We here at Richmondoutside.com are excited to welcome Leonard “The Habitual Hiker” Adkins into the fold as a regular contributor. We think Richmonders are lucky to have scores of places in which to get out, stretch their legs, and enjoy what our area has to offer.
It is our hope and intent that at least once a month, maybe twice, Leonard’s feature — Richmond Walks and Hikes — will introduce you to some new locations and reacquaint you with others. Some of the places we’ll explore together will be short, easy walks within the city limits. Other outings will be moderate day hikes, but he will also include an occasional ten-miler and, every once in a while, a longer overnight backpacking trip. With the exception of an occasional foray to explore some exceptional outings beyond the Richmond area, most of the places we’ll be visiting will be within a 40-mile radius of downtown, making each one accessible by a drive of about an hour or less.
Oftentimes, busy work schedules or commitments to family and friends bring on urges to slow down and find some peace and quiet in an open green space. Usually, it is those same schedules and commitments that keep us from finding the time to honor our heart’s desire. However, you are in luck if you are near downtown Richmond and can steal away for about an hour.
Once you are headed southward on I-95, Drewry’s Bluff, also known as Fort Darling — a segment of the Richmond National Battlefield Park — is not much more than a ten-minute drive from downtown. Although the entire easy walk is only .9-mile roundtrip, the site is a pleasant and rewarding stroll through a hardwood forest, with a small stream and a grandstand view of the James River. There is also the opportunity to gain insight into an often overlooked bit of Richmond history.
On May 15, 1862, Union vessels, including the famous ironclads Monitor and Galena, came up the James with the intent of attacking Richmond. During the ensuing battle, the guns of the fort bombarded the flotilla, causing a retreat that deterred any future Union naval assault via the James.
After a short paved route, the trail turns into the woods, crosses a small creek that was a water source for the fort and passes through some of the fort’s breastworks before arriving at the river overlook. Spend some time reading the interpretive signs and taking in the sweeping view of the James. Northward along the river is Richmond, with the soaring viaduct of the Pocahontas Parkway dominating the scene. The panoramic view of the river to the southeast makes it obvious as to why the fort was situated at this spot. It’s easy to imagine the events that occurred here nearly 150 years ago, with gunpowder smoke filling the air and the explosions of cannons echoing off the bluffs.
From the overlook, the trail traverses one of the breastworks (one of the few existing such historical structures in America that you are permitted to walk upon), passing by the remains of the powder magazine and other fortifications before returning to the main trail.
Getting there: Drive I-95 South from Richmond and take Exit 64, Willis Road. Turn right on Willis Road and continue .3 mile. Turn right on US 301/US 1 North and go .6 mile. Turn right on Rt. 656 and continue .5 mile. Turn left on Rt. 1435 and proceed .3 mile to the park entrance.
Leonard M. Adkins has hiked more than 19,000 miles exploring the backcountry areas of the United States, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and the Caribbean, including his five traverses of the full length of the Appalachian Trail. He is the author of more than 17 books on the outdoors, nature, and travel; his latest is "Hiking and Traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway: The Only Guide You Will Ever Need, Including Detailed Maps, GPS, and More." Paraphrasing a famous American humorist, Leonard once said, “I never met a trail I didn’t like.” Find more about him at www.habitualhiker.com.
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