed Your Face
Unless you plan to eat what you catch in the river, the food is all at the top of the hill in Stratford Hills Shopping Center. There you have several choices, including Max’s Positive Vibe Café, Ruang Tong Thai Cuisine and Galley. If you’ve worked up a sweat, the outdoor seating at Galley might be just the thing for you and your fellow diners.
If you don’t mind going back uphill at the end, park in the Stratford Hills Shopping Center on Forest Hill Avenue. Otherwise, park at the entrance to The Wetlands, 3401 Landria Drive, for an all-flat route. From the shopping center’s back exit, go right on Hathaway Road, then take an immediate right onto Sequoyah Road, left on Blithewood Drive, right onto Wallowa Road and left on Landria Drive. After a couple of residential blocks you’ll be at one access point for The Wetlands, part of the James River Park System. Head straight to get your first glimpse of river, and you’ll also pass a duck blind at a small pond. Take a left at any of the paths, all of which lead to the wooden bridge that connects The Wetlands to Pony Pasture. Then choose your adventure: left for the creekside route or right for the riverside route. Both lead to the parking lot for Pony Pasture on Riverside Drive, and from there you head west toward Huguenot Flatwater for a more tame, yet still lovely, river view.
Continue to the west on Riverside Drive along U.S. Bicycle Route 1, the national north/south route. If you’ve packed for the long haul you can take the route all the way to Florida, but a more likely destination is along Riverside to Hickory, Cherokee and Old Gun roads as far as Robious Road for a 15-20-miler tailor-made for those who like their rides hilly and their curves corkscrewy.
2. Bryan Park/Bellevue
(Photo by Justin Vaughan)
Biking around this part of town just makes sense. In 1894 Lewis Ginter, one of the area’s leading developers and philanthropists, started the Lakeside Wheel Club, one of the early bicycle clubs in the country, at what is now Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. Within Bryan Park, 4308 Hermitage Road, the roads beckon both timid cyclists who want a car-free few miles and serious riders who want a racing route. Park near the soccer fields and start your ride around the Azalea Garden.
Things to See and Do
The Tuesday-night training series for serious cyclists that runs from May to September is proof that Bryan Park is a wonderful place to ride. Unless you’re advanced and have a USA Cycling race license, you’ll have to settle for being a spectator from 6 to 8 p.m. Lock up the bikes for a bit and venture on some of the unpaved paths; you may be rewarded with an indigo bunting sighting, as the bird-watching here is great. If you bike over to the Bellevue neighborhood, you’ll find yourself ogling the architecture. South of Laburnum Avenue is worthy of exploration, too, and streets such as Gloucester, Palmyra and Confederate are idyllic. To give Lewis Ginter a tip of the helmet, drive (or ride) over to the Botanical Garden to see the flowers and gardens any time of year. You’ll want to get there during September for the pop-up exhibit, “Bicycling Triumphs Traffic,” a LEGO brick sculpture by Sean Kenney, and the cycling history exhibit in the library, both on view just in time for the UCI World Championships. The garden will be the start on Sunday, Sept. 20, for the elite men’s and women’s team time-trial events.
Feed your Face
Just north of Bryan Park, Hermitage Road becomes Lakeside Avenue, a burgeoning hotbed of hot food. Early Bird Biscuit Co. & Bakery brings in the crowds for jazzed-up BLTs and other surprises on a biscuit. There’s also a second location of Carytown Burgers & Fries and the old standby, Roy’s Big Burger. East of the park, you’ll find cute spots along MacArthur to entice you, including Morsels on MacArthur, Stir Crazy, The Mill and Dot’s Back Inn, or Little House Green Grocery on Bellevue to stock up on whatever you need to get those last miles in.
Little House Green Grocery (Photo by Jay Paul)
Perfect for family riding (though some sections of the park are hilly), the 1-mile Azalea Garden loop also makes a great training ground. Mix it up by taking the longer loop that borders I-64 and you can easily craft a 3-mile ride within the park. Avoid Saturdays when soccer is in season unless you stick to the Azalea Garden area that is off-limits to cars most of the year. To add a little neighborhood color even when azaleas aren’t in bloom, extend your ride to a 5-mile round-trip by leaving the park via Bellevue Avenue. Cross Hermitage Road and go through John Pope’s Bellevue Arch on Pope Avenue, then take a quick left on Crestwood Road, a right on Lorraine Avenue and a right on Stratford Avenue, which turns into Newport Drive and brings you back to Bellevue.
(Photo by Jay Paul)
Head out Bryan Park at Bellevue and go right on MacArthur, then left on Laburnum and right on Gloucester Road. Take a left at Brookland Parkway and continue for about 2 miles to Cannon Creek Greenway (see Page 101 inside September's Richmond magazine) where you can take advantage of a paved path to give yourself a break from the traffic.
3. Bucolic Battlefields
Richmond National Battlefield Park (Photo by Kevin McCarthy)
It’s ironic that riding through eastern sections of Richmond National Battlefield Park is among the most peaceful of cycling outings. To avoid traffic zooming (and hills looming), drive to Fort Harrison and park at the visitor center, 8621 Battlefield Park Road in Henrico.
Things to See and Do
Wolf Creek Cherokee Museum, 7300 Osborne Turnpike in Varina. (Photo by Jay Paul)
The Richmond Battlefield Park visitor center has restrooms and plenty of information to inform your meandering ride through what once were multiple Civil war-era forts. On Saturdays, the newly opened Wolf Creek Cherokee Museum at 7300 Osborne Turnpike in Varina is open to the public and free.
Feed Your Face
Victory Farms’ rural farm stand, 7001 Osborne Turnpike, is open 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. Otherwise, it’s slim pickings out on these roads, so you’ll want to come prepared. Pick up the makings of a picnic with deli sandwiches and such at MBargo in Rocketts Landing or plan to eat there or another Rocketts spot, such as Conch Republic, on your way back. The patio overlooking the James will cool you off in no time.
This mostly flat route is wonderful for those who want a smooth ride and don’t want to deal with speeding cars and trucks. Riding along pleasant roads that are partly residential and partly lined with earthwork fortifications from the Civil War is one of the more relaxing ways to get exercise in these parts. The speed limit is 25 mph, and traffic is light. A family with children could ride just a couple of miles within the park and those inclined to pedal more can put together a 10-mile out-and-back excursion. Starting where Battlefield Park Road meets Mill Road, cruise south along it, turning left on Grey Battery Place, which turns into East Chaffin Road, then turn left on Hoke Brady Road, following it to its end to pedal five miles one way.
Start at Rocketts Landing, especially nice on Sunday mornings, and head east on Virginia Route 5, paralleling the Virginia Capital Trail (see Page 99) for a bit before you head right on Osborne Turnpike (the trail continues along Route 5). Follow Osborne Turnpike until you come to Wilton Road and bear right. Once you cross over I-895, the road becomes Mill Road. Continue on it across Osborne Turnpike and turn right on Battlefield Road and you’ll come to the Fort Harrison Visitor Center, where you can pick up the route above. Return along Kingsland Road and Osborne Turnpike if you want a more direct (but traffic-filled) route back to Rocketts.
4. Virginia Capital Trail
Virginia Capital Trail (Photo courtesy of Beth Weisbrod)
By the UCI Worlds in September, and certainly by its official grand opening the first weekend in October, the long-awaited Virginia Capital Trail, a 52-mile paved cycling and pedestrian path along Route 5, should be complete. Until the final Richmond and eastern Henrico sections are finished, here’s a 15-mile option that will give you a sense of how enjoyable and exhilarating a ride on a bike path can be.
Things to See and Do
Westover and Berkeley plantations await your visit. Westover’s grounds are usually open, and Berkeley offers house tours and a small museum for a fee. Shirley Plantation is a lovely, mini-Williamsburg on the James River, with a stunning home to tour and interpreted outbuildings and farm animals that bring the past to life. It’s a fun downhill to get to the James River at Lawrence Lewis Jr. Park, 12400 Wilcox Wharf Road, but of course it’s uphill going back. The river view and picnic areas are a nice find. You may see bald eagles, ospreys and great blue herons, as this is good fishing ground for them as well as the people on the pier and in boats.
Feed Your Face
Just across from Charles City Courthouse, Cul’s Courthouse Grille is well-placed for lunch or a pit stop. It’s not unusual to see a lone cyclist loaded down with tent and sagging panniers wolfing down a sandwich and opting for dessert before he or she heads toward Yorktown to complete the cross-country Bike Route 76.
If you’re not ready for a century (100-mile ride) through the centuries on this historic route, drive to the westernmost edge of the completed trail, just a bit east of the Henrico County/Charles City County line on Route 5, to the Herring Creek parking lot. From there, simply ride east on the trail. Take a break at Charles City Courthouse and turn around for an almost 15-mile ride.
Keep going! Continue along the Sherwood Forest section of the trail to cross the Chickahominy River and continue to Jamestown Settlement. Once the trail is complete, you’ll be able to start in Richmond and bike unmolested by cars and trucks all the way to Williamsburg (and back, if you have the legs for a century).
5. Mid-Lothian Mines Park
The trail circles the lake at Mid-Lothian Mines Park. (Photo courtesy of Peppy Jones)
Things to Do and See
Interpretive signs bring to life the area’s coal-mining days, with plenty of disasters and little-known stories to mull over as you avoid your own disasters along the asphalt paths in the now placid park. The impressive, 19th-century stone ruins over Grove Shaft are not for climbing, but are photo-worthy. The third Saturday of October each year is Mid-Lothian Mines Day, with tours and exhibits courtesy of Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation and the Mid-Lothian Mines and Railway Foundation. The Headstock Amphitheater by the lake is the site of occasional free concerts.
Feed Your Face
Head up North Woolridge to the suburban outpost of Urban Farmhouse Market & Café in the Millworks complex for smoothies, salads and sandwiches. If you start your ride at Urban Farmhouse, you can pack a simple picnic of fruit, muffin and chocolate to enjoy at the lake or amphitheater or in the shade of the stone ruins. After the bikes are back on the car rack, cool down with some classic soda-fountain fare at the Midlothian Apothecary, 13502 Midlothian Turnpike.
Park in the lot with the impressive coal-mining headstock sculpture at the small lake off North Woolridge and ride the easy half-mile paved loop around the water before taking the tunnel under North Woolridge and heading into the woods for an additional two miles (round-trip) of cycling away from cars. If you enjoy biking hills, take North Woolridge from the park toward Coalfield Road for .7 miles to reach the Millworks complex, which has the Midlothian Library and Urban Farmhouse Market & Café to feed your mind and body.
From the park, turn right on North Woolridge, right on Charter Colony Parkway and then left on Le Gordon Drive. Cross Midlothian Turnpike and continue on Winterfield Road, where you can cruise a few more miles (including one fun downhill segment) before you turn left on Founders Bridge Boulevard into the Founders Bridge subdivision. You’ll enjoy a smooth batch of roads with a few hills that will get you ready to make the serious climb back up to Midlothian Apothecary for a milkshake. Or you could just pack a milkshake in your water bottle.
To discover the rest of the routes, pick up the September issue of Richmond magazine, on newsstands now!