The sprawling Virginia Capital Trail snakes along the James River and State Route 5, a Virginia Scenic Byway, for 52 paved miles from the state’s capital of Richmond to the historic capitals of Jamestown and Williamsburg. The trail is not built on a former railroad, but the half-mile segment in downtown Richmond is rail-with-trail, hence its rail-trail designation.
The southern end of the trail is known as the Greensprings segment and begins near the Jamestown Settlement, which provides a unique glimpse of early American history and culture. The trail continues northwest to SR 5, passing Revolutionary War battlegrounds and a 40-acre wooded wetland and wildlife area along the way.
The Chickahominy Riverfront segment seamlessly picks up at the intersection of SR 5 and Greensprings Road (SR 614) and travels to the Chickahominy Riverfront Park, where trail-goers will enjoy majestic views of the James and Chickahominy Rivers. The trail crosses the Chickahominy River on the Judith Stewart Dresser Bridge, which includes a 10-foot wide path separated from traffic by a divider.
The trail’s Sherwood Forest segment begins on the western bank of the river, continues along SR 5, and passes the Sherwood Forest Plantation for which it is named. President John Tyler lived in the estate in the mid-1800s and, although the Tyler family still owns the home, the grounds are open to the public. This section ends at the Charles City County Courthouse, a one-story brick building dating back to 1730 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Continuing west from the courthouse, the Charles City County segment passes many colonial plantation homes, including the Berkeley Plantation (just off Harrison Landing Road). It’s the ancestral home of U.S. Presidents William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison.
The New Market Heights segment runs near the Shirley Plantation, where the mother of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was born. Dating back to 1613, it’s the oldest plantation in Virginia and a National Historic Landmark. The building is located about 3 miles west of the trail on the banks of the James River and is open daily all year except on major holidays.
The Park Phase forms a 3.5-mile horseshoe away from State Route 5, which the majority of the trail so closely follows. This deviation allows the trail to connect to Dorey Park, a popular spot with many recreational amenities, including a playground, sports fields, tennis courts, disc-golf course, picnic areas, a nature trail, a fishing pond, and an off-leash dog park.
The Varina segment runs by Henrico County’s Four Mile Creek Park, a wooded outdoor gem with a canoe launch for accessing the creek. The community is named for Varina Farms, a plantation established by early English settler John Rolfe, who married the famed Pocahontas.
The Richmond Riverfront segment, at the northern end of the trail, parallels Dock Street through Shockoe Bottom, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. It begins at the Canal Walk and ends at Great Shiplock Park, which commemorates the canal lock built here in the 1850s.
Parking and Trail Access
Amenities for the various sections of the trail are available as follows:
- Greensprings: Park at the Jamestown Trailhead off SR 31, which also has restrooms and picnic tables.
- Chickahominy Riverfront: In Williamsburg, park at Chickahominy Riverfront Park (1350 John Tyler Memorial Highway) or Jamestown High School (3751 John Tyler Highway) during non-school hours. Restrooms and picnic areas are available in the park.
- Charles City Courthouse: Park at the Charles City County Visitors Center (10760 Courthouse Road); restrooms are also available here. Another trail parking lot is available farther north, where SR 5 crosses Herring Creek.
- Park segment: Parking is available at Dorey Park (2999 Darbytown Road).
- Varina: Parking is available at Four Mile Creek Park.
- Richmond Riverfront: Park at Great Shiplock Park (intersection of Pear and Dock Streets).