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Updated June 29, 2021
Virginia Beach is best known as a coastal weekend getaway for Virginians, with plenty of seafood joints and sunbathing spots. But did you know that Virginia Beach is also home to some of the coolest state parks and nature preserves for hiking in the area? There are tons of great hiking trails in Virginia Beach where you can see local wildlife, unique landscapes, and lesser-known parts of the coast. We created this guide to the best hikes in Virginia Beach to help you discover some new places to explore the outdoors near you!
Note that most of the hiking in Virginia Beach is on mostly flat, easy stretches of trail. You won’t find mountains or cliffs here! What the trails lack in elevation changes, they make up for in coastal scenery and wildlife viewing opportunities. (And if you’re craving hikes with more elevation gain, you’ll need to head west to Richmond or Shenandoah National Park.)
Best Hikes in Virginia Beach
Virginia Beach Boardwalk
Trail Length: 3 miles total
Highlights: Great views of the main stretches of the coastline in Virginia Beach
While not exactly a traditional hiking trail, the Virginia Beach Boardwalk is an easy, paved spot for a waterfront stroll. With great views of the ocean, access to shops and restaurants, and people watching galore, this is a perfect place to soak in the energy and bustle of Virginia Beach. One of the best parts of the boardwalk is that the bike path is separate, so you won’t have to worry as much about sharing the path with bikers. Whether you’re just visiting or are a Virginia Beach local, the boardwalk is a quintessential spot for an easy walk or run. Go early to avoid crowds, though!
Cape Henry Trail
Trail Length: 10.1 miles out-and-back
Highlights: Long, forested trail that winds through marshland and has wildlife viewing opportunities
The longest trail on our list of hikes in Virginia Beach is the Cape Henry Trail, which extends from First Landing State Park (below) through the forested areas of its namesake cape. Unlike many of the trails we share, this one is unique because it mostly runs through the forest instead of the coast. Its prime location next to several marshy areas provides ample opportunities for wildlife viewing and discovering all of the fascinating plants and trees that live in these humid, wet areas. Note that this trail is shared with bikers, so stay alert while hiking!
If you want to extend your hike, the Cape Henry Trail also connects to nearby Long Creek trail.
First Landing State Park Trails
First Landing State Park is one of the most beautiful and popular state parks in Virginia, and it’s located very close to Virginia Beach. Situated on the coast of Cape Henry, this state park is full of some of the best hikes in Virginia Beach. Whether you’re looking for an easy, short, and family-friendly trail or a longer, more moderate adventure, there’s a great trail in First Landing for you to tackle.
Some of our favorite Virginia Beach hikes in First Landing State Park include:
Fox Run Trail (1.2 miles) – The shortest and easiest trail in First Landing, Fox Run is a fantastic trail for seeing the marshy areas, wetlands interspersed with tall grasses, and trees growing out of the water. Great for families!
Bald Cypress Trail (1.6 miles) – This short trail passes through wooden boardwalks that run over the lower wetlands of First Landing. Great for all experience levels and shared with bikers.
Osmanthus Trail (3.1 miles) – This hike-only trail is mostly forested and provides some really nice, shaded paths to walk through on hotter days. Note that the trail can get very muddy after rain – we don’t recommend trying it in wet weather.
White Hill Lake Trail (7.9 miles) – For a longer, slightly more tricky trail, the White Hill Lake Trail is a less popular, moderate trail through marsh areas and around a scenic lake. Because of its length, this trail will take a few hours, so it’s good to start early in the day.
Pleasure House Point Trail
Trail Length: 2.3 miles
Highlights: An easy, sandy trail through coastal wetlands and marshes
For an easy, rugged dirt trail with some beautiful photo opportunities, look no further than the Pleasure House Point trail. Situated close to the shoreline in a marshy area, this sunset favorite offers fabulous bird watching opportunities on its 2.3 mile stretch of trail. The trails here are largely surrounded by tall grasses with views of the calm wetlands of the area, a great spot for enjoying nature on one of the most tranquil hikes in Virginia Beach.
Dunes and Seaside Trail at Back Bay Wildlife Refuge
Trail Length: 2.0 miles
Highlights: Coastal views along magnificent sand dunes and wooden boardwalks
Located on a narrow strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Shipps Bay, Back Bay Wildlife Refuge is just a few minutes south of Virginia Beach. It’s one of the most scenic parks in the region, making it a great area sporting many wonderful Virginia Beach hiking trails. The Dunes and Seaside Trail at Back Bay Wildlife Refuge is an excellent, beginner-friendly trail to get a feel for the park. With wooden boardwalks and sandy paths weaving through the park’s many marshes and wetlands, it’s a lovely hiking trail for a morning stroll and for bird watching.
Lake Trashmore Trail
Trail Length: 1.9 miles
Highlights: An easy, paved trail that wraps around a picturesque lake
Unlike its name suggests, there is no garbage to be found on this trail! The Lake Trashmore trail is an accessible, paved trail that’s suitable for any hiker. As one of the best easy hikes in Virginia Beach, this trail circles the peaceful Lake Trashmore and the green spaces that surround it. The trail is very simple and straightforward, and it feels more like a suburban hike than a true immersion in nature, but if you’re looking for a casual spot to stroll as the sun is going down, Lake Trashmore is a fabulous option.
Marsh Ridge Trail at False Cape State Park
Trail Length: 1.4 miles plus hike (or shuttle) from parking lot
Highlights: Stunning sand dune views, coast access, and bird watching from this short trail
Arguably one of the most beautiful hiking trails in Virginia Beach is the Marsh Ridge Trail at False Cape State Park. This pristine nature area serves as a home to tons of species of local and migratory birds, depending on when in the year you choose to hike. Along the trail, you’ll see epic views of the park’s sand dunes, coastline, and marshy areas.
To get to the trail, you’ll have to either hike (~3 miles each way) or take a shuttle from the parking lot at the Refuge to the trail head. Bikers share this trail, so be sure to stay alert and watch out for them! Note that the Marsh Ridge trail is closed seasonally (usually November to April) to protect the habitat of migratory birds in the area.
Lake Lawson Loop Trail
Trail Length: 1.6 miles
Highlights: Another scenic loop trail that cuts through the Lake Lawson & Lake Smith Natural area
For a relaxed, easy hiking trail, the Lake Lawson Loop Trail is an awesome local option. This short gravel trail offers a surprising amount of variety for hikers of any level, including kids, families, and dogs. Views of the lake, lots of sunken trees, and forests will greet you on this 1.6 mile trail. You’ll often see people from the nearby neighborhoods going for an evening stroll or a morning walk here, and with trails that mostly border the water, you won’t ever have to go far for a nice, peaceful view.
What to Pack
Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to wear a sweat-wicking shirt and breathable pants, like these Patagonia hiking shorts for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers for men and women, a down puffer jacket for men and women, and a Northface waterproof outer shell for men and women (a must for hiking in Seattle). And don’t forget a pair of the best women’s and men’s hiking socks!
Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we suggest throwing them in your car just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond Trail Ergo cork trekking poles, which are lightweight, easy to transport, and durable.
Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To limit disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask water bottles because they keep water cold for hours.
Sunscreen and bug spray – Sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects. Our favorite kind of sunscreen is Sun Bum, as it is free of harsh chemicals and safe for marine life, including coral reefs.
A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or capfor day hikes in the sunshine.
Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend the Osprey Tempest 20 or the Talon 22 day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes. For more information, check out our best day packs for any terrain guide.
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