Written By: Zach Champ
Photographs By: Zach Champ
In this week's article for What's Good in the Neighborhood- DMV Local, we explore what we consider to be the top 5 nature and hiking trails located in Fredericksburg Virginia!
This historic colonial town has grown to be quite big over the past few years! Fredericksburg has way more hustle and bustle going on than it used to... sometimes all the excitement can leave you feeling drained!
What better way to recharge than to immerse yourself in the woods?
All the locations on our list are sure to get your spirit for adventure going and guaranteed to leave you feeling satisfied and connected with mother nature!
1. THE RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER & QUARRY TRAILS
The first area on our list is perhaps the most popular hiking and nature trail in Fredericksburg... The Rappahannock/Fredericksburg Quarry and Trails are located next to the Rappahannock River near the Central Park shopping center and U.S Route 1.
The Quarry Trails are a great place to catch glimpses of local wildlife including raccoon, deer, fox, otters, snakes, turtles, and more.
Walking alongside the river you can find various spots to cast a line and fish, including some sandy beach areas!
This quarry used to be a very well known swim spot, but nowadays it is off-limits to visitors. This is due to the number of sad and tragic drownings that have occurred over the years.
The Quarry features several cliff diving spots with the most prominent one being a 50 ft drop. People that dive off these cliffs have to swim the full length of the Quarry back to safety.
This can be a challenging and difficult exercise for inexperienced swimmers. As a result, the City Police has made it a trespassing charge for anyone that swims in the Quarry.
Hoodie Goodies does not recommend swimming in the Quarry unless you are willing to accept the potential risks both physical and legal!
The Rappahannock River and Quarry Trails are incredible fun for people who love mountain biking. Most of the trails twist and turn like a slithering snake through the woods, all while providing a nice view of the Rappahannock River. The 14-mile long biking trail features berms, bridges, stream crossings, and other skill-testing obstacles that will entertain and provide fun for both beginners and advanced mountain bikers.
2. ALUM SPRINGS PARK
Alum Springs Park is a scenic 34-acre outdoor park located near Downtown Fredericksburg. The park is named after the historic Alum Springs, locally renown for its mineral deposits which many believe can heal and cure various diseases.
Alum Springs provides some of the best hiking in Downtown Fredericksburg besides the Rappahannock River. You can find solitude on the numerous crisscrossing trails in the park. The trails all feature benches to rest and admire the landscape.
The most defining feature of this land is the distinctive sandstone cliff that is nearly 400 ft long and 40 feet high.
Alum Springs Park has playgrounds and picnic areas with grills, making it a great destination for family outings and get-togethers.
The park is a great place to observe wildlife, especially birds! Alum Spring is a known resting spot for many migrating bird species including Cardinals, Blue Jays, Carolina Wrens, Warblers, and more!
The park is open year-round from dawn to dusk. There is a parking lot for visitors, but be warned! In order to access the park by car you will need to ford a small creek that can sometimes flood during storms and extreme weather.
For those looking for unique outdoor experiences in Downtown Fredericksburg, there is a ‘secret spot’ at Alum Springs Park.
When you enter the Greenbrier Neighborhood where the park is located in, you will notice a community pool with a parking lot. If you go to the wood-line next to this park you will see the Alum Spring passing between the neighborhood’s apartments and Blue and Gray Parkway.
Here the stream flows into a giant sinkhole that goes down 20 feet with a cascading rock waterfall. This area is traditionally known as “Fat Annie’s Swimming Hole”, and it is certainly a prize worth seeking out!
3. OLD MILL PARK
Many residents of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania may be familiar with Old Mill Park which is located on Caroline Street in Downtown Fredericksburg. Old Mill Park is directly adjacent to the Rappahannock River.
Old Mill Park gets its name from the now ruined mills that used to exist in the same area. Today these mills are long gone, but if you hike the Rappahannock River Virginia Heritage Trail, which crosses through the park you can find remnants of these structures.
Old Mill Park features a canoe and kayaking launch, which makes it a great access point for the Rappahannock River.
There are also several sandy beaches along the river where you can fish which makes for an enjoyable and unique outdoor experience.
Old Mill Park features several beaches as well as a playground and picnic areas. For those athletically inclined, there are Soccer fields that consistently get used by both children and adults!
Old Mill Park is a great place to have big gatherings with friends or family and always has fun events and activities especially during holidays like on the 4th of July.
4. MOTT'S RESERVOIR
You may be surprised to know that Fredericksburg has its very own man-made lake hidden right next to downtown!
This man-made body of water is Mott’s Reservoir and it is located along River Road near Central Park shopping center. (Directions)
Mott’s Reservoir is an impressive waterfront with a 160-acre lake that provides ample opportunity for Boating, Canoeing & Kayaking.
Boat and Canoe/Kayak rentals are available, and there is also a boat ramp where local residents can bring their water-faring craft.
Mott’s Reservoir has an 860-acre park with several nature trails and is a known hot-spot for native wildlife.
At the Reservoirs entrance, there is a nature center where you can learn about local plants and animals and the habitats found in the reservoir and nearby Rappahannock River.
The main function of the reservoir is to provide clean drinking water for the residents of the City of Fredericksburg and parts of Spotsylvania County.
Fishing is allowed at the reservoir, and during the summer there are even nighttime fishing hours for local residents.
There are several fishing piers at the reservoir, all of them with seating. There are also designated bank fishing areas so you can get close to the water and really focus on your catch.
Mott’s Reservoir feels very much like a State Park. There are picnic areas, fire-pits, and grills for those looking to cookout and spend a day by the water. For those who love to explore the woods, there is an orienteering course woven throughout the park’s trails, adding additional outdoor recreational opportunities for visitors!
5. FREDERICKSBURG BATTLEFIELD
The US Civil War ravaged the countryside of Virginia, and it especially brought horror to the residents of Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg. It is here in Fredericksburg and nearby Spotsylvania County that five campaigns of the war were valiantly fought. The Battle of Fredericksburg was one of the most devastating conflicts of the war, with an estimated 12,653 Union Army casualties and an estimated 5,377 Confederate casualties resulting in a decisive victory for the Confederate Army. The battle completely ruined the once prosperous town and has left lasting scars on the landscape, culture, and history of the area and its residents.
Today all that remains of the battlefield is a pleasant National Military Park and National Cemetery with a few demilitarized cannons overlooking Marye’s Heights and Sunken Road, standing as sentinels for the lost souls of that battle. This is especially ironic because it is these same cannons that caused so much fatality during the conflict. The darkness of the battle is now replaced with neat and orderly rows of small white tombstones spanning the entire surface of the hill. It’s a reminder of the cost and sacrifice that is sometimes unfortunately necessary in order to drive progress and history forward!
The Fredericksburg Battlefield is generally open year-round from sunrise to sunset and is only closed for major holidays. However, the park is located in the heart of Downtown Fredericksburg and easily transitions and blends into the surrounding urban environment, so you can pretty much access it at any time. There are two distinct parts to the Fredericksburg Battlefield National Military Park- the National Cemetery at Marye’s Heights and then the wooded trails which are located off of Lafayette Boulevard.
At the park, there is a Visitor Center and parking lot situated next to Sunken Road and Marye’s Heights. Here you can find a museum with informational exhibits talking about the Civil War, the Battle, and Fredericksburg before and after the conflict. You can also sign up for guided tours with Park Rangers who will escort you around the park while educating you about the history of the area and providing additional context on the battle.
One of the most peculiar and intriguing features of the battlefield is the stone pyramid erected on the opposite side of the train tracks when you drive down the Park’s entrance off Lafayette Boulevard. This pyramid, which is a favorite hidden gem for locals to find and appreciate, is a memorial structure built after the war by Confederate Veterans to honor their fallen comrades. Many families who have lived for generations in the area have ancestors who fought in the war on both sides, and to this day the issue of family members ties to the Confederacy is still a sensitive subject for Virginians.
Today teenagers and young adults consider the Pyramid differently… they hang out at it, relax and smoke weed, film music videos, pose for selfies, and treat it like a work of art versus considering it as a solemn memorial for dead soldiers. This juxtaposition of serious historical events and situations with the recreational re-purposing of the land is in many ways a defining and revealing characteristic of modern American’s attitudes towards the U.S Civil War… It is no longer a tangible and comprehensive event, it is a relic of the past. We think every American should visit the Fredericksburg Battlefield so they can understand and realize the true cost of freedom and observe the destructive and violent darkness of mankind that we must always focus on vanquishing with light and love!
HONORABLE MENTION: 6. COBBLESTONE PARK
Cobblestone Park is a quiet and hidden little park tucked away neatly on Lafayette near the battlefield and VRE Commuter Trail. The park is named for the nearby residential area, The Apartments at Cobblestone Square. This is a nice little neighborhood of apartments arranged in a nice public living area with walking and hiking trails, and access to the local train station.
The park itself features a graded trail that is brief and ends in a keyhole loop. There is a single bench to sit and rest at, which also conveniently has a trash can so you don’t have to leave any litter or trash behind! (Did you find our sticker?).
WANT TO GET INVOLVED WITH FREDERICKSBURG TRAILS?
Do you love the outdoors? Have you hiked all the trails above?
Let us know in the comments below!
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN GETTING MORE INVOLVED?
If so, then check out the Fredericksburg Trails organization and their website below: